Cats Win 3-1 Thriller at South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Kentucky volleyball team won a 3-1 thriller (34-36, 30-28, 30-27, 30-26) today in Columbia to defeat South Carolina and improve to 15-4 on the year and 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference. The Gamecocks fall to 9-8 overall and 2-6 in league play with the loss.
Queen Nzenwa led the way for the Cats with a match-high 20 kills on .342 hitting. The 20 putdowns were a season high for the junior middle blocker. Senior Nicole Britenriker added 17 kills and nine digs to go along with six block assists. Sophomore Brooke Bartek finished two shy of her personal best with 14 kills on .310 hitting in the win. Three Wildcats recorded double digit digs, led by junior libero Alisa Pierce with 18. Sarah Rumely added 12 digs, while BriAnne Sauer finished with 11 scoops and a pair of service aces.
The Wildcats outhit the Gamecocks .274 to .210 and notched 14 blocks to just six for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks took an early 4-1 lead but the Cats used a 4-0 run to take a one-point edge at 5-4 after a kill by Nzenwa and three straight USC errors. South Carolina answered with a 5-2 run to take a 9-7 advantage, but the Cats battled back and tied it again at 14-all on another kill by Nzenwa. Britenriker, Rapp and Hiler teamed up for a pair of block assists during the UK run. With the score knotted again at 15, USC used a kill and a UK ball handling error to take a 17-15 lead. A powerful kill by Britenriker on the right side and a block assist by the senior and Bartek tied it at 17 and a USC hitting error resulted in a Gamecock timeout.
Following the break, a service ace by Pierce gave UK a 19-17 edge. A 3-2 UK run which included another sharp kill by Britenriker gave the Cats a 22-19 advantage and resulted in another USC timeout. The Gamecocks pulled to within a point at 22-21 but back-to-back putdowns by Nzenwa and Rapp pushed the Wildcat lead back to three at 24-21. South Carolina scored three of the next four to shave it to one, 25-24 and force a Kentucky timeout. Rumely had a kill out of the break to push the margin back to two, but USC scored three straight on a service error, an ace and a kill to take a 27-26 edge and force UK to burn its final breather.
USC led 28-26 when Britenriker and Bartek combined for consecutive kills to knot the score. A USC ball handling error gave the Cats a one-point lead but a Gamecock putdown tied it once again at 29-all. Bartek came through with another kill to give UK a 30-29 lead but the Gamecocks held off match point and took a 31-30 lead on a UK hitting error and a service ace. Bartek was clutch again and tied it at 31 with a putdown but a USC kill gave the Gamecocks a one-point lead. A putdown by Nznewa on the angle and a USC hitting error gave the Cats a 33-32 lead but USC scored two straight to make it a 34-33 game. A kill by Hiler on the angle tied it a final time at 34 but the Gamecocks had consecutive kills to win the opening game by a final of 36-34.
Game two opened with more even play and saw its sixth tie of the early goings at 8-8 after a pair of kills by Britenriker. The see-saw affair continued and the score was tied for the 11th time at 13-13 when Britenriker connected on a sharp kill down the middle. Rapp delivered an ace to put the Cats on top 15-13 and force a USC timeout. The Gamecocks scored four of the next five points to take a 17-16 lead but another putdown by Britenriker would knot the score again at 17. Two straight kills gave South Carolina a 19-17 advantage but a USC hitting error followed by a block assist by Rapp and Nzenwa made it 19-all. Bartek followed with a powerful putdown that gave the Cats a 20-19 lead and resulted in another Carolina timeout.
Bartek pushed the Kentucky lead to 21-19 with a sharp kill out of the break, but a service error ended a 4-0 UK streak and pulled the Gamecocks within one. It was Bartek who struck again with another kill to push the lead back to two, 22-20. The league foes traded points until UK took its largest lead of the game on back-to-back putdowns by Rumely and Bartek to go ahead 26-23. USC cut it to one with a kill and a UK hitting error but the Cats scored two straight to make it a 28-25 advantage. The Gamecocks attempted one final comeback and used a 3-1 run to cut it to one at 29-28 but Bartek recorded her seventh kill of the game to cap the win and gave UK the 30-28 victory.
A pair of kills by Nzenwa and Britenriker, an ace by BriAnne Sauer and a block assist by Britenriker and Mendoza sparked an early run that saw the Cats take a 7-2 lead to open game three. The Gamecocks scored three straight to cut it to two but a powerful putdown by Britenriker made it 8-5 Cats. Kentucky led 9-6 after a kill by Mendoza which resulted in USC using its first timeout. A Gamecock ball handling error and a kill by Britenriker pushed the Wildcat advantage to five, 11-6, for the largest lead by either team during the entire match. USC answered with three consecutive points to cut the margin to two, 12-10. A USC error and a crafty kill by Rumely that found the back line gave the Cats a four-point lead. However, the Gamecocks would cut it to just one point, 14-13, with a kill and an ace to force a UK timeout.
Kentucky led 17-15 after a putdown by Rapp on the right side when the Gamecocks scored four straight to take a 19-17 lead. After the Wildcats used their final timeout, Britenriker struck with three straight kills on the right side to put the Cats on top 20-19. A USC hitting error made it a two-point lead for UK but the Gamecocks used a 4-2 run to tie the game at 23-all. A USC service error was followed by a delivery from Rumely to Nzenwa that the junior middle blocker punished to put UK up 25-23 and force a Gamecock timeout. Nzenwa added two more kills out of the break and Kentucky led 27-25 when USC recorded a kill to come within one. Mendoza added a sharp putdown to make it 28-26 but a hitting error made it a one-point contest at 28-27. Rapp tipped the ball over the net for a kill to make it match point and Hiler put it away with a putdown at the net to give the Cats the 30-27 win.
The Gamecocks took an early 9-5 lead in game four but the Cats used a pair of USC errors to cut it to two at 9-7. Bartek used a couple of kills and Rapp added one of her own to make it a one-point USC lead at 11-10. The Gamecocks used a 5-1 run to push its lead to five, 16-11, which resulted in a UK timeout. A kill by Rumely snapped and another ace by Sauer preceded a USC blocking error to make it a three-point contest, 17-14, and force a Gamecock timeout. Mendoza recorded consecutive kills out of the break and a USC error shaved the lead to one, 17-16. The Wildcats then used a 5-0 run that included kills by Rumely and Rapp and a huge block by Mendoza and Hiler to take a 21-18 lead.
The Cats continued to hold the lead following another South Carolina timeout. A putdown by Bartek made it a 24-22 Kentucky lead but the Gamecocks would not go away quietly. Two straight USC errors and a block by Nzenwa pushed the UK advantage back to four at 27-23, but the Gamecocks scored two straight to cut it to two. Kentucky would take a 29-25 lead on a powerful kill on the right side by Hiler to make it match point, which the Gamecocks were able to stave off with a kill of their own. Hiler had the answer again, this time with a cross court putdown to give the Cats the 30-26 game four victory.
The Wildcats return to action Friday, Oct. 12, when they host Ole Miss. Tip off is set for 7 pm in Memorial Coliseum.