Wildcats Drop League Opener to Auburn
Kentucky held significant leads in each game Friday, but the Wildcats squandered their advantages in a 3-0 (30-28, 30-26, 30-20) loss to Auburn in their Southeastern Conference opener in Memorial Coliseum.
Auburn (7-3, 1-1 SEC) picked up its first league win powered by 13 kills from leader Rachel Shanks. The Tigers, who registered six aces in the game, out-hit the Wildcats (7-4, 0-1) .150-.105. Kentucky was led by freshman outside hitter Ashlee Fisher, who posted a team-high 12 kills, followed by senior outside hitter Danielle Wallace’s 11 put-downs.
“We still need to continue to play better as a group,” UK Coach Craig Skinner said. “I have to give Auburn credit for playing a great match. We compete well at times, but we need to compete for 30 points every game.”
In the opening game, Auburn broke a 4-4 tie by running off five consecutive points behind the serving of Alison Jacobs to put the Tigers up 9-3. Out of a timeout, the Wildcats regrouped to come within three, 10-7, on a slam by Queen Nzenwa. Auburn kept rolling, however, to extend its advantage to 14-9, but the Cats scored the next three points of the game to force the Tigers to burn a timeout, leading 14-12. Out of the timeout, Kentucky evened the score at 14 on a resounding kill by Wallace.
After three more ties, the Wildcats pulled ahead when Fisher slammed down a kill for the 20-19 advantage. The two teams battled evenly for the next few points with Kentucky taking a 28-26 lead on a Nzenwa kill. Auburn rallied behind back-to-back put-downs to tie the score at 28. Shanks posted a kill for the Tigers and Leigh Marcum’s attack on the next play was called out, giving Auburn the 30-28 game-one victory. The Tigers won despite being out-hit .170-.104.
Auburn and Kentucky battled evenly to begin the second game before a kill by junior outside hitter Melissa Popp broke a six-all tie. Consecutive kills by Fisher and Nzenwa put the Wildcats ahead 9-6. The Tigers rallied to tie the score at 10 on an attack error by Popp before back-to-back Auburn miscues put the Cats ahead by two. With the teams tied at 18, Auburn got a kill from Jennifer Amobi before a Fisher attack error gave the Tigers a two-point advantage. Kentucky never was able to regroup, falling 30-26.
The Wildcats opened with a 3-1 advantage in the third game capped off by a kill from Wallace. The Cats held a narrow advantage until Auburn tied the score at seven to spark a 3-0 run. The Tigers extended their lead to 13-8 on an attack error by Nzenwa and kept rolling from there to take a 20-11 advantage. A kill by Shanks closed out the 30-20 game-three victory for the Tigers as Kentucky hit -.021 in the game.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it hosts Alabama in Memorial Coliseum. Opening serve is set for 1:30 p.m. and the game will be carried live on WKYT-TV/UPN (Channel 5 in Lexington). Dick Gabriel and former UK coach Kathy DeBoer will call the action.