Volleyball Roasts Razorbacks, 3-1
The Kentucky volleyball team snapped an 11-match series losing streak to Arkansas Friday with a 3-1 victory over the Razorbacks in Memorial Coliseum. It was UK’s first win over the Hogs since Sept. 27, 1996. Outside hitter Danielle Wallace tallied a team-high 17 kills and middle blocker Amy Kaplan added 16. Libero Jenni Casper was unstoppable, finishing with 31 digs.
Casper has now totaled 1,180 career digs, just 14 shy of the school record. Her 31 scoops Friday were two shy of her personal best. Kaplan hit .424 on the evening, including an impressive .636 in the third game to lead the Wildcats, who improve to 10-5 overall and 3-2 in SEC play. UK has already matched its total number of SEC wins from a year ago.
Outside hitter Ashlee Fisher, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, registered double-digit kills for the third consecutive match with 12 put-downs. Fellow frosh Alisa Pierce had a season-best 15 digs in the victory.
“This was another great performance by our whole team,” UK Coach Craig Skinner said. “Arkansas is a very good opponent and our persistence in the match really paid off. The team continues to impress me with how hard they play for one another.”
The Wildcats broke to an early 3-1 lead in the first game thanks to a kill and a powerful block solo by Wallace. Arkansas rallied to take an 8-6 lead but back-to-back put-downs by Fisher and Wallace evened the score at nine. A service ace by Julie Gagnon on the next play put UK up 12-10. After the Lady Backs evened the score at 14, Kaplan registered a kill on the right side and Fisher followed with an ace.
Kentucky extended its advantage to 17-14 on two consecutive kills by Fisher. Arkansas again tied the score at 18 before taking the lead at 19-18 on an attack error by the Cats. With the Cats trailing 21-19, Wallace tallied two kills and the Lady Backs were called for being in the net to put UK up 22-21. Another crafty kill by Wallace gave the Wildcats a 26-23 advantage and they went on to win the opening game, 30-27. Kentucky hit .302 in the opening game and was led by six kills from Wallace.
The two teams battled evenly to begin the second game before a kill by Kaplan staked the Cats to a 5-4 lead. The Lady Backs continued to fight, coming within one, 7-6, before a kill by Melissa Popp on the right side ended the UK drought. The kill sparked a 5-0 run by the Wildcats that included an ace from Popp and forced Arkansas to burn a timeout trailing 11-6.
Kentucky thrived out of the timeout, pulling ahead 15-9 on a kill by Kaplan and an Arkansas attack error. From there, the Lady Backs appeared to have swayed the momentum after coming within one, 18-17, before a heady dink by Leigh Marcum ended the Arkansas run. The Lady Backs regrouped to pull ahead 23-21 after a kill by Denitza Koleva, forcing Skinner to burn a late timeout. Arkansas continued adding to its lead to go ahead 26-22 before UK called another timeout. The Wildcats never were able to regain their focus, falling 30-24.
To begin the third game, Kentucky broke a 4-4 tie with a kill by Wallace. After consecutive attack errors by the Lady Backs, Kaplan slipped a kill down the middle to give the Wildcats an early 8-4 advantage. A resounding block by Nzenwa and Popp, followed by a Popp kill put the Cats comfortably ahead 13-6. Kentucky continued rolling to a 17-7 lead on a block by Marcum and Nzenwa. After a kill by Wallace, Pierce drilled a serve for an ace to put the Wildcats ahead 21-11. A Marcum dink put UK ahead 25-16 and the Cats cruised to the 30-21 victory behind seven kills from Kaplan on potent .636 hitting. As a team, UK hit .333 in the third frame.
Arkansas took command early in the fourth game with a 4-1 lead. The Wildcats rallied to tie the score there and took the lead on a kill by Kaplan. After six more ties, Popp gave Kentucky a 16-15 lead with a kill on the right side. Leading 17-16, the Wildcats foiled an Arkansas attempt at a service ace by posting several impressive saves to take an 18-16 advantage. The Lady Backs evened the score at 19 before a resounding block solo by Fisher brought the crowd to its feet and put the Wildcats ahead 20-19. Out of an Arkansas timeout, Nzenwa registered a kill to extend the UK advantage to three, 22-19. A kill by Fisher brought the Cats to match point at 29-25, but the Lady Backs staved off several Kentucky attempts to close out the contest. A net violation against Arkansas gave the Wildcats the 30-28 win.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it hosts LSU in Memorial Coliseum. Opening serve is set for 1:30 p.m. and live stats are available at ukathletics.com.