Volleyball Falls to No. 6 Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Kentucky volleyball team dropped a 3-0 decision (21-30, 26-30, 19-30) to the No. 6 Florida Gators tonight in Gainesville. The Wildcats suffered just their second Southeastern Conference loss of the season to fall to 14-4 overall and 5-2 in league play. The Gators remain undefeated and improve to 14-0 on the year and 7-0 in the SEC.
Senior Nicole Britenriker led the Wildcats with 14 kills on a career-best .591 hitting, committing just one error in 22 attempts on the night. She also tallied seven digs and two blocks in the loss. Junior Queen Nzenwa added nine kills and three block assists, while sophomore Brooke Bartek finished with five kills and two blocks. Junior libero Alisa Pierce had a match-high 12 digs.
The Wildcats took an early 5-3 lead after a kill by Lauren Rapp and a block solo by Blaire Hiler but the Gators rallied to tie the score at six-all. Florida used a 5-0 run to go on top 9-6 and force the Cats to burn an early timeout. Out of the break, UF scored two more points to take a 11-6 advantage before Britenriker came up with a block solo to snap the streak and pull the Cats within four. A Gator kill and a UK ball handling error made it a six-point contest, but a sharp kill by Britenriker on the right side cut it back to five at 13-8. Back-to-back Gator putdowns followed a UK hitting error and made it a six-point UF lead, 16-10, which resulted in another Kentucky timeout.
Florida pushed its lead to eight, 18-10, following the breather before a hitting error snapped the run. After a UK service error made it 19-11, Nzenwa ended a long rally with a powerful kill down the middle. However, the Gators used a 5-2 run to push their lead to 11 at 24-13. The Wildcats responded with a 5-1 scoring drive which included another kill by Britenriker and a block assist by the senior captain and Rumely. A third kill by Britenriker coupled with a pair of UF hitting errors made it a seven-point game at 25-18. The Gators would outscore UK 5-3 the rest of the way to take game one by a final of 30-21.
The Gators jumped out to a 4-2 lead in game two but the Cats quickly tied it after a UF service error and a putdown by Rapp. Florida outscored the Cats 4-1 on the strength of three kills and a service ace to take an 8-5 edge. A kill by Britenriker cut it to two at 8-6, but the Gators scored four of the next five points to go on top 12-7 and force Kentucky to call for time. Nzenwa and Bartek recorded consecutive putdowns out of the break to pull within three. Two straight kills by the Gators, followed by a UF service error, a kill by Nzenwa and a Gator hitting error made it a two-point game, 14-12, and resulted in a Florida timeout.
A kill by Nzenwa and back-to-back putdowns by Hiler out of the break shaved the Florida lead to one at 16-15. The Gators used a 5-2 run capped by two straight kills to make it a 21-17 score. A UF service error started a 4-1 Kentucky run that included consecutive putdowns by Nzenwa and once again pulled the Cats to within a point at 22-21. Florida responded with three straight to make it a four-point contest, 25-21, which resulted in another UK timeout. The Wildcats were able to slice the margin to two at 28-26 after three powerful kills by Britenriker but the Gators would notch two straight kills to hang on and take game two by the final of 30-26.
Florida jumped out to a 6-1 lead in game three but a kill by Britenriker ended a UK scoring drought and made it a four-point lead. The Gators scored three of the next four points, however, and took a 9-3 lead which resulted in a UK timeout. Nzenwa and Bartek teamed up for a block assist and Rapp added a kill on the right side as the Cats pulled to within four at 9-5. The UF lead remained at four after a block assist by Nzenwa and Rapp made it a 12-8 score, but the Gators used a 4-1 run to go on top by seven and force the Wildcats to use their final timeout.
Following the break, the Gators added to their lead using a 9-4 run to go on top by ten at 23-13. Two straight Florida errors cut the margin to 23-15 before a kill by Florida native Sarah Mendoza and a putdown by Britenriker pulled UK within seven at 25-18. A Gator kill and three straight service aces by Marcie Hampton made it a 29-18 score. A kill by Bartek held off game point but the Gators took the third and final game by a score of 30-19.
The Wildcats return to action on Sunday afternoon when they take on South Carolina. Game time is set for 1:00 pm in Columbia.