Cats Defeat Auburn to Sweep SEC Road Trip
AUBURN, Ala. – The Kentucky volleyball team defeated Auburn this afternoon by a final score of 3-1 (30-23, 30-32, 30-25, 30-27) to improve to 12-3 on the year and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers fall to 9-6 overall and 1-3 in league play with the loss.
Senior Nicole Britenriker recorded her ninth double-double of the season with a season-best and match-high 20 kills to go along with 13 digs and six total blocks. Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely had a near triple-double with nine kills, nine digs and 53 assists on the day. Junior Queen Nzenwa tied a season-high with 18 kills on .500 hitting to go along with four total blocks. Her two block assists bring her career total to 341 which is three behind Mara Eglitis who is ranked fifth all-time at UK in that category. Freshman Sarah Mendoza added 11 kills, while fellow rookie Lauren Rapp had eight kills, 10 digs and three block assists for the Cats.
“It was a good step for our program to be able to win back to back matches on the road,” said UK head coach Craig Skinner. “Nicole and Queen dominated in the idle today and really helped open up our offense.”
UK had 73 kills, while Auburn had 62 and outhit the Tigers .329 to .242. The Wildcats recorded their fifth straight match with double-figure blocks as they notched 10 on the day. This is the 11th time this season the Cats have reached double digits in blocks.
Auburn took an early 3-2 lead but a sharp kill down the middle by Nzenwa started a 5-0 run that gave Kentucky a 7-3 advantage. Two straight UK errors made it a two-point lead at 7-5, but an AU service error and a kill by Mendoza pushed it back to four. The Wildcats then scored three consecutive points on a kill by Britenriker and a block assist by the senior and Rumely which forced the Tigers to burn a timeout trailing 12-6. Rumely added another putdown out of the break and Britenriker recorded two kills during a 10-1 run that saw the Wildcats take a commanding 19-7 lead and forced another Auburn timeout.
A sharp kill by Nzenwa on the angle followed an Auburn kill out of the break and an ace by Rumely gave UK a 21-8 advantage. The Tigers would not go away and used a 14-7 run to scratch back into the game. UK led 28-18 when AU scored four straight points to come within six, 28-22, and force a Wildcat timeout. Mendoza and Nzenwa teamed up for a block assist out of the break and the rookie outside hitter added a powerful kill to end the game and give UK the 30-23 game one win.
The SEC foes played evenly in game two and were tied for the fourth time at 9-9 after a cross-court kill by Rapp. A crafty kill over the head of Rumely gave the Cats a 10-9 edge, but the Tigers scored four consecutive points to make it 13-10 and force a UK timeout. A kill down the middle by Nzenwa and a block assist by Britenriker and Rapp cut it to one at 13-12, but Auburn scored three straight to push its lead back to four at 16-12. UK rallied to tie the score at 16-all but could not take the lead as Auburn used a pair of putdowns and a Kentucky hitting error to take a 19-16 lead which resulted in another Wildcat breather.
UK was inspired during the break and scored three consecutive points to knot the score at 19 on a powerful kill by Mendoza, a kill by Britenriker and an ace by Mendoza. A service error made it a one-point AU lead but a kill by Bartek followed by a putdown by Rumely off a dig by Rapp gave UK just its second lead of the game at 21-20. The Tigers tied it again but a kill by Bartek and an AU ball handling error gave the Cats a two-point cushion and resulted in an Auburn timeout. AU quickly tied the score again at 24-24 and it remained knotted at 26-all. The Tigers used a 3-1 scoring drive to take a 29-27 lead but a kill by Bartek pulled the Cats within a point and forced AU to use its final timeout. UK held off another game point when Britenriker served up an ace to tie the score for the 13th time at 29-29. An Auburn kill and ball-handling error made it 30-30 before the Tigers scored two straight to take game two by a final of 32-30.
The Cats scored three straight to open game three on kills by Britenriker and Rapp and a big block assist by Britenriker and Rumely. The Tigers then scored three consecutive points to tie the score at three-all. The trend continued until the score was knotted again at six-all. Auburn took a brief 7-6 lead but UK responded with five straight points after kills by Britenriker and Nzenwa and a trio of Auburn errors to take an 11-7 advantage. The Cats continued to build their lead following an Auburn timeout, putting together a 6-3 run to go on top by seven at 17-10 after a powerful putdown by Britenriker which resulted in the Tigers calling their final timeout.
The Cats pushed the lead to eight, 20-12, after a pair of strong kills by Mendoza but the Tigers used a 3-0 run to cut the margin to five, 20-15, and force the Cats to call for time. Britenriker and Rumely had a pair of putdowns out of the break and an AU hitting error made it a 23-15 UK lead. The Tigers would not go away, however, and used a 6-3 run to cut the lead to five, 26-21, resulting in the Cats using their final break. Nzenwa had a kill to snap the Tiger streak and Britenriker added another putdown at the net to make it 28-21. After an AU kill, Rapp delivered a sharp kill on the right side to make it match points for the Cats. Auburn would score three straight to hold off match point but a handling error ended game three with a 30-25 Wildcat win.
Game four opened with more even play. After the Cats went on top 4-1, Auburn came back to tie the score at seven. UK scored on back-to-back kills by Nzenwa and an AU error to take a 10-8 edge. A kill by Rapp and a block assist by Mendoza and Britenriker made it a 12-9 UK lead before a pair of Tiger putdowns cut it to two at 13-11. A service error followed by a huge kill at the net by Britenriker gave the Cats a four-point cushion and they pushed it to five, 17-12, after a strong spike by Nzenwa. Auburn used its first timeout but Nzenwa added two more kills in the midst of a 5-1 run to help the Wildcats to a 20-13 lead.
The teams traded points until a block assist by Britenriker and Rapp made it 23-17 and forced a Tiger TO. Auburn scored first out of the break but a kill by Rumely made it 24-18. Freshman Laura Stokowski added her first collegiate kill to make it 25-19 and Blaire Hiler and Nzenwa added a pair of putdowns to make it 27-21 Wildcat lead. An Auburn kill preceded a strong kill from Mendoza to make it 28-22 before a Kentucky ball handling error and an AU kill sliced the lead to four. Rapp delivered a strong cross-court spike on the right side for match point, but the Tigers scored three straight to make it a two-point game at 29-27. The Cats used their final timeout to draw up the winning play which proved to be a kill from Mendoza as UK held on to win 30-27.
The Wildcats return to action on Wednesday, Sept. 26, when they host SEC rival Tennessee. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.