Wildcats Sweep Season Series with Tennessee
The University of Kentucky volleyball team defeated Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee tonight, Nov. 1, in a 3-1 (22-30, 30-27, 34-32, 30-25) final to sweep the season series with the Lady Vols. The Wildcats defeated then-No. 18 ranked Tennessee by a score of 3-2 earlier this season in Lexington.
With the victory, Kentucky improves to 15-8 and ties Tennessee in the league standings with an 8-7 SEC record. The Lady Vols fall to 17-8 overall and 8-7 in the SEC. This was Kentucky's second SEC road win of the year and the Lady Vols' second loss at home this season.
Sophomore Queen Nzenwa had a team-high 19 kills on .457 hitting to complement seven block assists. Junior Nicole Britenriker recorded her team-leading 11th double-double of the season with 17 kills and 11 digs to go along with five blocks. Freshman Heather Hausfeld added 13 kills, while senior Melissa Popp chipped in with nine kills and five digs off the bench for the Wildcats.
Jenni Casper had a game-high 27 digs and four assists on the night, while Sarah Rumely recorded 55 assists, eight kills, seven digs and five total blocks in the Wildcat win.
"We were finally able to figure out a way to win on the road," said second-year head coach Craig Skinner. "I have to give credit to our players for responding after the first game. This was truly a blue-collar effort for us tonight. Queen was fantastic tonight and Nicole and Heather stepped up for us offensively. I was also proud of the way Popp came off of the bench and gave us a spark tonight."
The Cats and Vols played evenly in the early goings until Tennessee made a 4-0 run to take a 10-5 lead and force the Wildcats to use their first timeout of the match. UT took an 11-6 lead before a kill by Britenriker stopped the rally and pulled the Cats to within five at 11-6. The Lady Vols continued to dominate and pushed their lead to as many as eight, 15-7, after a hitting error by Fisher to cause the Cats to use their final timeout of the game.
UT used a 5-3 run to take a 10-point lead at 20-10, but the Wildcats would not back down. A sharp kill down the middle by Nzenwa, followed by an ace by Sauer made it an eight-point Tennessee lead at 20-12. A Lady Vol hitting error and a block assist by Hausfeld and Britenriker pulled the Cats within six and forced a Tennessee timeout. A 5-0 run out of the break gave UT a 25-14 edge, but Kentucky cut into that lead after back-to-back kills by Britenriker and Hausfeld. The duo then teamed for a block assist during the run that pulled to Cats within eight at 26-18. A pair of put-downs by Britenriker and Nzenwa made it a seven-point Tennessee lead at 28-21, but the Lady Vols held on to take the opening game by a final of 30-22.
Tennessee took an early 5-2 lead in the second game, but a kill by Nzenwa and a UT ball handling error pulled the Cats within one at 5-4. The Lady Vols held on to a slim lead until the Wildcats eventually tied the score at 12-12 on back-to-back kills by Nzenwa. UT pulled away again, this time taking a four-point lead at 18-14 to force a Wildcat timeout. The breather worked for the Cats who made a 4-0 run out of the break with the aid of an ace by Gagnon and a block assist by Britenriker and Rumley to tie the score at 18-18.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the match at 20-19 on a kill by Britenriker. Neither team led by more than two until the Cats scored three straight on kills by Edwards, Hausfeld and Britenriker to put Kentucky on top 27-25 and force another UT timeout. A block by Rumely and Britenriker made it a 28-25 lead for the Cats who would take game two by a score of 30-27 on a kill by Rumely.
The Wildcats came out hot in game three, taking an early 6-3 lead on a block by Edwards and Nzenwa. Kentucky used a 4-0 run to push its lead to as many as four at 11-7 after kills by Britenriker and Popp, followed by an ace by Jenni Casper. The Lady Vols then scored three consecutive points to pull within one at 11-10 but the Cats pulled away again and led by three, 16-13, after a put-down by Popp and a UT net violation. The Vols would not go away and rallied to tie the score at 20. The Cats reclaimed the lead on a kill but didn't lead by more than a point until a powerful kill on the angle by Nzenwa and an ace by Popp gave Kentucky a 25-23 lead. Following a UT timeout, the Lady Vols scored out of the break and eventually knotted the score at 26-26.
A Hausfeld kill gave the Cats a 27-26 edge and the Wildcats continued to lead by one at 28-27 until a UT kill and a Britenriker hitting error gave the Vols their first lead of the game at 29-28. Britenriker answered with a sharp kill to tie the score at 29. A UT kill made it game point again, but Popp nailed a kill down the line to tie it at 30-30. The league rivals were knotted at 32-32, but a powerful kill by Hausfeld and a UT hitting error gave the Cats the 34-32 game three win.
The even play carried over into the early-goings of game four with the seventh tie of the game coming at the 8-8 mark. Kills by Nzenwa and Hausfeld and a block assist by Britenriker and Hausfeld put some distance between the teams as UK took a 10-8 lead. Tennessee tied the score at 10 and saw the Cats pull away again on a kill by Hausfeld to make it a 12-10 Kentucky advantage. A 3-0 UT run gave the Lady Vols a 13-12 lead before a service error tied the game for the 10th time at 13-13. The Cats then made a 5-2 run capped by a Rumely ace to take an 18-15 edge and force a Tennessee timeout.
The Vols repeatedly slashed the lead to one and trailed by a point at 20-19 before a block by Nzenwa and Edwards followed by a kill by Edwards made it a 22-19 Kentucky lead. A UT service error and a kill by Rumely made it a four-point Kentucky lead at 24-20 and forced the Lady Vols to call for their final timeout. The Cats led 26-23 and scored three unanswered to take a 29-23 lead on back-to-back kills by Popp and Nzenwa and another block assist by Nzenwa and Edwards. UT scored two straight but the Wildcats would sweep the season series on a block solo by Rumely to give the Cats the 30-25 win.
The Wildcats return to action Sunday, Nov. 5, when they host Alabama. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.