Cats Drop 3-2 Heartbreaker at Auburn
AUBURN, Ala. – The University of Kentucky volleyball team dropped its third straight match today, Oct. 1, as it fell by a final of 3-2 (30-23, 30-28, 28-30, 24-30, 12-15) to Auburn. Sophomore Queen Nzenwa had a career-high 25 kills in the match that saw her Wildcats fall to 9-5 on the year and 2-4 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn improves to 11-6 overall with a 3-3 mark in SEC play.
Nzenwa hit a season-best .523 and finished with a match-high 25 kills to go along with three blocks. Nicole Britenriker added 17 kills, seven digs and seven blocks, while senior Melissa Popp recorded a season-high 19 kills on .341 hitting. Freshman BriAnne Sauer added 13 digs, while senior Jenni Casper led the Cats with 15 scoops.
The Wildcats opened the first game on a 12-5 run after back-to-back kills by Edwards and a putdown by Britenriker. The Tigers scored six of the next seven points to pull to within three at 14-11, but Kentucky answered with a 4-2 run to take a 18-13 edge and force Auburn to call a timeout. The Wildcats pushed their lead to six at 21-15 after a pair of Nzenwa kills and a block assist by Edwards and Nzenwa. Three straight Auburn kills cut the lead to just three at 22-19 and forced Skinner to burn a timeout. Kentucky’s lead was cut to two (25-23) before the Cats rolled off five straight points. The run was capped by a pair of kills by Britenriker and a block assist by Rumely and Britenriker that gave the Cats the 30-23 win in game one.
The conference foes played evenly in game two. Neither team led by more than two points until Kentucky took an 18-15 advantage on a Britenriker putdown. UK was on top by three at 20-17 until the Tigers put together a 5-1 run to take a 22-21 lead. The Wildcats re-claimed the lead at 23-22 after an Auburn hitting error which resulted in a Tiger timeout. AU knotted the score at 23 and the tally remained knotted with the score 25-25. Auburn took a brief two-point lead at 27-25, but the Wildcats ended the game with a 5-1 run to take the second game by a final score of 30-28.
Auburn jumped out to a 3-1 lead in game three, but UK quickly tied it after a kill by Britenriker and a putdown at the net by Rumely. The Cats took an 8-6 lead after a kill by Edwards but the Tigers would not go away. The score was tied for the ninth time in the game at 15-15 after a kill by Nzenwa. AU made a 5-1 run to take its largest lead of the game at 20-16 but a powerful putdown by Nzenwa ended the streak and pulled Kentucky to within three at 20-17. The Cats scratched to within a point (22-21) after a putdown by Popp and kill by Rumely. An Auburn hitting error tied the score at 23-23 but the Tigers pushed the lead to two (26-24) after an ace by Jessica Glover. Following a Kentucky timeout, an Nzenwa kill cut the Auburn lead to a point, but the Tigers pushed their lead back to three (29-26) on a pair of Kentucky errors and survived a late Wildcat rally to take game three by a final of 30-28.
Game four proved to be another battle as the Cats and Tigers traded the lead early on. AU led 11-10 but back-to-back kills by Edwards, a putdown by Popp and a pair of service errors gave UK a 14-12 lead. Auburn tied it at 14 on a Wildcat hitting error and then scored four straight to take an 18-15 edge. Popp drilled a kill down the left side to stop the Tiger run and kills by Hausfeld and Nzenwa pulled the Cats to within one at 19-18. Auburn pushed the lead back to three (22-19) on a block and costly errors helped the Tigers to a five-point cushion at 27-22 that proved to be too much for the Cats to overcome. AU went on to take the fourth game by a final of 30-24.
In the fifth and final game, the Tigers opened with a 5-2 lead and forced a quick Kentucky timeout. Auburn continued its run, scoring nine straight to take a 10-2 advantage which forced the Cats to call their final timeout. The Wildcats answered with a kill by Nzenwa to stop the scoring drought. Popp answered with a putdown of her own and an ace by BriAnne Sauer pulled the Cats within four at 10-6 and forced an Auburn timeout. The Cats scored two straight on a block assist by Edwards and Britenriker followed by another kill by Popp to pull within two at 10-8. The Cats used a 3-1 run behind the strength of a Britenriker kill and another block assist – this time up by Britenriker and Rumely – to knot the score at 11. The Tigers, however, would end the game with a 4-1 run to take the final game by a score of 15-12.
The Wildcats return to action Friday, Oct. 6, when they host Georgia. Game time is set for 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.