Wildcats Drop First Match of Year at No. 11 Louisville
The Kentucky volleyball team dropped its first match of the season at the hands of 11th-ranked Louisville at Cardinal Arena in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday night. Despite rallying late in both games two and three, UK couldn’t overcome a potent Louisville attack and dropped the games, 30-18, 30-26 and 35-33.
Kentucky (3-1) was led by outside hitter Danielle Wallace who finished with 14 kills on .146 hitting. Queen Nzenwa, a redshirt freshman, had 10 kills, hit .381 and added four blocks on the night. Libero Jenni Casper, a Louisville native, had 12 assists to lead all players, while fellow Derby City native Alisa Pierce added seven digs in the loss.
“I’m happy with the way we settled down and played in the second game,” Coach Craig Skinner said. “I thought they played better and competed. The third game is when we really started to apply pressure. This team fought as hard as they could and competed hard but there are some areas we obviously have to get better in.”
The Wildcats looked sluggish to start, allowing U of L to open with back-to-back service aces and eventually fell behind 6-1. After a trip to the bench, the Wildcats seemed to make some headway, cutting the advantage to four at 9-5 on a kill by Nzenwa. But the Cardinals would continue to control the tempo, building to a 17-10 lead before cruising on the 30-18 victory after a misfire from Wallace.
UK found itself behind 3-1 early in the second game, but rallied to tie the score at 7-7 after a Cardinal hitting error. After ties at eight and nine, Kentucky took its first lead of the match at 10-9 on an ace from Julie Gagnon.
The teams battled hard throughout the middle of the match, but U of L began to pull away, taking a 19-16 lead on a service ace. Kentucky burned a timeout and closed the game to one at 20-19, but allowed the Cards to widen the margin again at 26-23 after a Popp hitting error. The Wildcats stayed in the game down the stretch, but couldn’t get closer than two, dropping the second game 30-26.
Kentucky found itself in familiar territory to open game three, falling behind 4-1. The Cats stormed back to tie the score at 6-6 on a kill from Nzenwa and took the lead on the next rally as Fisher put one down. Two more ties ensued before U of L made a run with three consecutive kills to lead 13-10 and force a Wildcat timeout.
Louisville misplaced a serve and Casper sunk two aces to tie the game at 13 and a ball handling error by the Cards gave UK the lead again at 14-13. Tensions were high as the teams fought through four more ties. After Louisville used a strong block to deny Fisher, a Kaplan miscue put the Cardinals back on top, 20-18, forcing Skinner to use another timeout.
Strong play at the net allowed UK to even the score again at 24 and take the lead on a Gagnon ace. UofL quickly countered with a kill down the middle, but Wallace followed with a shot off the block to put the Cats up again. A far-left shot from Louisville forced the Cards to use a timeout with Kentucky leading 27-25.
A kill from Wallace was countered by a Cardinal kill, but Wallace countered again, putting UK on game point at 29-26. Three consecutive kills from the Cards would even the score again at 29 and subsequent ties came at 31, 32 and 33 before back-to-back kills from Lena Ustymenko sealed the Cardinal victory at 35-33.
Kentucky opens its home schedule on Friday, Sept. 9 against Eastern Illinois. The match is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. For ticket information, call the UK ticket office at 1-800-928-CATS or visit www.ukathletics.com.