Wildcats Top Georgia Tech in 3-1 Thriller
ATLANTA, Ga. – The Kentucky volleyball team improved to 9-2 on the year tonight with a thrilling 3-1 win (31-33, 31-29, 30-26, 30-22) over host team Georgia Tech (4-3) at the Regency Suites/Georgia Tech Classic. The Wildcats finished as the tournament runner-up after posting a 2-1 record during the two-day event.
Junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa and sophomore setter Sarah Rumely were both named to the All-Tournament team. Nzenwa had 15 kills on .500 hitting to accompany seven block assists which moved her past former Cat Sissy Canfield and into sixth place all-time in that category at UK with 316 for her career. Rumely finished with eight kills, seven digs, three total blocks and 56 assists in the win over Georgia Tech. Senior Nicole Britenriker added her team-leading sixth double-double of the year with a team-high 16 kills to go along with 11 digs. Freshman Sarah Mendoza added 11 kills and six digs, while fellow rookie Lauren Rapp had 10 kills and five block assists on the night. Sophomore Brooke Bartek was the fifth Wildcat to record double-digit kills with 10.
Kentucky outhit Georgia Tech .327 to .206 and recorded 11 blocks in the win. The Wildcats have now reached double digits in blocks in seven matches this season.
The opening game opened with even play and saw the match tied for the third time at 4-4 after Georgia Tech scored on a kill after a long rally. Tech took a brief two-point lead after a kill and a Kentucky hitting error but the Wildcats answered with a 5-0 run that included kills by Britenriker, Mendoza and Rumely and an ace by Rapp to go on top 9-6. The Yellow Jackets used a 4-2 run to shave the lead to one, 11-10, but the Cats answered with a 5-1 run featuring kills by Rapp and Bartek and an ace by Rumely to make it a 17-11 game. Tech responded with a 9-3 run to tie the score at 20-all until Rapp ended the streak with a kill to put the Cats up by one. A powerful putdown by Bartek and a Tech hitting error made it a two-point Kentucky lead, 23-21, but the Yellow Jackets would not go away.
The Cats continued to lead by two, 27-25, after a kill by Britenriker but saw Tech score two unanswered to knot the score once again. Britenriker had the answer again as she nailed a powerful kill to make it a 28-27 Wildcat lead. Tech tied it again at 28 but a Brooke Bartek putdown made it match point and forced the Yellow Jackets to use their first timeout. Following the breather, a pair of controversial calls that would have given the Cats the win extended the match. Tech scored two straight on a net violation and a kill to take a 31-30 lead and force the Cats to call for time. A block assist by Nzenwa and Rapp tied the score at 31 but the Yellow Jackets recorded back-to-back kills and held on for the 33-31 game one win.
Game two opened with more even play and the score was tied at 6-6 when the Wildcats made their first run of the game. Kills by Rumely and Rapp, accompanied by a pair of Tech hitting errors, put UK on top 10-6. The Yellow Jackets added a pair of points but the Wildcats continued to pull away, this time using a kill by Rapp, a block assist by Rapp and Nzenwa and a putdown by Bartek to take a 14-8 advantage. Kentucky committed three service errors which accounted for all of Tech’s points during a 7-3 run as UK led 17-10 after back-to-back putdowns by Rapp and Britenriker. Another Kentucky service error sparked a 4-0 run that saw Tech come to within three, 17-14, and force the Cats to use their first timeout.
Mendoza ended the Georgia Tech rally with a kill down the middle out of the break. A pair of Tech hitting errors gave the Cats a 21-15 edge and forced a Yellow Jacket timeout. GT scored two straight to cut the lead to four, but a service error and a kill by Nzenwa pushed the Kentucky advantage back to six at 23-17. However, a UK service error and a Tech ace once again made it a four-point contest. A craft kill by Rumely at the net, followed by a powerful putdown the middle by Nzenwa and a block assist gave the Cats a 26-20 lead. The Yellow Jackets continued to fight back and used a 5-2 run to pull within three at 28-25. A kill by Britenriker made it 29-25 but Tech staved off match point three times and made it a one-point game, 29-28, which resulted in the Cats using their final timeout. Georgia Tech tied the score at 29 after an attempt by Bartek sailed wide, but a pair of Yellow Jacket mishaps aided the Cats to a 31-29 win in the second set.
The Wildcats opened game three on a tear, leading 7-3 early after back-to-back kills by Britenriker and a putdown by Nzenwa. Georgia Tech made a 6-2 run of its own to tie the game at nine. A putdown from Mendoza sparked a 3-1 run that gave the Cats a brief two-point lead but Tech quickly tied at 12. The score remained knotted at 16-all until Tech took a short-lived lead at 18-17. The Wildcats used three consecutive Yellow Jacket errors to re-take the lead at 20-18 and force a Tech timeout.
A Georgia Tech kill snapped the scoring streak and a 3-1 run tied the score again at 21. A Tech service error followed by a Britenriker ace gave the Cats a 23-21 edge. Nzenwa added a kill and Tech committed another attack error, forcing the Yellow Jackets to use their final timeout. The Jackets made a 3-0 run out of the break and knotted the score at 25 on a pair of kills and a UK hitting error which resulted in Skinner calling for time. The pep talk appeared to work as Nzenwa sparked a 5-1 Wildcat run with a ferocious kill down the middle. Mendoza added a kill and then the freshman teamed up with Nzenwa for a block assist to take a 29-25 lead. Following a Tech kill, Nzenwa added another shot down the middle as the Cats won game two by a final of 30-26.
Kentucky opened game four on an 8-2 tear and forced the Yellow Jackets to burn an early timeout. Tech scored on a kill out of the break and then the foes traded four straight service errors to make it a 10-5 Kentucky lead. A kill by Nzenwa down the middle and a ball-handling error by Tech gave the Cats a seven-point edge. They increased that to eight after a Mendoza putdown and a GT hitting error made it 14-6. Tech pulled to within six, 16-10, but UK scored four straight capped by back-to-back kills by Bartek and Rumely to take a commanding 20-10 advantage. The Yellow Jackets used a 7-4 run o come to within seven at 24-17, but Britenriker nailed a Rumely delivery to make it 25-17. After two consecutive points for Tech, Britenriker struck for another putdown before Nzenwa and Rumely teamed up for a block assist on the right side to make it a 27-19 lead for the Cats. A GT attack sailed into the net as UK went ahead 28-19 and resulted in a Tech timeout. Bartek put down a resounding kill off a huge dig by Pierce to make it a 29-19 score, but the Jackets answered with three consecutive putdowns before Nzenwa came through with a sharp kill at the net to give the Cats the 30-22 win.
Kentucky returns to action next Friday, Oct. 14, when it opens Southeastern Conference play against Mississippi State. Opening serve is set for 7 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.