Kentucky Sweeps Eastern Illinois in Home Opener
Senior outside hitter Danielle Wallace registered a match-high 15 kills Friday to lead the Wildcats to an impressive 3-0 (30-10, 30-19, 30-21) home-opening victory over Eastern Illinois in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats improve to 4-1 on the season with the win, while the Panthers drop to 2-2.
Senior Amy Kaplan tallied seven kills on .267, while Ashlee Fisher and Queen Nzenwa posted six kills each, while junior Julie Gagnon led the defensive effort for the first time this season with 12 digs. The Wildcats out-hit the Panthers .248 to -.040 and registered 11 services aces in the match.
“I love the way we started tonight by putting a lot of pressure on Eastern Illinois,” UK Coach Craig Skinner said. “We were very focused to begin the match, which was great to see. Our middles did a good job tonight of making adjustments and improving throughout the match.”
Eastern Illinois scored the first point of game one, but Kentucky ran off the next 14 behind the powerful serving of libero Jenni Casper and five kills from Kaplan to stake to a 14-1 advantage. Trailing 17-4, the Panthers reeled off the next three points of the game before Fisher stopped the EIU run with a kill. The Cats extended their lead to 22-9 when Nzenwa emphatically drilled a shot down the middle for a kill and UK went on to win the opening game, 30-10.
In game two, back-to-back service aces by Marcum gave Kentucky an early 5-2 lead. Two kills by Fisher later extended the Wildcats’ advantage to 10-4 before an EIU kill ended its scoring drought. A put-down by Wallace and an ace by Casper put the Cats up 15-7, but the Panthers were able to pull within seven, 18-11, on a service error by Alisa Pierce.
Kentucky scored three of the game’s next four points, including a resounding kill on the outside by Fisher to take a 21-12 advantage. Trailing 26-15, the Panthers reeled off the next three points of the game but the Wildcats capitalized on two consecutive errors by EIU to close out the game with a 30-19 victory.
Several UK errors allowed Eastern Illinois to gain momentum out of intermission as the Panthers took a 4-1 lead to begin the third frame. Consecutive kills by Kaplan and Popp, and an attack error by EIU’s Caitlin Balsam allowed the Cats to pull even at six.
After another tie at eight, Kaplan served an ace and EIU’s Balsam made back-to-back attack errors to take a 10-8 advantage. The Panthers pulled even at 13 before a Wallace kill stopped the drought to begin a 9-0 UK run that gave it a 22-13 lead. After EIU came within 10, 25-15, freshman Erin Turner registered her first collegiate kill. A put-down by Gagnon gave the Wildcats the 30-21 victory.
Kentucky returns to action Saturday as it hosts Wright State. Opening serve is set for 3 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum and live stats will be available at ukathletics.com. Eastern Illinois and Wright State also will square off Saturday at 10 a.m.