Auburn Ends Kentuckyís Postseason Hopes with 3-1 Win
The Kentucky volleyball team was handed a tough 3-1 loss by the Auburn Tigers, ending its hopes of qualifying for next weekendís Southeastern Conference Tournament in Gainesville, Fla. Auburn clinched its first conference tournament berth since 1999 after finishing the regular season with a 6-10 league record.
A trio of Wildcats tallied double-figure kills, led by Alex Montefalco and Danielle Wallace with 17 apiece. Sarah Spinner had 14 kills on the night, but hit -.018 for the match. Jenni Casper led the defensive effort with 22 digs, while Leigh Marcum was one short of her career-high digs with 17. Kristen Cunningham again led the blocking effort for UK with five blocks, while Amy Kaplan added four stoppers at the net.
After a 1-1 tie to open the match, Kentucky worked its way to a 7-3 lead on a dump from Marcum. The Tigers clawed back, tying the match at seven after a hitting error from Spinner. Four more ties ensued before a 3-0 run by Auburn put the Tigers up 14-11 and forced a Wildcat timeout. The Cats remained composed, tying the match again at 16, but several unforced errors by Kentucky gave AU another large lead at 24-19.
After the Wildcats cut the deficit to two at 26-24, Auburn quickly rebounded to take the next two points. An errant attack by Spinner two plays later put the Tigers on game point, but consecutive kills from Spinner held the Tiger at bay. A misplaced hit from AUís Jelena Sekulic left the home team clinging to a one-point lead at 29-28. A kill from Marcum tied the game at 29, but Auburnís Whitney Jacob put one down the middle before teaming with Maira Mogollon to block a shot from Spinner for the 31-29 victory. Kentucky hit just .137 in the game, but topped Auburn at .106 hitting.
The Cats opened with another fast start in game two, gaining a 5-1 lead on a block from Cunnigham and Wallace. The Tigers again fought back and tied the game at eight and later at 13. AU then used a 4-1 run to earn a 17-14 advantage. After a Kentucky timeout, the Cats chipped away at the lead and fought to another tie at 19 and ran away with the game from there. After a brief delay in the game due to a crowd control issue, Leigh Marcum sailed an ace over the net for a 30-23 victory.
Auburn took the initiative to open game three, taking a 3-1 lead before the Cats quickly tied the game at five. The game saw two more ties, at eight and nine, before UK jutted out to a 15-11 lead. Kentucky maintained the lead and forced an Auburn timeout with an 18-14 lead. The Wildcats pushed the advantage to seven at 23-16, but left the door open for the Tigers, who came within three at 24-21 and forced a UK timeout. The Tigers wasted no time out of the break, tying the match at 25 before running away with a 30-28 victory.
Tensions were high to open the fourth game as the teams fought through ties at every point until Auburn pulled out to a 9-7 lead. The Wildcats tied the game again at 9-9 and saw ties at 12 and 13 before UK took three in a row to lead 16-13 and force an AU timeout. Kentucky stretched out to a 20-16 advantage but allowed the Tigers to come back with three quick points to put the score at 20-19.
The teams played back and forth again from there, tying five more times before consecutive Tiger points put the Auburn lead at 28-26. An error on Ashlee Johns kept UK in the game, but Johns rebounded to slam a kill on the Kentucky side to put her team on game point. A service ace on Auburn forced coach Laura Farina to whistle for her final timeout, which didnít sway the Cats. A kill from Spinner was followed by an ace from Montefalco to put UK on game point at 30-29.
Auburn tied the game at 30 after a blocking error was called on Spinner and went on game point again after a rotation error was whistled on the Cats. The teams tied again at 31, 32 and 33, and Auburn went on match point again at 34-33 with a kill from Jennifer Amobi. An errant attack from Wallace gave Auburn a 35-33 game victory and a 3-1 match win, clinching the Tigers their first trip to the SEC Tournament since 1999.
Kentucky closes out regular-season conference play at Alabama on Sunday, Nov. 14. Match time is set for 1:30 p.m. ET.