UK Volleyball Hosts SEC Opening Weekend
The Kentucky volleyball team opens its Southeastern Conference schedule this weekend when it plays host to Mississippi State and Alabama in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats face the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. Friday and wrap up the weekend with a 1:30 pm contest against the Crimson Tide on Sunday.
Kentucky owns a 16-10 all-time record in SEC openers after defeating Arkansas in the league debut last year in Lexington. The Wildcats last lost an SEC opener with a 3-0 loss to Auburn on Sept. 23, 2004.
Kentucky (9-2) is coming off a second-place finish at the Regency Suites/Georgia Tech Classic in Atlanta after rebounding from a loss to nationally prominent Arizona to defeat Western Carolina and the host Yellow Jackets. Much of the Wildcats’ success this season has come due to its potent blocking. Kentucky is first in the SEC and ranks 10th in the NCAA in blocks, averaging 3.34 blocks per game. Junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) is first in the league and 13th in the nation with 1.63 rejections per game.
“We are all excited about starting the SEC schedule this weekend,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “The league is as strong as ever and we are looking forward to two tough contests in our house.”
Nzenwa also leads the league in hitting percentage and is 10th in all of Division I with a .467 efficiency clip, while senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio) is the team’s leader in kills with 3.89 kills per game. Junior libero Alisa Pierce (Louisville, Ky.) heads the defensive effort with 4.11 digs per contest which ranks her eighth in the SEC. Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely (New Palestine, Ind.) ranks third in the league in assists, averaging 11.97 dishes per game.
Freshman middle blocker Lauren Rapp (Indianapolis, Ind.) is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week. Rapp had an outstanding week for the Wildcats, recording 31 kills on .254 hitting with eight service aces and 16 total blocks during the four-game span. Rapp is third on the team and sixth in the league with 1.34 blocks per game and leads the Cats with 19 service aces on the year.
The Bulldogs enter Friday’s match with a 5-4 record, having gone 2-1 at the Memphis Invitational last weekend. Jamie Joyner directs Mississippi State’s offense, averaging a team-best 3.35 kills on a squad-best .293 hitting percentage. The Bulldogs will be forced to contend with Kentucky’s strong blocking, as Mississippi State ranks last in the league in blocks per game. Megan Lukasek is the team’s defensive leader, averaging 4.12 scoops per game.
The Cats and Bulldogs meet for the 34th time in school history with the Cats holding a dominant 32-1 edge in the all-time series. UK swept the season series a year ago and has won 14 consecutive matches dating back to Sept. 22, 1995. The Wildcats have won 17 consecutive meetings over the Bulldogs in Lexington.
Alabama (3-6), which will play Tennessee in Knoxville on Friday before heading north to Lexington, heads into the match 3-6 overall after its upset of No. 13 Ohio last weekend. The Crimson Tide is led by its defense, ranking 51st in the nation in digs per game. Alabama is also second in the SEC in the same category. Crystal Hudson leads the team with 3.79 kills per game, while Amy Pauly contributes 4.97 digs per game.
The Cats and Crimson Tide meet for the 28th time in school history with the Wildcats holding a 17-10 advantage in the all-time series. Kentucky won a five-game thriller against the Tide in Memorial Coliseum last season.
Live statistics will be available at ukathletics.com with live video available through Extreme Access.