Wildcats Win 3-1 Thriller at Mississippi State
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Sophomore Tess Edwards delivered a career-high 11 kills and junior Nicole Britenriker had her fourth double-double of the season as the Wildcats downed the Mississippi State by a final score of 3-1 (27-30, 30-25, 30-25, 30-27). UK improves to 9-2 on the year and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play with the victory, while the Bulldogs fall to 10-3 overall with a 1-2 mark in league play.
Britenriker finished with 18 kills and 13 digs on .389 hitting to lead the offense. The junior hit .389 for the match and added five blocks in the Wildcat win. Melissa Popp and Queen Nzenwa each added eight kills apiece, while Jenni Casper had a match-high 21 digs. Alisa Pierce added 11 digs, while setter Sarah Rumely had five kills, a season-high six aces and 41 assists for the Cats.
In the opening game, the Cats and Bulldogs played evenly. There were 15 ties in the first game alone and neither team led by more than two points until a late 4-0 run by MSU to take a 23-20 edge. The Cats snapped the MSU scoring streak on a Bulldog hitting error to make it 24-22 but MSU answered and took a 26-24 lead. UK battled back to tie the game at 26-all on a kill by Nicole Britenriker, but MSU outscored the Cats 4-1 the rest of the way to take the opening game by a score of 30-27.
The Bulldogs took an early 4-2 lead in game two, but UK scored five unanswered behind the strength of a Britenriker kill and a block assist by Queen Nzenwa and Sarah Rumely to take a 7-4 lead. Mississippi State cut the margin to two at 11-9, but UK responded with a 4-0 run on a kill by Britenriker and three straight hitting errors by MSU to go on top 15-9.
The Bulldogs answered with a 4-0 run of their own to pull to within two at 15-13. An MSU service error ended the scoring streak and Melissa Popp delivered an ace to give UK a 17-13 lead. Popp’s kill off a dig by libero Jenni Casper gave Kentucky a 22-17 advantage but MSU outscored UK 5-2 to pull to within two at 24-22. A put-down by Britenriker and a MSU error pushed the UK lead back to four (26-22). Sarah Rumely added a kill and freshman Heather Hausfeld had two put-downs as the Cats went on to take game two by the score of 30-25.
MSU took an early 5-2 lead in game three, but the Wildcats rallied to take a 6-5 lead on a kill by Tess Edwards. The Bulldogs tied the game at 8-8 before a 5-1 run gave Kentucky a 13-9 edge. UK led 16-12 after a pair of kills by Britenriker and a putdown by Hausfeld, but let the Bulldogs pull to within a point (16-15) after three straight hitting errors. Back-to-back kills by Edwards and Popp gave the Wildcats a three-point cushion at 18-15. Edwards added two more kills as the Cats took a 21-18 lead. MSU was able to cut the lead to two at 24-22 but UK scored four straight to go ahead 28-22 and went on to score the game-winner on a powerful kill by Britenriker to take game three 30-25.
The Cats came out hot in game four and claimed an 8-4 lead on an ace by Rumely which forced MSU to use an early timeout. The break worked for the Bulldogs who rattled off five straight points to take a 9-8 lead and force a Wildcat timeout. A service error snapped the MSU scoring streak with the Cats trailing 10-9. A kill by Popp pulled the Wildcats within one at 14-12 but MSU pulled away and took an 18-13 lead after a hitting error by Rumely.
It was the Wildcats who were inspired this time as UK scored three straight to pull to within a pair at 18-16 on back-to-back aces by Rumely. MSU led 20-17 until the Wildcats scored five straight to take a 22-20 edge on a kill by Britenriker and force the Bulldogs to use their final timeout. MSU led 24-23 before a kill by Rumely knotted the score at 24-24. UK took a brief one-point lead at 26-25 but a pair of service errors by UK and MSU made it a tie game again at 27-27. A Bulldog hitting error gave UK a 28-27 lead and a kill by Fisher put the Cats on top 29-27. A kill by Nzenwa that landed right down the middle gave the Wildcats a 30-27 win in the final game.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday, Sept. 24, when it travels to Oxford to take on Ole Miss. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m.