Fisher Powers Cats Past Alabama in Five
Sophomore Kentucky outside hitter Ashlee Fisher registered a career-high 25 kills and a personal best three service aces to complement seven digs and help the Wildcats defeat Alabama 3-2 (30-21, 30-22, 22-30, 25-30, 15-12) Sunday, Nov. 5, in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats stay perfect in November and improve to 16-8 overall and 9-7 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Crimson Tide drops to 15-10 overall and 10-6 in league play.
Fisher led a powerful Kentucky front line – including Nicole Britenriker, Heather Hausfeld and Queen Nzenwa – that combined for 65 kills, 26 digs and 10 blocks. Nzenwa had 16 kills and six blocks, while Britenriker tallied her team-leading 12th double-double of the season with 13 kills and 11 digs to go along with a pair of blocks. Hausfeld registered 11 kills and seven digs in the Wildcat win.
Senior libero Jenni Casper led the Kentucky defensive effort as one of four players to notch double-figure dig totals. Casper had 26 scoops, while freshman BriAnne Sauer had a personal-best 19 digs. Senior Julie Gagnon contributed 13 scoops. Freshman setter Sarah Rumely dished out a game-high 59 assists, while hitting a team-best .312 with seven kills, five digs and two blocks.
The Wildcats, who hit just .137, were forced to overcome a powerful blocking effort by Alabama that out-blocked UK 17-9.
“We played at a very high level in games one and two, but Alabama responded in games three and four,” said head coach Craig Skinner. “The best thing about this match was that we played harder and more aggressive in game five than at any other time in the match and that’s going to be critical for us down the stretch in the SEC.
“I’m proud of the way Ashlee Fisher battled and competed. She brought competitive play and high energy to the floor all the way through the match tonight,” added Skinner.
Alabama raced to a 2-0 advantage in the first game, but the Wildcats battled back to tie the score at 4-4 thanks to two kills from Nzenwa. Kentucky broke a 5-5 tie with a 5-0 run that included two service aces by Sauer to put the Cats ahead 10-5 and force an early Crimson Tide timeout. Out of the break, the Wildcats scored three consecutive to cap an 8-0 run and extend their lead to 13-5. A 4-1 Kentucky streak that included two kills from Hausfeld put UK ahead by 10 at 17-7.
A heads-up play by Rumely on second contact brought the Cats to the 20-point mark at 20-9. The Wildcats extended their lead out to 25-11 before Alabama scored five consecutive points to come within nine, 25-16. Kentucky was able to regroup to close out the 30-21 game-one victory. The Cats benefited from three aces in the opening frame and out-hit the Tide .208-.114.
The Wildcats opened game two on a 7-3 tear capped off by a block from Edwards and Nzenwa. UK continued to distance itself at 9-4 after Hausfeld dived into the scorer’s table to dig a ball and Britenriker ended the long rally by emphatically drilling a kill down the middle. A kill by sophomore Tess Edwards and a triumphant block solo by Britenriker extended the Cats’ lead to 12-6. Alabama came within four points on three occasions but UK went up 17-10 after a kill by Edwards and a service ace by Rumely that prompted a Bama timeout.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 20-11 on an ace by Fisher that crawled over the net tape and down for the point. Strong Alabama blocking allowed the Tide to come within six, 23-17, after three consecutive rejections. A kill by Hausfeld on the angle allowed UK to break a 5-0 Alabama run at 24-18. The Tide came as close as four points, 26-22, before four straight kills by Nzenwa gave the Wildcats the game at 30-22. Alabama hit just .044 in the second frame.
Alabama benefited from several Kentucky errors to take a 7-4 advantage in the third game before a kill by Hausfeld on the outside ended the Crimson Tide scoring streak. A kill by Britenriker on the right side brought the Cats within one at 8-7 before back-to-back UK errors allowed Alabama to go back in front by three, 10-7. From there, the Wildcats scored three of the game’s next four points to again come within one at 11-10. The Crimson Tide then scored three consecutive to move their lead out to 14-11 and force a Kentucky timeout.
The Wildcats kept battling out of the break and knotted the score at 15-all to cap a 3-1 run. UK broke a 16-16 tie with two straight points including a kill by Fisher to go up 18-16. From there, Alabama notched four straight points and took a 20-18 lead into a timeout. An attack error by Nzenwa allowed the Tide to extend their edge to 23-20. Alabama closed out the game on a 7-0 run to take a 30-22 win. UK hit -.019 in the third game as errors proved costly for the Cats.
The teams battled closely to begin the fourth frame with UK taking an early 6-4 advantage on a kill by Hausfeld. Fisher had three put-downs during that stretch, but Alabama battled back and went ahead 8-6 after a block and a service ace. An attack error by Edwards and another ace allowed the Tide to extend their lead to 10-6, prompting a Kentucky timeout. Back-to-back Alabama kills moved the Crimson Tide ahead 13-7 before a service error ended their scoring streak.
From there, UK mounted an 8-2 run that included seven kills by Fisher to tie the score at 15-15. Freshman Natalie Marsh and Nzenwa teamed up for a block and Nzenwa followed with a kill on the next play to put the Cats ahead 17-15. The Tide rallied to knot the score at 17-17 and then went ahead 21-18 following a service ace. Back-to-back kills by senior Melissa Popp brought UK within three, 23-20, but Alabama wouldn’t back down as they evened the match with a 30-25 win.
Kentucky broke to a 3-1 advantage in the fifth game after a kill by Rumely on second contact and a pair of Alabama errors. The Crimson Tide hung tough, but the Wildcats extended their lead to 7-3 after two kills and a block solo by Hausfeld on consecutive plays. Alabama came within two, 8-6, on an attack error by Britenriker, but Kentucky extended its advantage back to 12-9 after two more kills by Fisher. Two straight errors by the Crimson Tide put UK up 14-10 and the Cats took a 15-12 win on an emphatic kill by Nzenwa.
Kentucky returns to action this weekend when it hits the road to face South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, and Georgia in Athens, Ga., at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12.