Wildcats Rally Past Georgia Tech
The Kentucky volleyball team rebounded from a tough first-game loss Saturday, Sept. 9, to turn back a stingy Georgia Tech squad 3-1 (28-30, 30-21, 38-36, 30-27) in Memorial Coliseum and sweep its matches in the Kentucky Classic. The Wildcats improve to 7-1 on the season with the victory and were named champions of their home tourney.
Middle blockers Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) led the way with 16 kills and four blocks apiece. Senior outside hitter Melissa Popp (Indianapolis, Ind.) posted 14 kills to complement three blocks and three aces. Freshman setter Sarah Rumely (New Palestine, Ind.) notched her third career double-double with 56 assists and 12 digs and was one kill shy of a triple-double. The Wildcats out-blocked the Yellow Jackets 13-8 in the match.
“I thought we showed great composure today responding in game two and also closing out that fourth game,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I am excited about the performance of Melissa Popp. We had great individual performances all weekend in order to win the tournament.”
The two teams battled evenly to open the first game, but Georgia Tech took an early 8-5 advantage after the Yellow Jackets’ Callie Miller and Allie Niekamp teamed for a pair of blocks. That streak was part of a larger 7-0 run for Georgia Tech which put it ahead 11-5 after an attack error by sophomore outside hitter Ashlee Fisher (West Bend, Wis.). A Britenriker put-down ended the UK scoring drought at 11-6. With the Yellow Jackets leading 15-9, the Wildcats scored two consecutive points with a kill from Britenriker and an ace by Popp. Georgia Tech extended its lead to 20-14 after a pair of kills and a block to force UK to call a timeout.
The Cats fell behind 23-16, but Popp registered a kill and the Yellow Jackets committed two consecutive attack errors to bring UK within four, 23-19. Back-to-back put-downs by Britenriker and Rumely got UK within two points, 24-22, before Georgia Tech moved its lead back to 28-25. After the Yellow Jackets reached game point at 29-26, Kentucky ran off two consecutive points to come within 29-28. A block attempt by Tess Edwards (Ottowa, Ontario) and Rumely on the next play, however, fell just out of bounds giving the Yellow Jackets a 30-28 game-one victory.
The Wildcats took a 6-4 advantage to begin the second game after a put-down by Nzenwa and an attack error on the Yellow Jackets. Rumely followed with a service ace to give the Wildcats a 7-3 edge early in the second frame. With UK leading 7-5, Nzenwa posted a resounding kill and then teamed with Edwards on the following play for a powerful block that extended the Cats’ advantage to 9-5. Kentucky kept rolling and moved in front 15-8 on a kill by Rumely on second contact that forced a Georgia Tech timeout.
After two consecutive points by the Yellow Jackets, Rumely registered a powerful block solo that brought the crowd to its feet and put UK ahead 17-10. After three consecutive Georgia Tech points, the Yellow Jackets were charged with a net violation to stop their scoring streak down 20-14. Georgia Tech came within three, 20-17, before Nzenwa registered a kill down the middle and Popp followed with a block solo to distance UK at 22-17. Leading 25-19, Britenriker and Popp teamed for a block and Britenriker posted a kill on the next play to extend the Cats’ advantage to 27-19. The Wildcats went on to a 30-21 game-two win.
Kentucky broke to a 5-2 lead to open the third game on a crafty kill by Rumely on second contact. Georgia Tech hung tough with the Wildcats, but UK maintained a 9-6 advantage after a soft-touch kill by Edwards on the right side. The Yellow Jackets continued to rally, knotting the score a 9-9 after three consecutive points. A kill by Georgia Tech’s Talisa Kellogg gave the Yellow Jackets a 13-11 lead before Britenriker stopped the streak with a kill on the right side.
Back-to-back errors by Niekamp brought UK back into the game at 15-14, before a resounding block by Edwards and Nzenwa tied the score at 15-15. Two consecutive Georgia Tech kills broke a 19-19 tie and gave the Yellow Jackets a 20-19 advantage. They continued to hold a narrow edge at 23-22 before Britenriker’s soft put-down in the middle again tied the score. After 13 more ties, Rumely broke a 36-all tie with a kill on second contact down the middle. A setting error against Niekamp gave UK a 38-36 win in the third stanza.
The two teams battled closely to begin the fourth game, but Georgia Tech took an early 8-5 advantage. The Wildcats rallied to tie the score at 8-8 after a Rumely ace and an attack error on the Yellow Jackets. Back-to-back kills by Nzenwa, followed by an Edwards put-down moved the Cats in front 11-9. Popp found the spot on an attack sailing out of bounds to extend the Cats’ advantage to 14-9 and force Georgia Tech to call a timeout.
Out of the break, the Yellow Jackets came within three, 15-12, before an Edwards kill stifled the Georgia Tech rally. An emphatic kill by Fisher on the angle put the Wildcats ahead 19-14 and Rumely followed with a kill on the next play. A service ace by Rumely extended Kentucky’s lead out to six, 22-16, but Georgia Tech wouldn’t back down. The Yellow Jackets narrowed their deficit to 23-21 before an Nzenwa kill and a Georgia Tech attack error moved the Cats back in front by four, 25-21. UK closed out the game with a 30-27 victory.
Kentucky returns to action Friday when it begins Southeastern Conference play by hosting Arkansas. Opening serve in Memorial Coliseum is set for 7 p.m.