Volleyball Travels to LSU and Arkansas
The Kentucky volleyball team looks to get back on the winning track this weekend when it travels to No. 12 LSU and Arkansas for a pair of league re-matches. The Wildcats will meet the Tigers at 8 p.m. ET Friday in Baton Rouge and Arkansas at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday in Fayetteville.
Kentucky (12-6, 5-5 Southeastern Conference), which is currently in third place in the SEC East, split a pair of matches with No. 18 Tennessee and Alabama last weekend. The Wildcats posted a historic five-game win over the Lady Vols, marking the team’s first win over a ranked opponent since the 1993 season, before falling 3-0 at Alabama last Friday night.
The Wildcats are looking to avenge an earlier loss to the Tigers, while also seeking to sweep the season series with the Lady ‘Backs. Due to realignment in conference scheduling, this season marks the first time that teams will be facing each of their non-divisional league foes twice during the regular season.
Middle blocker Nicole Britenriker directs Kentucky’s offense, averaging 4.03 kills per game, which ranks the junior fourth in the SEC. Britenriker has posted a squad-best eight double-doubles this season after notching 10 kills and 14 digs in the loss to Alabama. Senior libero Jenni Casper leads the defensive effort, averaging 4.63 digs per game, which ranks third in the league.
Freshman setter Sarah Rumely continues to be the only player in the conference to rank in the top 10 in assists, service aces and hitting percentage. Rumely is averaging a squad-best 12.78 assists per game (third in the SEC), 0.57 aces per game (third in the SEC), and hitting .328 on the year (10th in the SEC). As a team, the Wildcats rank 28th in the nation with an average of 15.00 assists per game.
LSU and Kentucky meet for the 53rd time in school history dating back to Oct. 28, 1977 – UK’s first year of volleyball. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 23-19, having claimed 13 of the last 19 matches with the Tigers. LSU, then ranked 18th nationally, defeated UK 3-1 earlier this season in Memorial Coliseum.
The Tigers (16-3) are tied with Alabama atop the SEC West standings with an 8-2 league mark. LSU split a pair of road matches last week, sweeping Auburn 3-0 on Friday night before being swept by No. 7 Florida on Sunday in Gainesville. The Tigers rank 14th in the nation in kills per game (16.6) and 15th in assists (15.31 per game), and are the league’s top team in kills per game, opponent hitting percentage and assists. Setter Daniela Romero leads the SEC with 13.21 assists per game, while Maria Skender is averaging a league-best 0.72 service aces per game.
Sunday’s match marks the 20th meeting all-time between Kentucky and Arkansas. The Lady ‘Backs lead the series 12-7, but the Wildcats have won three of the last four meetings between the two squads. UK swept Arkansas earlier this season in Lexington and took two of three match-ups with the Lady ‘Backs last season. Prior to last year, Arkansas had won 11 consecutive matches against the Cats.
The Lady ‘Backs (10-8, 3-7) have lost five consecutive matches and will play host to No. 25 Tennessee on Friday night. Senior Denitza Koleva leads Arkansas, having posted 14 double-doubles (kills and digs) this season, including seven consecutive heading into the weekend. She registered a career-high 21 digs at Auburn last Sunday.
“LSU presents many challenges for us with their athleticism and offensive diversity. We are confident after having a great week of practice that we can come out and compete at the highest level Friday night,” said second-year head coach Craig Skinner. “Sunday against Arkansas will be another challenge with their 6-2 offense and impressive blocking. Our team will need to play well offensively to neutralize their system.”