Cats Win 2007 Kentucky Classic
Senior Kentucky middle blocker Nicole Britenriker recorded her fourth double-double of the season Saturday with a match-high 13 kills on .522 hitting with 11 digs to lead the Wildcats to the Kentucky Classic Championship after a 3-0 (30-19, 30-25, 30-25) sweep of Cleveland State in Memorial Coliseum. Britenriker was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after tallying 39 kills, 26 digs and 10 blocks on .532 hitting for the three-match span.
The Wildcats (6-1) hit better than .300 in each of the tournament matches, including a .312 clip against Cleveland State (5-3). Junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa added 10 kills on a match-high .588 hitting with three blocks. Freshman Lauren Rapp had a squad-best five blocks to complement nine kills, while fellow rookie starter Brooke Bartek also had nine kills.
The Wildcats used a balanced offensive effort as five players had six or more kills each in the match. Kentucky was also aided by a strong defense as three players registered double-digit digs, led by junior libero Alisa Pierce’s match-high 16. Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely had a season-high 13 digs, while dishing out 39 assists. Pierce was named the tournament’s defensive MVP, while Nzenwa, Rumely and Rapp also were named to the all-tournament team.
“It’s always good to win a tournament championship,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I am happy that we had good balance in our offense through all three matches this weekend. Physically, our players played hard all weekend and I can’t ask for much more than that.”
Kentucky broke to a 6-4 advantage in the opening game before going on a 5-0 run behind the serving of Pierce, which included two aces, to extend its advantage to 11-4. That scoring streak forced a Cleveland State timeout. The Vikings hung tough, remaining within three, 15-13, before the Wildcats used a 4-0 run that included a Blaire Hiler kill and three Cleveland State attack errors to go up 19-13. The Vikings whittled their deficit down to two, 20-18, before a kill by Hiler ended the rally. Kentucky then scored nine of the game’s final 10 points thanks to Pierce’s strong serving that gave UK a 30-19 game-one win. Bartek had three kills during the final 9-1 run in the opening frame.
The Wildcats and Vikings battled evenly to open the second game and Cleveland State took a 14-11 lead after a kill by Beth Greulich. Kentucky stayed close and knotted the score at 17 after back-to-back put-downs by Rumely and Bartek. Rumely served an ace to put Kentucky in front 18-17 and the Cats never relinquished that lead. Consecutive kills by Rapp and Hiler gave the Wildcats a 28-24 advantage before Kentucky capitalized on a pair of Cleveland State errors to close out a 30-25 game-two win.
Kentucky opened the third game on a 6-2 tear after back-to-back kills by Rapp and Hiler that forced the Vikings to burn an early timeout. Out of the break, the Wildcats kept rolling and extended an 8-3 advantage to 11-4 after a 3-0 Kentucky run. A kill by freshman Sarah Mendoza and a service ace from Rapp moved the Wildcats in front 20-14, causing another Cleveland State timeout. The Vikings rallied to come as close as two, 23-21, on a put-down by Alexis Korovich. But Nzenwa drilled a kill down the middle to stop the streak and the Wildcats again found their groove, closing out the match by scoring four of the game’s last five points for a 30-25 victory.
Kentucky returns to action on Tuesday when it faces nearby rival Eastern Kentucky. Opening serve in Memorial Coliseum is set for 7 p.m. and live statistics will be available at ukathletics.com.
2007 KENTUCKY CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM