Volleyball Cats Split Twinbill at Syracuse Tourney
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Junior Nicole Britenriker had a career night in a losing effort as the Wildcats dropped their first match of the season in a 3-2 thriller to San Diego State in the final game of Syracuse’s Big Orange Tournament. UK moved to 3-1 on the year after defeating Siena in a 3-0 sweep (30-19, 30-22, 30-22) before falling to SDSU, 3-2 (23-30, 30-22, 32-30, 25-30, 10-15), in the finale.
Britenriker, a transfer from Ohio State, recorded a new career-high with 25 kills in the loss to SDSU. The Cincinnati native hit .356 and added 16 digs for her first double-double effort as a Wildcat. Senior Jenni Casper had a season-high 30 digs, while sophomore Queen Nzenwa tallied a season-best 17 kills. Ashlee Fisher notched a season-high 14 kills, while Melissa Popp and Sarah Rumely each added 10 kills apiece. Rumely also had a season-high with seven digs and 70 assists while hitting .444 against the Aztecs.
SDSU led 9-6 early in game one of the nightcap, but the Cats came back and tied the score at 14-all on a kill by Gagnon. The Aztecs answered and led by five at 24-19 before a kill by Britenriker. A pair of strong put-downs by Fisher made it just a three-point edge for the Aztecs at 26-23, but SDSU rolled off four straight points, including a controversial game-winner, to take the opening set by a score of 30-23.
A rejuvenated Wildcat squad took the floor in game two and after trailing 5-3, scored five unanswered on the strength of two Nzenwa kills and a block assist by the sophomore middle and Edwards to take an 8-5 lead. UK continued to pour it on as Britenriker struck for four kills and Fisher added one of her own to give the Cats a 16-9 edge. The Aztecs pulled to within five at 27-22, but a kill by Fisher and two more by Melissa Popp led the Cats to a 30-22 win in game two.
Game three proved to be a see-saw affair for the Cats and Aztecs who saw 14 ties in game three alone. With the score knotted at 18-18, Edwards and Nzenwa recorded back-to-back kills to give UK a 20-18 edge. The lead would be short-lived as SDSU rallied and tied the score again at 25-all. A pair of Nzenwa kills and a lethal shot by Fisher would give UK another three-point cushion at 28-25, but SDSU was not done as they went on a 5-2 run to tie the game yet again at 30-30. Britenriker snapped the Aztec comeback with a kill and Gagnon ended the game with an ace as the Cats took game three 32-30.
The fourth game started much like the third with the teams playing evenly early, but SDSU put together a 5-0 run and pulled away to a 19-12 lead. Sarah Rumely ended the drought with a kill and helped spark a 6-3 run to cut the Aztec lead to four at 22-18. Britenriker and Nzenwa each had a pair of kills in the Wildcat run. The Big Blue slashed the lead to two points after a pair of kills by Hausfeld and a block assist by the freshman and Britenriker to make it a 24-22 score. The Cats continued to trail by a two-point margin at 27-25, but saw SDSU score three unanswered and take the fourth game by a final of 30-25.
In the deciding fifth game, the teams continued to battle it out. SDSU took a 3-1 lead, but saw the Cats quickly tie it at 3-3 after a pair of put-downs by Rumely and Britenriker. The Aztecs made a 3-1 run to go on top 7-5, but Kentucky battled back again on the strength of two kills by Fisher and a block by Nzenwa to knot it at 7-7. The Wildcats pulled to within a point (10-9) after kills by Nzenwa and Hausfeld, but the Aztecs would finish the match with a 5-1 run to claim the match with a 15-10 win in game four.
Kentucky outhit SDSU .271-.243, but committed 16 service errors to just seven for the Aztecs.
“We had some great performances out of our middles tonight, but it wasn’t enough to stop the SDSU offense,” said second-year head coach Craig Skinner. “They were in system most of the night and when they weren’t, we made too many service errors to stay with them in some of the games we lost.
“Our team executed very well at times today, but to win against good teams, our serving and blocking has to go up to another level,” added Skinner who saw his Cats commit 46 service errors during the three-match span this weekend.
Britenriker turned in a solid all-around effort in the win over Siena with 10 kills, five digs and five total blocks. Casper led UK with 16 digs, while fellow senior Julie Gagnon had eight digs to go along with two assists. Fisher added 11 digs, while Alisa Pierce tallied 11 digs for the Cats. Freshman Heather Hausfeld had a career game with six kills in the win.
Kentucky hit .300 for the second straight match as the Cats hit .333 against Siena. UK had season-highs with 55 digs and 15 total blocks in the sweep of Siena.
The Wildcats took a 11-3 lead to open the first game, but saw the Saints close that gap and pull to within two at 14-12. UK pushed the lead back to seven (22-15) on a kill by sophomore Queen Nzenwa. The Cats doubled up the Saints the rest of the way, outscoring them 8-4 to win the opening game by a score of 30-19.
In game two, the Cats took another 11-3 lead, but saw it dwindle to a three-point margin at 13-10. Kentucky’s Heather Hausfeld had a kill to start an 8-3 run and put the Cats ahead 21-13. Siena would cut the lead to four at 25-21, but Ashlee Fisher closed it out with three huge kills as the Cats took the second game by a final of 30-22.
The Wildcats took a 9-4 advantage behind the strength of a kill and block solo by Nzenwa and a put down by Tess Edwards. A kill by Heather Hausfeld and an ace by Alisa Pierce gave the Cats a 12-6 lead. Siena pulled to within a point, but the Cats made a 3-0 run to lead 15-9 after Pierce made a diving save which led to another kill by Hausfeld. The Saints would not go away, cutting the score to 20-16, but UK pulled away with a 7-1 run to go ahead 27-17. Hausfeld added two more kills as the Cats went on to take the third game by a score of 30-22.
Kentucky returns to action Tuesday night, Sept. 5, when it hosts Morehead State. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.