Kentucky Shocks Arkansas on Senior Day
Kentucky volleyball senior Danielle Wallace tallied 20 kills and junior libero Jenni Casper added 29 digs as the Wildcats knocked off Arkansas, 3-1, on Senior Day in Fayetteville. After losing the first game, 16-30, Kentucky battled back to win the next three, 31-29, 30-28, 30-26.
Wallace’s kills came on .326 hitting for Kentucky (17-9, 10-6 Southeastern Conference). Her performance included 12 kills in the third game and six digs overall. Freshman middle Queen Nzenwa had 13 kills on .333 hitting and eight blocks on the afternoon, while Amy Kaplan had 13 kills on .455 hitting and Ashlee Fisher added 15 kills in the win. Freshman Erin Turner saw her first extensive action on the court, playing in two games and totaling four digs and two blocks.
With the win, the Wildcats finish regular-season SEC play with a 10-6 record – its best finish since posting a 12-2 record in 1993. Overall, Kentucky earned its 17th win of the season, the most since a 29-4 record in 1993. UK more than tripled its number of SEC wins from last season (3-13) and already has five more victories overall.
“Our team showed great composure and mental toughness to respond after getting killed in the first game,” UK Coach Craig Skinner said. “This team has done that all year, in being able to come back. The individual performances from our seniors, Queen (Nzenwa) and (Jenni) Casper really pushed us through tough times in this match.”
The Cats allowed Arkansas to build a 6-2 lead early in the first game, forcing a quick timeout. Kentucky fell behind by eight at 12-4 on a hitting error from Kaplan, but cut the lead to seven at 15-8 after a kill from Fisher. The Razorbacks continued to control the pace, however, leading by as many as 14 points with a final score of 30-16. UK hit just .114 to Arkansas’ .353 in the first stanza.
Kentucky again allowed itself to fall behind early in the second game as the Hogs took a 6-2 lead early. The Wildcats rebounded this time, tying the score at 11-11 with a shot from Nzenwa before taking a 14-12 lead after an ace from Casper and a kill from Kaplan.
The Wildcats remained on top for a short time, until a Razorback kill knotted the score at 17. After the home team skipped ahead to lead 20-18, Kentucky used a timeout. The squads exchanged leads and faced a tie score at 28-28. An Nzenwa error put the Hogs on game point, but Fisher found an open spot to even the score at 29. A block from Nzenwa and Fisher put the Cats on game point and a kill from Fisher sealed the 31-29 victory. Wallace had 10 kills on .833 hitting in the game.
UK controlled the pace early in game three, taking a 4-2 lead on a Wallace kill. After a tie at 6-6, UK fell behind 7-10, but remained composed and knotted the score at 11. After seven more ties down the stretched, Kentucky took a 24-20 lead after several unforced Arkansas errors.
The Hogs fought back and tied the score at 25-25, but Nzenwa slammed two balls down to take the score to 27-25. After ties at 28 and 29, the Cats were able to claim the victory, 30-28, after back-to-back Arkansas errors.
The Cats dominated the start of game four, taking a 14-7 lead after strong play at the net from Nzenwa. UK controlled the pace of the game until the Razorbacks tied the score at 25 on an Erin Turner attack error. An overshot by the Hogs gave UK a 26-25 lead and Nzenwa slammed down an overpass for a 27-25 UK lead.
After an Arkansas timeout, the Hogs scored on a quick kill, but Nzenwa batted another ball down to give UK a 28-26 lead. The Cats closed out the 30-26 win with a kill from Wallace and a block from Marcum and Nzenwa.
Kentucky returns to action on Friday, Nov. 18 when it opens play in the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Tournament seedings and pairings will be finalized Sunday evening.