Volleyball Captures First 20-Win Season Since 1993
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Four Kentucky players registered double-digit kills Friday and the Wildcats notched their first 20-win season since the 1993 campaign with a convincing 3-0 (30-19, 30-24, 30-28) sweep of South Carolina in Memorial Coliseum. With the win, the Cats sweep the season series with the Gamecocks for the third time in four years.
The Wildcats (20-8, 11-6 Southeastern Conference) hit .338 for the match, their third-highest hitting efficiency of the season and their best in league action this year. It was UK’s best offensive efficiency since hitting .395 against Western Carolina on Sept. 8. Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio), who has notched double-digit kills in each of the team’s 28 matches this season, led the way with a match-high 14 put downs on .417 hitting with four blocks.
Junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) was tied with Britenriker for the team lead in blocks with four, while adding 11 kills. Freshmen Sarah Mendoza (Winter Park, Fla.) and Lauren Rapp (Indianapolis, Ind.) recorded 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Rapp hit a career-best .562 to complement nine digs and three blocks.
Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely (New Palestine, Ind.) recorded 46 assists on the night to move into a tie for sixth place all-time on the school’s career assists list with Ainsley Grimes (1993-96). She needs 56 more dishes to move into the top five in school annals for career assists. She added five kills on .556 hitting with eight digs.
“I am really proud of the way our team performed tonight,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “They came out and played hard, played consistently and made things happen when they needed to. It was really nice to see Sarah Rumely do a great job of directing our offense and we were able to hit for a high percentage tonight.”
Kentucky opened game one on a 5-1 tear that was highlighted by an ace from sophomore outside hitter Brooke Bartek (Lincoln, Neb.). Two kills by Rapp on three plays allowed the Wildcats to extend their advantage to 7-3, but the Gamecocks scored two in a row to come within two, 7-5, before a sharp kill by Britenriker on the angle stopped South Carolina’s scoring streak.
Three consecutive Kentucky kills, including two by Nzenwa, allowed the Wildcats to widen their margin to five, 11-6. South Carolina used a 3-0 run to again come as close as two, 11-9, before Nzenwa and Bartek each registered kills to put the Cats ahead 13-9. Leading 14-10, UK went on a 7-0 run to extend its advantage to 21-10 on a put-down by Mendoza. The Wildcats had no trouble closing out the 30-19 victory after hitting an impressive .429 in the opening frame.
The Cats broke a 3-3 tie in game two with a 5-0 run, which included two kills by Britenriker to go up 8-3. Kentucky extended its advantage to 14-10 after a kill by Nzenwa that forced a South Carolina timeout. Trailing 17-14, the Gamecocks began rallying. USC used a 4-0 run, capped off by back-to-back attack errors by Bartek to knot the score at 17-all. A kill by Bartek put the Cats back in front and, after two more ties, Kentucky went ahead by two, 22-20, after a put-down by Nzenwa and a South Carolina attack error. With the Wildcats ahead 27-24, Britenriker registered back-to-back kills and served an ace on game point to give UK the 30-24 win.
The two teams battled evenly to begin game three, with ties at nearly every point, before the Wildcats broke a 17-17 tie with a kill by freshman outside hitter Blaire Hiler (New Washington, Ohio). The Gamecocks committed an attack error on the next play to put UK ahead 19-17 and force a South Carolina timeout. A kill by Rapp put the Cats ahead by three, 23-20, before Hiler notched a kill that was followed by a USC attack error to make it 25-21 Kentucky. Britenriker and Rapp posted an emphatic block on the right side that brought the Wildcats to match point and brought the crowd to its feet. A crafty kill by Rumely on second contact clinched the 30-28 win for the Cats.
Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it plays host to No. 8 Florida for Senior Day. Opening serve in Memorial Coliseum is set for 1 p.m. EST. Live statistics will be available at ukathletics.com with live video available through Extreme Access. Seniors Kathleen Bowler (Naperville, Ill.) and Britenriker will be honored following the match.