Wildcats Fall Short of Upset at Arkansas
The Kentucky volleyball team fell just short of a huge upset as Arkansas rallied to pull off a 3-2 victory over the Wildcats Friday night in Fayetteville, Ark. Kentucky led the match 2-1 early and was up 9-8 in the final game, but allowed a strong Razorback blocking effort to stop the Cats.
Kentucky (11-9, 2-7 SEC) was led by a trio of hitters in the loss. Amy Kaplan followed a career performance last Sunday against Ole Miss with a 19-kill performance on .366 hitting. Sarah Spinner tossed in 19 kills and seven digs, while Danielle Wallace had 17 kills on .500 hitting. Jenni Casper led the Kentucky defensive effort with 23 digs, while setter Ki Eveland had 57 assists and tied her career high with four blocks.
Arkansas got off to a hot start in the opening game, taking the first four points, which included back-to-back service aces. After a Kentucky timeout, the Hogs continued to build, easing out to an 14-4 lead. The Wildcats didn’t give up though, continuing to chip away until the lead was down to three at 22-19. Arkansas remained calm and used a 5-1 run to extend to a 27-20 lead. The Cats would take three more rallies from there before the Lady Backs closed out a 30-23 win.
The teams played closely to open the second game, with UK keeping in short range of the SEC West-leading Razorbacks for much of the stanza. After UA pulled out to a 26-22 lead, UK Coach Jona Braden called for a timeout to regroup her team. The break seemed to do the Cats good as they took the next two points and forced an Arkansas timeout. UA took a quick point on a UK blunder from the timeout and then capitalized on a bad dig by the Cats to go up 28-24. Kentucky rebounded again and took the next three points to threaten at 28-27.
After another Razorback timeout, the Hogs scored quickly to go on game point, which caused the Wildcats to use their second timeout. A subsequent kill from Wallace kept Kentucky alive and a miscue from Arkansas tied the score at 29. A bobbled freeball from the Hogs put UK on game point before an ace by Casper stunned the Razorbacks and gave UK the 31-29 victory.
Kentucky continued to build on its momentum in the third game, taking an early 3-1 lead after kills from Spinner and Montefalco and a block from Wallace and Cunningham. Arkansas used an early timeout after falling behind 10-6, but Kentucky wasn’t deterred. The Wildcats extended their advantage to five at 19-14, which pushed the Razorbacks to call another timeout. The Hogs took consecutive points to cut the edge to three, but a service error for the Hogs and a kills by Spinner took the lead back to five.
The Hogs were able to threaten several times down the stretch, but could never cut the deficit to less than four as Kentucky won the go-ahead game, 30-25, on a kill from Kaplan. Kaplan had six kills on .556 hitting in the third game, while the team hit .250 to Arkansas’ .091. Spinner added four kills, while Wallace had three kills on four attempts in the game. Freshman Katie Knytych entered the match in a defensive role, seeing her first collegiate action.
The start of the fourth game was plagued by service errors, with five combined errors en route to an 8-4 lead for Arkansas. The Hogs built the advantage to seven at 13-6, causing a Kentucky timeout. The Wildcats seemed rattled throughout the middle of the game, letting unforced errors push Arkansas’ lead to nine at 20-11. Following the second timeout, Kentucky took five of the next six points to cut the edge to five at 21-16 after a ball handling error was whistled on the Razorbacks.
Arkansas took a timeout of its own, but couldn’t stop a rejuvenated Kentucky offensive attack. In a run that included four kills by Wallace, Kentucky tied the match at 26 on a kill from Montefalco. The Cats, however, allowed Arkansas back in the door and the Hogs took four consecutive points for the 30-26 victory to force a fifth game. Kentucky hit just .192 to UA’s .318, but had seven kills from Kaplan and six from Wallace in the fourth game.
Play was tight in the fifth game as the teams fought through ties at every point until a kill by Montefalco gave Kentucky a 9-8 advantage, which forced UA coach Chris Poole to collect his team for a timeout. Arkansas rebounded from the timeout as Kele Brewer took a quick kill to even the score at nine. A block from Jennifer Haaser followed to put the lead in the Razorbacks’ hands at 10-9, forcing a Kentucky trip to the bench.
Arkansas continued to control the game after the break, taking the next two points on blocks involving Haaser. With the Hogs leading 12-9, Kentucky burned its final timeout of the match. A focused Wildcat squad took the next two points, including an ace by Casper, but a kill from Brewer put the Razorbacks on match point. A misfired shot from Montefalco handed Arkansas the 15-11 victory.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, Oct. 24 when it travels to Baton Rouge, La., to face the LSU Tigers. First serve is set for 1:30 p.m. CT.