Cats Fall to Northwestern at Wildcat Classic
The Kentucky volleyball team fought hard but came up short against a tough Northwestern squad in the title match of the Wildcat Classic in Evanston, Ill., Saturday night. Danielle Wallace and Amy Kaplan earned all-tournament team honors after leading the Wildcats over the three-match event.
Kentucky (7-3) was led Saturday night by Wallace with 15 kills and Kaplan with 10 kills on .455 hitting. Kaplan, a Chicago area native, added four blocks. Julie Gagnon led the defensive effort for UK with 11 digs, while freshman Queen Nzenwa added six blocks.
“This was a hard-fought match by both teams,” Coach Craig Skinner said. “Northwestern was just a little bit better than we were tonight. I thought our effort was good, and our execution will continue to get better this week in practice. That will help us win close matches like this down the road.”
Kentucky controlled the start of the match, taking a 7-2 lead in the first game but allowed the home team to tie the score at 13. Northwestern ripped off four more points to take a 17-13 lead and force a UK timeout. Back-to-back NU errors later in the game put Kentucky within one at 22-21. UK later tied the game at 26 and again at 28 on a Wallace kill, but allowed the home Cats to put down two kills for a 30-28 win. Kaplan had six kills on .857 hitting in the game.
The Wildcats pushed out to another early lead, taking the first three points, but after three ties, Northwestern burst out to a 9-5 advantage, forcing a UK timeout. UK managed t cut the lead to one at 18-17 on a kill from Kaplan, but strong play from the home team put UK down 22-18 and forced another timeout.
After twice facing a five-point deficit, Kentucky cut the lead to three with a solid solo block by Wallace. Later a volley at the net would go UK’s way and cut the NU lead to two at 25-23. A net violation on the home team would later cut the lead to two again at 27-25, forcing a Northwestern timeout.
The third game saw eight early ties before UK used a 3-0 run to take a 12-9 lead. The run was capped by consecutive kills from Wallace. NU charged back to tie the game at 13 and then took a 15-13 lead after an error from Ashlee Fisher.
Northwestern maintained its distance until a block from Nzenwa and Fisher cut the advantage to one at 25-24. The home squad stretched back out to a 28-25 lead, forcing a late UK timeout. The Cats took the next two points with kills from Nzenwa and Fisher, but Northwestern closed out with a kill and took an error from Nzenwa to seal the 30-27 victory.
UK opens Southeastern Conference play on Friday, Sept. 23 against Auburn. The home match will be played in Memorial Coliseum at 7 p.m.