Kentucky Takes Thrilling Victory over Purdue
The Kentucky volleyball team turned in an all-star performance on Saturday night to defeat the homestanding Purdue Boilermakers, 3-2, in a thrilling tournament closer for the 2004 Mortar Board Premier in West Lafayette, Ind. Senior Sarah Spinner was named the tournament’s most valuable player after totaling 18 kills, 15 digs and five blocks in the championship match.
Danielle Wallace joined Spinner on the all-tournament team, as did junior Amy Kaplan, who had 10 kills and eight blocks on .409 hitting. Wallace had 22 kills in the final match, but totaled 61 on the weekend to lead the Cats. However, freshman Alex Montefalco stole the show for the victorious Kentucky squad, totaling a career-best 27 kills on .396 hitting to go with 18 digs and six blocks.
Other Cats performing well in the match were setter Leigh Marcum, who had 67 assists – four shy of her career best, and Jenni Casper with a season-best tying 21 digs. Kentucky’s 9-2 record marks its best start since the 1993 season when the Wildcats opened the year with a 17-0 record. The Cats have won seven consecutive matches.
Both teams seemed to thrive on the electric atmosphere to open the match as Kentucky grabbed an early 2-0 victory. The Wildcats were able to push the advantage to three at several turns, but Purdue chipped away, tying the game at 12-12. Nine ties followed as the teams traded points on every rally. UK gained the advantage in the bout and took a 22-21 lead on a Cunningham-Montefalco block, forcing a PU timeout. The Boilers came back to take three consecutive rallies, forcing a Wildcat timeout.
After a Kentucky hit was called the wide, Purdue sent one long to put UK on serve again at 25-23, but a service error by Casper allowed the Boilermakers to gain momentum and surge to a 28-23 lead. After another UK trip to the bench, Kaplan crushed one down the middle to keep UK alive, but the Boilermakers were able to catch the Cats off guard on the next two points to take a 30-24 victory. Montefalco and Wallace had five kills apiece in the game, while UK and Purdue each hit .304 in the first battle.
The Wildcats opened the second game on fire, taking an early 6-1 lead, which forced a Purdue timeout. The Boilers quickly threatened, cutting the lead to two at 6-4, but the Kentucky defense remained strong and UK pushed the lead to eight at 14-6 after three consecutive kills by Montefalco. The Wildcats began to fade, letting unforced errors allow PU to make a 5-0 run and cut the lead to three at 14-11.
Following a Kentucky timeout, Montefalco again took control of the game, using back-to-back kills in a 6-0 run to advance the lead to nine at 20-11. Purdue exhausted another timeout, and while the Boilermakers didn’t make it easy down the stretch, the Wildcats were able to come away with a 30-21 victory. Montefalco totaled nine kills in the game, while Spinner added four blocks as UK hit .438 to Purdue’s .073.
After seven ties to open the third game, Purdue was able to build to a four-point lead at 16-12. The Cats didn’t back down, using scrappy play and solid defense to knot the score at 20. From there, UK took the next two points to earn a 22-20 lead, which put a scare in the Boilermaker bench. After a PU timeout, the Cats continued to claw away.
With a 26-23 Kentucky lead, Purdue decided to take another timeout. The Boilermakers took points on three of the next four rallies to cut UK’s advantage to one at 27-26. After a Kentucky timeout, the Boilermakers were able to tie the game after a Wallace miscue. Purdue knotted the score three more time, at 29, 30 and 31, before back-to-back kills by Montefalco and Spinner gave UK the match advantage with a 33-31 game three victory. Spinner led the tenacious Wildcats in the game with six kills and three digs.
With momentum shifted to Kentucky’s side, both teams played with urgency in the fourth game. The squads played through nine early ties before UK was able to take back-to-back rallies and gain a 13-11 lead. The Boilermakers, however, took the next two points to tie things again at 13. Several more ties ensued, but with the match on the line, the home team wouldn’t go away without a fight. After Purdue pushed to a 27-23 lead, the Cats couldn’t recover in time. The Boilermakers were able to push the match to a tiebreaking fifth game with a 30-25 victory.
Purdue capitalized on the shift in momentum, building to a 6-2 lead in the final game. Kentucky kept in the hunt and used Boiler errors, including three long serves, to cut the advantage to one at 11-10. A shot down the middle by Cunningham tied the game at 11 and forced a Purdue timeout. Three consecutive kills by Kentucky late but the Wildcats on match point at 14-12. Purdue wouldn’t back down and after a kill from home team, a ball handling error on Marcum tied the game at 14. A kill by Montefalco put the Cats on game point again, but the Boilermakers evened the score again at 15.
Kaplan returned for the Cats and landed a kill down the middle to put her squad on match point one last time. From there the Kentucky defense did what it has been doing all season as Kaplan and Montefalco built a wall on the net to secure the victory for Wildcats, 17-15.
The Cats return home next weekend to open Southeastern Conference play against Alabama on Friday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. Kentucky then faces Auburn on Sunday at 2 p.m. UK is 15-8 all-time in SEC openers.