Cats Travel to Regency Suites/Georgia Tech Classic
Riding a six-match winning streak for the first time since the 2004 season, the Kentucky volleyball team heads south to Atlanta to participate in the Regency Suites/Georgia Tech Classic this weekend. The Wildcats face nationally prominent Arizona at Noon on Friday before squaring off with Western Carolina at 9 a.m. Saturday and the host Yellow Jackets at 8 p.m. Saturday night.
Kentucky (7-1) is coming off of a 3-0 sweep of intrastate foe Eastern Kentucky on Tuesday evening and the Wildcats clinched the Kentucky Classic title this past weekend with a trio of 3-0 wins against Georgetown, Austin Peay and Cleveland State. The Wildcats have been able to win six consecutive in large part due to their powerful blocking. Kentucky has registered double-digit team blocks in five of their last six matches and the Wildcats lead the Southeastern Conference in team blocking with 3.60 rejections per game.
“We’re off to a good start and our players are looking forward to this next challenge,” said head coach Craig Skinner. “Winning on the road is very important for us to be able to reach our goals. This will be a great test against these three teams.”
Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio), the reigning SEC Player of the Week, is sixth in the league and tops on the squad with 4.04 kills per game. She is the only player in the conference to currently rank in the top 10 in kills, blocks (4th - 1.56) and hitting percentage (10th - .361). Junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) and freshman middle Lauren Rapp (Indianapolis, Ind.) both also rank in the league’s top 10 in blocks, averaging 1.63 and 1.48 rejections per game, respectively. Nzenwa leads the SEC with a .462 hitting percentage.
Kentucky and Arizona meet for the third time in school history with the all-time series tied at one match apiece. UK won the last meeting between the two teams, a 3-0 sweep on Sept. 13, 1991. Under the direction of head coach David Rubio, Arizona has established itself as a volleyball power, advancing to five sweet 16s, four elite eights and one Final Four during his tenure.
Arizona uncharacteristically enters the match with a 4-2 record, having already fallen to Pepperdine and St. Mary’s this season. Junior right-side hitter Randy Goodenough leads Arizona, averaging 4.00 kills per game, while senior middle blocker Dominique Lamb is averaging 2.76 kills and 1.62 blocks per game. Freshman Paige Weber is dishing out a squad-best 11.76 assists per game.
The Wildcats and Western Carolina square off for the third time in the history of the two programs with Kentucky leading the all-time series 2-0. The two teams last met in the Big Orange Bash in Clemson, S.C., on Sept. 2, 2005, when the Wildcats claimed a 3-0 victory against the Catamounts. Western Carolina’s head coach Stephanie Dragan is familiar with the Bluegrass, having spent seven seasons as the head coach at Division III Centre College in Danville, Ky. During her final year at Centre, her assistant coach was former Wildcat standout Liz McCaslin.
The Catamounts are 3-3 on the season heading into this weekend’s action, having last captured the UNC-Asheville Volleyball Classic with wins against UNC-Asheville, USC-Upstate and Kennesaw State. Freshman outside hitter Ali Rook is averaging a team-best 2.84 kills per game, while sophomore libero Liz Rondone – who finished 15th in the nation in digs last season – is averaging 5.17 scoops per game.
Kentucky and Georgia Tech meet for the fifth time in school history with the Wildcats having taken the last meeting between the two schools, a 3-1 decision on Sept. 9, 2006. The two teams also squared off during the 2005 and 2006 spring seasons.
Georgia Tech enters the weekend action with a 2-1 record, having competed at the Arkansas Invitational last weekend in Fayetteville, Ark. Tech defeated Pittsburgh and Arkansas before falling to Pepperdine in the title tilt. Junior outside hitter Talisa Kellogg, the daughter of former college and NBA basketball player Clark Kellogg, leads the way for the Yellow Jackets, averaging 3.42 kills per game. Junior setter Allie Niekamp leads the team with a .500 hitting efficiency with 9.83 assists per game.
The weekend trip will be a reunion of sorts for UK’s first-year assistant coach Lauren Sauer, who was a standout volleyball and basketball letterwinner for the Yellow Jackets from 2001-04. She was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection and was also a Dean’s List and Academic All-ACC honoree.
Live statistics for all matches will be available through ukathletics.com. Saturday night’s match against Georgia Tech can be heard live on WREK Radio at www.wrek.org.