Kentucky Plays Host to 9th-Ranked Florida
UK Looking to Remain Unbeaten at Home in SEC Play
The Kentucky Wildcats volleyball team faces its biggest test of the season Friday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m., when the ninth-ranked Florida Gators visit Memorial Coliseum for a Southeastern Conference Eastern Division showdown. Florida enters the contest riding a seven-match win streak while the Cats have dropped their last four.
UK (4-12, 2-3 SEC) has not beaten UF in 10 years and has not won a game against the Gators since 1994.
"Florida is one of the premier volleyball programs in the country. It is truly an honor to step on the same court as them," Coach Jona Braden said. "Their record over the past 10 years speaks for itself. They have been a dominating team."
Despite UF's national ranking and history, Braden expects the Cats to be confident on Friday night.
"I do not think we will be nervous playing against Florida. They are ranked high in the polls, but athletes at this level do not tend to get intimidated by the competition. We cannot control what they do. We can only control the performance that we put on the court."
Florida (13-3, 5-0 SEC) is one of the most balanced teams in the country. Middle blockers Nicole McCray and Benavia Jenkins rank first and second in the conference with 1.57 and 1.45 blocks per game, respectively. Niki Hartley is third in the SEC with an average of 3.15 digs per game.
"Florida is solid at every position on the court. Their middle blockers are extremely talented and their outside hitters do an excellent job of putting balls away. They are a very physical team and they play the game with aggressiveness. I really do not see any notable weaknesses in this team," Braden added. "There is no player on Florida you can single out and try and focus your defense around. If we devote all our attention to one player, they have several others who are capable of hurting us offensively."
UK has worked to eliminate the numerous passing and serving errors it has committed the past two weeks. The Cats have been slow out of the gates and fallen behind early in SEC contests.
"We need to make sure that we are making teams earn points and not giving them points on mental errors," Braden said.
Megan Weiskircher and April Barnhorst have been the most consistent performers for the Cats this season. Weiskircher leads the team in kills (214), kills per game (3.45), hitting percentage (.248), digs (140) and digs per game (2.26), in addition to being the vocal leader on the court. Barnhorst leads UK in blocks, putting up stops 64 times this season. UK will rely heavily on the duo if it is to pull off an upset Friday night.
Friday's match is the first of two meetings between the Cats and Gators this season. UK travels to Gainesville for a match Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. UF leads the overall series 19-9.
Following the volleyball match, Memorial Coliseum will be vacated in preparation for Kentucky basketball's "Big Blue Madness." The doors will re-open for Madness at 10 p.m. Action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 p.m. and continue until 1 a.m.