Cats Sweep Gamecocks for Ninth SEC Win
Senior Kentucky outside hitter Danielle Wallace registered a match-high 19 kills and freshman middle blocker Queen Nzenwa added seven blocks as the Cats swept South Carolina 3-0 (30-21, 30-26, 30-16) Friday in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats swept the season series with the Gamecocks for the second consecutive season, taking consecutive wins over USC for the first time since 1993.
Kentucky moves to 16-7 on the season, its most victories since 1999. The Wildcats are 9-4 in Southeastern Conference play, its most league wins since 1993.
Wallace’s 19 kills came on .429 hitting to lead the way for the Cats. Kentucky hit .314 for the match and out-blocked the Gamecocks 11-5. Freshman outside hitter Ashlee Fisher posted 10 kills and three blocks, while Nzenwa and junior Melissa Popp each added seven kills. Libero Jenni Casper, the SEC’s digs leader, posted a match-high 16 digs, while senior setter Leigh Marcum dished out a match-high 50 assists on 54 kills.
“Tonight’s match was all about the confidence and determination that our team is starting to embrace,” UK Coach Craig Skinner said. “We attacked well and were aggressive all night. Having nine SEC wins is a great milestone, but we can’t wait for more.”
Kentucky raced to a 7-3 lead in the opening game, capped off by a kill from Fisher off the block. An emphatic put-down by Nzenwa followed by a South Carolina attack error put the Wildcats ahead 12-6. A put-down by Wallace on the angle extended the Cats’ lead to 19-15 before Amy Kaplan followed with a kill of her own on the next play.
South Carolina hung tough with UK, but an attack by Popp found its spot in the corner of the court to give the Cats a 25-20 advantage. Back-to-back resounding blocks by Marcum and Nzenwa gave the Wildcats the game, 30-21, behind .424 hitting. Wallace had seven kills to lead Kentucky.
South Carolina scored the first three points of game two and broke to a 7-4 lead in the second frame. The Wildcats cut their deficit to one point, 7-6, on a powerful block by Fisher and Nzenwa. Kentucky kept rallying to tie the score at nine on a kill by Nzenwa down the middle. After a Wallace put-down tied the score at 10, Marcum swept an attack across the net for a second-contact kill. Marcum’s kill gave the Cats their first lead of the game, 11-10.
Kentucky reeled off the next two points to force another timeout by the Gamecocks. USC came within one, 15-14, on a kill by Marija Milosevic, but Kentucky scored the game’s next three points to extend its advantage to 17-14. A kill by Popp put the Wildcats up 24-20, but South Carolina cut the UK lead to 26-25 forcing Skinner to use a timeout. The Cats thrived out of the timeout, scoring four of the game’s next five points to win 30-26.
In the third game, the Wildcats scored six of the first seven points of the frame and staked to an 11-4 lead that forced the Gamecocks to burn a timeout. Out of the break, Marcum and Nzenwa posted back-to-back blocks that brought the crowd to its feet and put the Cats ahead 13-4. A USC attack error extended UK’s advantage to 17-7 before a kill by Wallace moved the Wildcats in front 20-9. An ace by Popp gave UK a 25-12 lead and the Wildcats cruised to the 30-16 game-three victory.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it hosts Tennessee at 1:30 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. Live stats will be available at ukathletics.com.