Wildcats Fall Short Against No. 16 Tennessee
The Kentucky volleyball team battled closely with 16th-ranked Tennessee, but was unable to pull off the upset, falling 3-0 Friday evening in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats fall to 11-11 on the season and stand at 2-9 in Southeastern Conference play, while Tennessee is tied for first in the SEC with an 11-1 league record. The Lady Vols are 21-2 overall.
Middle blocker Amy Kaplanís 12 kills on .375 hitting led a balanced UK attack. Sarah Spinner registered 11 kills and combined with Leigh Marcum and Julie Gagnon to each record nine digs in the match. Danielle Wallace added nine kills and two blocks, while Melissa Popp and Kristen Cunningham each rang up six kills in the loss to the Volunteers. Libero Jenni Casper led the defensive effort with 12 digs.
Kentucky broke out to an early 6-2 lead in the first game, capped off by a Spinner kill. Back-to-back kills by Tennesseeís Kristen Andre and Amy Morris brought the Volunteers to within one, 9-8. From there, the Vols rallied and tied the match at 12 on a service error by Wallace. Tennessee took a 16-13 lead as Spinner was twice was blocked by the Vols tandem of Sarah Blum and Yuliya Stoyanova, forcing UK coach Jona Braden to burn a timeout. The Volunteers thrived out of the timeout to extend their advantage to 23-17 before a Kaplan kill stopped the drought, but couldnít stop the Vols from an eventual 30-25 victory.
Three kills by Wallace, including a crafty loft shot to the opposite corner of the floor, allowed Kentucky to stake to a 3-2 lead in game two. The Cats extended their lead to 7-4 on a resounding kill by Spinner, but the Vols rallied to pull within one, 9-8, on a kill by Stoyanova. A heads-up play by Marcum allowed her to turn a dig into a sweeping kill to give UK an 11-9 advantage.
Tennessee answered with a run of its own to take a 19-15 lead on successive kills by Morris. UT extended its lead to eight, 28-22 on a service error by Spinner. A kill by Popp and a sweeping put-down by Kaplan allowed the Wildcats to come within five, 29-24, but Tennessee closed out the game with a kill by Andre for a 30-24 second-game victory. The Volunteers hit .375 in the second stanza and were led by three players with five kills each.
The Vols took a 4-2 lead in the third frame before a kill by Popp ended the UT run. Kaplan registered a sharp kill off the block to tie the game at six, but two Kentucky attack errors, coupled with a service error by Whitney Gifford allowed Tennessee to pull ahead 9-6. The two teams were tied three more times before Kentucky went ahead 17-14, backed by a 3-0 run that was capped off by a Wallace kill.
The Cats extended their lead to 20-17 on a soft-touch tap by Wallace that resulted in a kill. Marcum then followed with a powerful block solo that brought the crowd to its feet. The teams battled evenly for the next few points before Tennessee reached game point at 29-28. A kill by Marcum from her knees allowed the Wildcats to stave off one attempt at the match, but a kill by UT setter Julie Knytych gave the Vols the match, 31-29.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it hosts South Carolina in Memorial Coliseum for Senior Day. The Wildcats will honor Sarah Spinner and Katie Bright in a special pre-game ceremony. Opening serve is set for 2 p.m.