No. 5 Florida Too Much for Kentucky Volleyball
The Kentucky volleyball team hung tough with Florida on Friday, but the No. 5 Gators were too much for the Wildcats, winning 3-0 (30-18, 30-28, 30-23) in Memorial Coliseum.
Four Florida players registered double-digit kills, led by Kisya Killingsworth’s team-high 15, as the Gators hit .271 and improved to 18-1 overall and 8-0 in the Southeastern Conference. The Cats (11-6, 4-3 SEC) were led by freshman Queen Nzenwa and junior Melissa Popp, who tallied seven kills each. Nzenwa hit a team-best .350 in the match. Jenni Casper, the school’s all-time digs leader, posted a squad-best 18 digs, while junior Julie Gagnon added 10 scoops.
“We need to be able to take advantage of our opportunities in order to win close games and we weren’t able to do that tonight,” UK Coach Craig Skinner said. “The fact that Florida was able to win game two was really the difference in the match, but you have to give them credit, they played like the fifth-ranked team in the country tonight.”
The Wildcats took a 2-1 lead early in the opening game, but Florida quickly rallied to pull ahead 5-2 on a kill by Marcie Hampton. The Gators scored three of the game’s next four points to extend their lead to 7-3 and force Kentucky to burn an early timeout.
UK came within two points, 11-9, on a crafty kill by setter Leigh Marcum, but from there the Gators ran off three consecutive points to pull ahead 14-9 and force another Wildcat timeout. The Cats fell behind by 10 points, 23-13, but used kills by Ashlee Fisher and Popp and a Florida attack error to come within eight, 24-16. Florida continued rolling to take the 30-18 game-one victory behind .395 hitting.
Kentucky took control to begin the second game, breaking to a 6-3 lead on a resounding block solo by Kaplan. Florida, however, began to whittle away at its deficit to tie the score at seven on a kill by senior Jane Collymore. The Gators pushed their lead out to four, 13-9, on an attack error by Wallace that forced a Kentucky timeout.
Florida extended its advantage to 21-15 on an attack error by Amy Kaplan, but the Wildcats began to rally, coming within three at 24-21on a Collymore attack error. Kentucky remained close and tied the score at 25 on a put-down by Kaplan on the right side. The Wildcats took the lead at 26-25, but after three more ties, the Gators pulled away for the 30-28 win.
The two teams battled evenly to begin the third game with the Wildcats taking a 6-5 advantage on a powerful block by Fisher and Nzenwa. After tying the score at eight, Florida ran off five consecutive points before the Wildcats rallied to come within two, 13-11, on a heads-up kill by Marcum. The Gators, however, scored the next three points capped off by a kill from Killingsworth to move ahead 16-11 and cause Skinner to call a timeout. Florida kept rolling out of the break to extend its advantage to 23-15 on back-to-back service aces and the Gators won the game 30-23.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it hosts Georgia. Opening serve is set for 1:30 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. Live stats will be available on ukathletics.com.