Kentucky Drops Close Contest to Arizona
ATLANTA, Ga. – The Kentucky volleyball team suffered its second loss of the season today, Sept. 7, as it fell 3-1 (29-31, 23-30, 30-26, 30-32) to Arizona at the Regency Suites/Georgia Tech Classic. The loss snapped a six-match winning streak for Kentucky who falls to 7-2 on the season, while Arizona improves to 5-2 with the win.
Junior Queen Nzenwa led the Wildcats with 16 kills on .464 hitting to go along with five block assists which moves her to seventh on UK’s all-time list. Senior Nicole Britenriker turned in her fifth double-double effort of the season with 10 kills and a match-high 15 digs to go along with six block assists. Junior libero Alisa Pierce also had 15 digs in the loss, while sophomore Brooke Bartek finished with a career-high 10 digs, eight kills and two block assists. Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely had a career-high 11 kills, four total blocks, five digs and 39 assists for Kentucky.
UK posted a season-low .154 team hitting percentage, while Arizona hit .216 for the match. Kentucky recorded 12 team blocks for the second straight match, but UA notched 13 on the day. UK has now reached double digit blocks in six of its last seven outings.
“We didn’t start out very well but we played better and competed as the match went along,” said UK head coach Craig Skinner. “In order to win close games like that, we can’t commit that many errors. Arizona got the kills when they needed them at the end.”
The two teams battled in the opening game which saw 11 ties and six lead changes. Neither team led by more than three until UK used a 5-2 run to go ahead by four at 14-10 on a kill by Rumely and a block assist by Britenriker and Lauren Rapp. Arizona answered with a 9-2 run to take a three-point lead at 19-16. A serving error by UA and a sharp kill by Britenriker pulled Kentucky within a point, 19-18, but Arizona responded with a pair of kills to push the lead back to three. UK then used a pair of UA errors to spark an 8-1 run and take a 26-22 advantage. Britenriker used a powerful putdown and a service ace to start the run, which was capped by an Nznewa and Bartek block assist and forced Arizona to burn a timeout.
Out of the break, Arizona scored three straight until a kill by Rumely after a long rally ended the scoring streak and made it a 27-25 Kentucky lead. UK added another point before the Arizona Cats scored four unanswered to take a 29-28 advantage. A sharp kill by Bartek tied the score at 29 but the sophomore transfer followed with a service error that gave UA a 30-29 lead. A Kentucky hitting error ended game one as Arizona held on to win by a final of 31-29.
The second game opened with more even play, but Arizona used a 7-0 scoring run to take a commanding 14-5 lead. UK cut the margin to seven after back-to-back kills but UA continued to dominate the game and went on top by as many as nine at 17-8. Consecutive kills by Nznewa and Britenriker and a powerful kill by Blaire Hiler helped Kentucky cut the UA lead to six, 18-12, and forced an Arizona timeout. A kill by Britenriker out of the break made it a five-point game, 18-13, but Arizona answered with two straight to push its lead back to seven. Kentucky would slash the lead to five again after a block assist by Nzenwa and Rapp made it a 25-20 score, but that was as close as they would come as Arizona outscored UK 5-3 the rest of the way to win game two by a score of 30-23.
Kentucky came out hot in game three and took an early 6-3 lead on back-to-back kills by Bartek and Rumely and an ace by Britenriker. The Cats pushed their lead to five, 10-5, after two consecutive put-downs by Nznewa, a crafty kill by Rumely and another huge kill by Nznewa. Arizona used a kill to stop the UK streak and scored four unanswered to pull to within one, 11-10, and force a Kentucky timeout. UK used the break to its advantage and scored two straight points out of the breather on a kill by Hiler and a UA hitting error. Following an Arizona kill that made it a 13-11 Kentucky lead, UK responded with five straight points on a kill by Britenriker, an ace by Pierce and two straight block assists to take a 18-11 lead.
Arizona began to chip away at the UK lead and pulled to within six at 26-20. A kill by Bartek pushed the lead back to seven but Arizona again cut it to six at 28-22 after a UK hitting error and an Arizona kill. An UA service error made it 29-22 for Kentucky but they could not put it away as Arizona scored four straight to pull within four and resulting in UK using its final timeout. Nznewa ended any hopes Arizona had of a comeback with a huge kill out of the break as Kentucky won game three by the final of 30-26.
Kentucky opened game four on a tear and took an early 8-4 lead. UK pushed its lead to six at 12-6 after a kill by Rapp. Kentucky led by five, 14-9, when Arizona made a huge run and scored nine consecutive points to take an 18-14 lead. A Britenriker put-down snapped the scoring drought for UK to make it a three-point contest. Kentucky cut it to two, 22-20, after a pair of Arizona errors and used a 3-2 run to pull to within a point, 24-23, behind the solid serving of BriAnne Sauer who tied a personal best with three service aces in the match. Arizona had the answer again, however, and recorded four straight kills to make it a 28-23 advantage. Kentucky would not go away and trailing 29-24, rallied for five straight points to tie the score at 29-all. The score was knotted again at 30-30 when Arizona recorded back-to-back kills to take the fourth and final game by a score of 32-30.
Kentucky returns to action Saturday morning when it takes on Western Carolina at 9 a.m. UK will face host-team Georgia Tech in the tournament finale at 8 p.m. That match can be heard live on and fans can also watch a live webcast at for a fee of $4.99. Links to all these options, along with live stats, can be found at ukathletics.com