Kentucky Grabs First Home Conference Victory
Sarah Spinner turned in a superstar performance Friday evening with a career-best 26 kills, 14 digs, five blocks and two service aces on .404 hitting to lead the Kentucky volleyball team past Mississippi State, 3-1 (30-25, 30-28, 25-30, 30-22).
Spinner tied career highs in kills and blocks for the Wildcats (11-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) in the win. Middle blocker Amy Kaplan and outside hitter Alex Montefalco registered 13 and 19 kills, respectively, while Kaplan hit .355 in the match. Jenni Casper led the team defensively with 25 digs and setter Ki Eveland turned in 58 assists.
Mississippi State broke out to an early 6-3 lead in the opening game, but the Wildcats rallied to take a 10-8 lead on three consecutive kills by Spinner. The Cats extended their lead to 15-10 when Eveland made an acrobatic dig to save a near MSU kill and Montefalco finished off the play with a resounding kill.
The Bulldogs were able to narrow the margin to 23-21, after running off five consecutive points. After Montefalco was whistled for being in the net, Mississippi State pulled to within two, 24-22, but the Wildcats would not let up. Eveland found Montefalco for a kill to put UK up 28-25 and then Montefalco followed with a service ace, bringing the Cats to game point. Eveland swept her attack over the net on the next play to give Kentucky a 30-25 game-one win.
The Bulldogs staked to a 3-0 lead in the second game, but Danielle Wallace ended the UK drought with a kill on the left side. The Bulldogs extended their lead to 6-1, capped off by a block by Rachel Cooper and Erin Seago, forcing Kentucky coach Jona Braden to burn a timeout. The Cats responded out of the timeout and took an 11-10 lead on a put down by Spinner. Kentucky pushed its advantage to 17-13 when Eveland found Wallace for the kill, but back-to-back kills by the Bulldogs’ Cooper and a kill by Taylor Noland.
The Wildcats rallied to take a 23-19 lead when Spinner slammed one down to bring the crowd to its feet. Mississippi State cut the Kentucky lead to one 29-28 when Orsolya Kriegel registered a kill. Kaplan secured the 30-28 win for the Cats with a kill down the middle to close the second game.
The two teams battled evenly to begin the third game with the Bulldogs pulling to an 11-9 lead on three consecutive kills by Kriegel. Three unforced MSU errors allowed the Cats to go ahead 13-11. Spinner had a put down and the Bulldogs again committed three attack errors to extend the Wildcats’ advantage to 16-13. A service error by Montefalco evened the teams at 19 to begin a 4-0 Mississippi State run that gave it a 23-19 advantage. The Bulldogs stretched their lead to five, 27-22 on a Kriegel put down. A kill by Cooper closed out the game for a 30-25 Mississippi State win.
Kentucky quickly took a 12-6 lead in the fourth game, capped off by back-to-back block solos from Spinner. The Wildcats extended the lead to six at 17-11 on a Spinner ace and weren’t threatened again until an Eveland serving error let the Bulldogs back in the game at 23-20. The Cats remained strong, however, and closed out the match on a 7-2 run, capped off by a Julie Gagnon service ace on match point.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it hosts Ole Miss at Memorial Coliseum. Opening serve is set for 2 p.m.