Wildcats Outlast Morehead State in Five
Middle blockers Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) combined for 42 kills and 11 blocks Tuesday, Sept. 5, as Kentucky outlasted a stingy Morehead State team for a 3-2 (30-27, 30-28, 32-34, 25-30, 15-9) win in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats, who improve to 4-1 on the season with the victory, have won 19 consecutive matches over the Eagles (4-3) in the all-time series.
Nzenwa notched a career-high 24 kills to lead the Wildcats. Acrobatic freshman setter Sarah Rumely (New Palestine, Ind.) continued to post impressive numbers, registering 66 assists, setting a new career-high with four blocks, and tying her career-highs in digs (7) and kills (10) on .429 hitting. Senior libero Jenni Casper (Louisville, Ky.) led the defensive effort with a season-high 34 digs – two scoops shy of her career high.
“Morehead State ran a good offense tonight and it was hard to stop at times. We didn’t execute the game plan quite the way we wanted to, but we’re always happy to get the win,” said second-year head coach Craig Skinner who improves to 2-0 against the Eagles. “There’s always a little extra rivalry between in-state opponents and Morehead State has a quality program. We have played some quality competition and we keep getting better in practice and in matches. That’s what we’re trying to do as a team as we prepare to open Southeastern Conference play.”
Kentucky broke out to an early 6-3 advantage after a kill by senior Julie Gagnon (Wheaton, Ill.) down the line followed by a Rumely ace. The Eagles, however, battled back to tie the score at 6-6 after three consecutive kills. The two teams battled closely with seven more ties before a put-down by Nzenwa and a resounding kill by sophomore right side hitter Tess Edwards (Ottowa, Ontario) on the angle put the Wildcats ahead 17-15. An attack error by Morehead State on the next play forced the Eagles to burn a timeout.
The Cats extended their edge to 21-16 on a powerful block by Britenriker and Rumely. Britenriker drilled an emphatic kill down the middle to put UK ahead 25-20, but the Eagles stormed back. After reaching game point, a two Kentucky errors and an MSU kill brought the Eagles within two, 29-27, forcing Skinner to use a late timeout. A crafty kill by Rumely on second contact closed out game one to give the Wildcats a 30-27 win.
Kentucky quickly fell behind 2-0 to start the second game before rallying to tie the score at 4-4 on a kill by Britenriker off the block. Trailing 5-4, the Wildcats scored four consecutive points, capped off by a Fisher kill. Morehead State regrouped and tied the score at 8-8 on a Britenriker attack error. After four more ties, the Eagles went ahead 16-13 after back-to-back kills by senior outside hitter Laura Cox. Consecutive kills by Nzenwa and sophomore Erin Turner (Winnetka, Calif.) combined with a Morehead State attack error brought the Cats back in to the match, tying the score at 17-all.
After the Eagles went in front by as many as three, 22-19, the Wildcats fought to come within one, 22-21, on an MSU attack error leading into a timeout. Out of the break, an ace by Gagnon knotted the score. The Wildcats went ahead 24-22 on back-to-back kills by Rumely and Britenriker before a resounding block solo by freshman outside hitter Heather Hausfeld (Cincinnati, Ohio) - the first of her career - brought the enthusiastic crowd to its feet at 25-22. Kentucky closed out game two with a 30-28 win.
The two teams battled closely to begin game three with the Wildcats taking a 9-6 advantage on a kill by Hausfeld. After a pair of kills by Britenriker over the game’s next three points put UK in front 11-8, the Eagles ran off three straight points to tie the score at 11-11. The Cats went ahead 13-12 and extended their lead to 16-12 on a dominant block by Nzenwa and Turner on the right side. The Wildcats led by as many as three points, 26-23, late in the game before Morehead State stormed back to tie the score at 28-28. After three attempts to close out the third game, the Eagles took a 34-32 win on a kill from Cox.
Morehead State went ahead 6-3 in the fourth frame before the Wildcats rallied to tie the score at 6-6 on a service ace by Gagnon. Several Kentucky errors allowed the Eagles to go on top by as many as four points, 15-11. The Cats closed the gap to a point at 18-17 on an MSU attack error, but were never able to regroup, falling 30-25 to force a deciding game five.
After Morehead State scored the first point of game five, the Wildcats responded with four straight to take a 4-1 edge. Britenriker and Turner teamed for a block before senior outside hitter Melissa Popp (Indianapolis, Ind.) posted a resounding kill on the angle. Following an attack error by the Eagles, Rumely notched a kill on second contact to go up 4-1 and forcing an MSU timeout. The Eagles closed the gap down 4-3, but Kentucky answered with three consecutive kills, including two by Britenriker, to distance itself at 7-3. Morehead State rallied to come within 7-6 before Britenriker posted a sharp kill down the line and the Eagles committed an attack error. Back-to-back put-downs by Nzenwa extended the UK advantage to 11-7 and the Cats cruised to the 15-9 deciding-game victory.
Kentucky returns to action this weekend when it hosts the annual Kentucky Classic. The Wildcats begin competition against Villanova on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. On Saturday, the Cats face Toledo at 10 a.m. ET and Georgia Tech at 4 p.m. ET.