Mendoza Shines as Cats Down Western Carolina
ATLANTA, Ga. – Freshman Sarah Mendoza registered a career-high 13 kills as the Kentucky volleyball team defeated Western Carolina (3-6) this morning at the Regency Suites/Georgia Tech Classic in Atlanta. The rookie outside hitter hit a personal-best .462 and also set a new career high with five digs in the win that lifts the Cats to 8-2 on the year.
Senior Nicole Britenriker tied Mendoza for the match-high with 13 kills to go along with nine digs, while freshman Lauren Rapp added nine kills, three block assists and tied a season-high with three service aces. Sophomore transfer Brooke Bartek added six kills on a career-high .417 hitting percentage and junior Queen Nzenwa had six kills and six block assists in the win. Junior libero Alisa Pierce led all players with 14 digs, while sophomore setter Sarah Rumely notched six kills, six digs, two aces and 44 assists for the Cats.
Kentucky out-hit the Catamounts .395 to .182 in the match and recorded eight blocks to just two for Western Carolina. The Wildcats hit a match-high .447 in game two to just .111 for WCU.
“Offensively, it was good to see our team come out strong and hit for a high percentage and that got better as the match went along,” said head coach Craig Skinner. “We kept our composure after getting a 2-0 lead and shut the door in the third game.”
The Wildcats jumped out to an early 7-4 lead in the opening game sparked by a pair of Nznewa and Rapp block assists and an ace by Rapp. Kentucky led by two before a 4-1 run that included a block assist by Nzenwa and Bartek, a powerful kill by Bartek and a service ace by Rumely gave the Cats a 10-6 edge. The Catamounts answered with three straight kills to pull to within two at 12-10, but UK responded with another 4-1 run to go ahead by five, 16-11, after two consecutive kills by Britenriker. The Cats continued to hold a five-point edge at 23-18 when the Catamounts scored four straight to cut the lead to just two, 24-22. A kill by Mendoza ended the streak and began a 4-0 scoring run for Kentucky who went back on top by five at 28-23 and forced a WCU timeout. The Catamounts shaved the margin to three, 28-25, with three straight points but a kill by Rapp and an ace by Mendoza sealed the game for Kentucky who won by a final of 30-25.
UK dominated in the early goings of game two and jumped out to a 6-3 advantage. A Kentucky hitting error ended the streak, but a Western Carolina service error started a new one as the Cats increased their lead to five after another Mendoza kill and a WCU ball handling error at 9-4. Kentucky used a 9-2 run to take a commanding 18-6 lead over Western Carolina. The Catamounts scored three unanswered to make it a nine-point UK lead but kills by Britenriker and Nzenwa sparked another Kentucky scoring run that ended with an ace by Rumely to put the Cats on top 22-11. WCU used a 5-2 run to cut the lead to single digits at 24-16, but three consecutive kills by Rapp, Mendoza and Britenriker put the Cats back on top by 11 at 27-16. A Catamount kill made it a 10-point game, but Britenriker put down a powerful kill and Rumely used a crafty kill of her own to make it 29-17. Following a UK service error, Bartek came through with a spike that gave the Cats the win at 30-18.
It was more of the same in game two as the Wildcats opened with a 4-0 run. However, this time the Catamounts kept it close and battled back with a 4-1 run to make it a 5-4 Kentucky advantage. A kill by Hiler, followed by a block assist by Britenriker and Hiler gave the Cats an 8-5 lead before a WCU kill. Kentucky then used a 6-1 run capped by a pair of back-to-back putdowns by Rapp to make it a 14-7 UK lead. Kentucky led 16-11 when it put together a 7-1 run on the strength of kills by Nzenwa, Britenriker and a block assist by Rapp and Nzenwa to go ahead 23-12. The Wildcats continued to dominate the third game and used a 4-1 run capped by back-to-back powerful Britenriker putdowns to take a commanding 27-14 advantage. A WCU kill was followed by a hitting error which put Kentucky on top 28-15 before a Mendoza kill and a block solo by Hiler ended the game and the match as the Cats won the deciding game by a final score of 30-17.
Kentucky returns to action tonight when it faces host team Georgia Tech at 8 p.m.