Nzenwa Shatters Blocking Records in UK Win
LEXINGTON, Ky. –Three Kentucky players registered double-digit kills Sunday and junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) became the school’s all-time career and single-season block assists leader in a 3-1 win (30-24, 30-26, 26-30, 30-21) against Georgia in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (19-6, 10-4 Southeastern Conference) matched their win total from all of last season with their 19th win of the year, marking Kentucky’s best record through 25 matches since the 1993 campaign. The Cats, who went 19-12 a year ago and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, have won three consecutive matches and four of their last five.
Nzenwa had seven block assists in the match to give her 402 for her career, surpassing Lisa Bokovoy, who set the school record with 400 block assists from 1985-88. Nzenwa also bested her own single-season school record of 137 block assists that she set last season. She now has 139 block assists on the year.
Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio), who has recorded double-digit kills in each of the team’s 25 matches this season, led the way for the Wildcats with her team-leading 16th double-double of the year. Britenriker eclipsed the 20-kill mark for the third time this season by finishing with a match-high 20 kills to complement 18 digs and six blocks.
Nzenwa had a team-leading nine blocks as the Wildcats finished with 17 team blocks. Kentucky, which out-blocked Georgia 17-10, has recorded 14 or more blocks in each of its last three matches. Freshman right-side hitter Lauren Rapp (Indianapolis, Ind.) added six rejections.
“Our blocking and defense really came through for us again today,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We had some lulls offensively at times in the match and it was nice to see our blocking and defense step up and make plays to win the match.”
Sophomore outside hitter Brooke Bartek (Lincoln, Neb.) had 16 kills on .412 hitting, registered a career-high four blocks and registered five digs. Freshman outside hitter Sarah Mendoza (Winter Park, Fla.) continued her stellar weekend, finishing with 12 kills. Mendoza was the team’s second-leading offensive performer on the weekend, averaging 3.50 kills per game on .375 hitting during the two-match span against Auburn and Georgia. She notched a career-high 16 kills on a personal-best .481 hitting on Friday evening.
Sophomore defensive specialist BriAnne Sauer (Louisville, Ky.) recorded a career-high 26 digs and also dished out a career-high five assists. Since becoming the team’s primary libero on Oct. 12 vs. Ole Miss, Sauer is averaging 5.04 digs per game in that six-match span. Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely (New Palestine, Ind.) finished with a squad-best 50 assists and just narrowly missed her ninth double-double of the season with nine digs.
Kentucky opened to a 3-1 advantage in the first game as Nzenwa teamed with Rapp and Bartek on back-to-back plays to post powerful blocks. Trailing 7-4, Georgia battled back to score six consecutive points and move ahead 10-7 after an attack error by Britenriker.
Consecutive kills by Bartek and Rapp brought the Wildcats within one, 12-11, before the Bulldogs regrouped to extend their advantage out to 14-11. A service ace by Bartek and a kill by Britenriker on back-to-back plays knotted the score at 14-all. After two more ties, the Wildcats used a 4-0 run that included an ace by Rapp to go ahead 20-16. Kentucky kept rolling to a 26-20 advantage following a kill by Bartek. Britenriker had kills on the final two plays of the game to give UK the 30-24 opening-game win.
The two teams battled evenly to begin game two before the Wildcats broke a 12-12 tie with a 4-0 run that included kills from Mendoza and Rapp and a service ace by junior defensive specialist Alisa Pierce (Louisville, Ky.). The rally forced Georgia to call a timeout. Out of the break, back-to-back attack errors by the Bulldogs’ Lindsay Gehan and a put-down by Mendoza extended UK’s advantage to 19-12.
Georgia began whittling away at its deficit to come within three, 20-17, on a kill by the SEC’s put-down leader Maria Taylor. An error by Britenriker and another Taylor kill brought the Bulldogs within two, 24-22, and caused Skinner to burn a timeout. Out of the break, Mendoza and Rapp posted back-to-back kills to put the Cats ahead by four, 27-23. Britenriker finished the 30-26 win off with a kill on the final play. Kentucky hit a match-best .361 in the second frame.
Georgia took control of a tightly contested third game by breaking an 8-8 tie to go ahead 12-9 on a kill by Erika Clark. Kentucky kept fighting to knot the score at 14 and went ahead 15-14 on a put-down by Mendoza that capped off a 3-0 run by the Wildcats. After another tie at 16-all, the Wildcats capitalized on three consecutive Bulldog attack errors to widen their margin to 19-16. Georgia came battling back to lock the score at 21-21 and went ahead 24-22 after a kill by Clark and an ace from Alexis Morgan. With Kentucky down 28-25, Mendoza registered a kill, but the Wildcats couldn’t regain the momentum in a 30-26 loss.
Kentucky broke open a 10-all deadlock in the fourth game with an 8-1 run to take an 18-11 advantage after back-to-back Georgia attack errors. The Bulldogs had five errors and the Wildcats posted four blocks during that span to help Kentucky take control of the game. Georgia whittled its deficit down to four, 18-14, on a ball-handling error by Sauer before Kentucky got going again. Bartek posted a kill to put UK up 19-14 before the Bulldogs committed five consecutive attack errors that extended the Cats’ lead to 23-14. Kentucky had no trouble in closing out the 30-21 match-clinching victory as UK held Georgia to just .023 hitting in the final frame.
The Wildcats have now won six consecutive matches against Georgia. Kentucky, which is undefeated vs. Georgia under Skinner, swept the season series with the Bulldogs for the third consecutive year.
Kentucky returns to action this weekend when it travels to Baton Rouge, La., and Oxford, Miss., for a pair of match-ups with SEC Western Division foes. The Wildcats square off with LSU at 8 p.m. EDT Friday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Live statistics will be available at ukathletics.com.