Cats Don't Let Weather Get in Way of 3-1 Win
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Heavy rains in the Knoxville area, coupled with a leak in the Stokely Athletics Center roof delayed Kentucky’s volleyball match with Tennessee for 61 minutes early in game four, but the inclement weather surrounding the match didn’t dampen the Wildcats’ intensity, as UK won a 3-1 (28-30, 32-30, 30-19, 30-26) decision against the Lady Vols on Wednesday evening.
Early in the fourth game, a leak in the roof sprinkled water onto the Kentucky side of the court near the net. The event management staff tried to remedy the problem by wiping the floor following each point, but as the rain came down heavier, the court became increasingly unsafe for competition. The match was stopped with the Wildcats holding a 6-5 advantage in the fourth frame.
After lengthy discussions between officials and event management personnel, it was determined that they would move the volleyball court and re-line the hardwood in a different area of the historic Stokely Athletics Center, which served as the home of Tennessee’s basketball teams from 1967-1987. Instead of the painted lines that are used on the arena’s floor, the court was measured and lined with black electrical tape.
After completely relocating the court, the players had been idle for such a lengthy period of time that both squads had to participate in a complete warm-up before resuming competition at Stokely, which has served as a host site for NCAA First and Second Round volleyball action in three consecutive seasons.
From start to finish, the match came close to matching the longest contest (by time) in NCAA history. The NCAA records, however, do not account for delays in play. Wednesday’s match took 3 hours and 13 minutes from opening serve to its final point. Hawaii’s win against BYU on Nov. 28, 1998 took 3 hours and 38 minutes.
“I am really excited for our team that they were able to persevere through a rain delay tonight,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “There’s a first time for everything in a coaching career. After game one, I thought our team played as hard as a team as it has all year long and our toughness was evident tonight.”
Freshman right-side hitter Lauren Rapp (Indianapolis, Ind.) turned in an all-star performance, finishing with a career-high 16 kills on a .519 hitting, the second-best offensive efficiency mark of her career. She added five blocks and seven digs to complement her personal-best kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Brooke Bartek (Lincoln, Neb.) recorded 13 kills, as did senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio). Britenriker has recorded double-digit kills in each of the team’s 30 matches this season for the Wildcats (21-9, 12-7 Southeastern Conference). Britenriker notched her team-leading 19th double-double with a team-high 16 digs. She also added seven blocks to lead a potent UK blocking effort. The Wildcats recorded 15.5 team blocks.
Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely (New Palestine, Ind.) finished with 54 assists and moved into the school’s all-time top five for career assists. Rumely now has 2,916 career dishes and needs 279 more to tie Irene Smith (1983-86) for fourth-place all-time with 3,195 career assists. Rumely just missed her second triple-double of the season notching nine kills and nine digs. Junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) had 11 kills and six blocks, while freshman outside hitter Blaire Hiler (New Washington, Ohio) had six kills and four blocks.
Tennessee broke a 5-5 tie in game one with two points in a row to take an early 7-5 advantage. Britenriker and Rapp then registered back-to-back kills to stop the Tennessee run and knot the score at 7-all. After three more ties, the Lady Vols extended their advantage back out to two, 12-10, and forced Skinner to burn a timeout. With Kentucky trailing 13-10, Nzenwa notched a kill and Bartek followed with an ace to cut the Wildcats’ deficit to one, 13-12. The two teams kept battling closely, but the Lady Vols went back up by five, 20-15, after four consecutive points that forced another UK break.
A Tennesseee service error and a put-down by Britenriker cut the Cats’ deficit to three, 20-17. Trailing 22-17 after back-to-back points by the Lady Vols, Kentucky scored three of the next four points, including two kills by Nzenwa, to come within three, 23-20. Tennessee built its lead back to four, 28-24, but the Wildcats capitalized on a pair of Lady Vol errors to come within two, 28-26, heading into a timeout called by Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick. Out of the break, Bartek posted back-to-back kills to knot the score at 28 and cap off a 4-0 run by the Wildcats. Out of a Lady Vol timeout, Tennessee scored two straight points to take the 30-28 opening-game win.
The Lady Vols began game two on a 6-1 tear and continued to a 9-4 advantage before a crafty kill by Rumely on second contact stopped the scoring streak. Back-to-back kills by Britenriker and Nzenwa whittled UK’s deficit down to three, 10-7, but Tennessee built its advantage out to six, 14-8, and forced Skinner to burn a timeout. Trailing 16-11, Kentucky used a powerful block by Britenriker and Rumely and then a put-down by Britenriker to come within three, 16-13. From there, Tennessee went on a 3-0 run to extend its lead to 19-13 and cause another UK break.
Out of the break, Kentucky scored four in a row thanks to three Tennessee attack errors and a Sauer ace to cut within one, 19-18. The Lady Vols went back up 24-21, but the Cats responded with a 3-0 run of their own that included two kills by Rapp and one by Hiler to knot the score at 24-all. After four more ties, Tennessee reached game point at 29-28 on a put-down by Farren Powe. Nzenwa recorded a kill down the middle to stave off the Lady Vols’ attempt at game point. After another tie at 30-all, Nzenwa registered a put-down and Tennessee committed an attack error to give UK the game, 32-30. The Wildcats hit .310 in the second frame, led by Nzenwa’s five kills.
Tennessee opened to a 7-3 advantage to start game three before UK responded with three consecutive points to come within one, 7-6. Back-to-back kills by Rumely and Bartek knotted the score at 8-all before a Britenriker kill down the middle put the Cats in front 9-8. After three more ties, a couple of Kentucky attack errors allowed the Lady Vols to regain the lead at 13-11.
Consecutive put-downs by Rapp and Britenriker knotted the score at 14. An emphatic block solo by Rapp on the right side, a kill by Rumely on second contact and a Rapp ace all on successive plays put the Cats ahead 17-15. Those three points sparked a 6-1 rally by Kentucky that extended its lead to 20-16 and forced a UT timeout. The Wildcats scored two consecutive points out of the break to cap the run at 8-1 and put UK in front 22-16. The Cats easily closed out a 30-19 game-three win on a kill by Nzenwa. Kentucky hit an impressive .452 in the third frame, while holding the Lady Vols to just a .114 efficiency.
Kentucky broke to a 6-5 advantage in game four on a kill by Hiler before the sizeable weather delay. When the match resumed 61 minutes later with a Sauer serve, Tennessee scored three points in a row to go up 8-6, before a kill by Rumely on second contact stopped the scoring streak. Another Rumely put-down and an attack error against the Lady Vols tied the score at 9-9.
That sparked a 6-0 run by the Cats that included a Rumely ace, put Kentucky up 13-9 and forced Patrick to call a timeout. With UK leading 14-9, Tennessee began working its way back into the match with a 6-1 run to knot the score at 15-all. An attack error by Hiler that sailed well long of the court gave UT the advantage at 16-15 and caused Skinner to use a timeout. Out of the break, Tennessee scored two in a row to go up by three, 18-15. With the Cats down 21-17, Kentucky scored four in a row to tie the score at 21-21. That 4-0 run was highlighted by a resounding block by Britenriker and Rumely. A block on the outside by Bartek and Nzenwa put the Wildcats back in front 23-22 and, following another tie at 23, UK scored three in a row, capped off by a Bartek kill on the outside to take a 26-23 lead. A powerful kill by Rapp on the right side put the Cats in front 28-24 and UK closed out the 30-26 win.
Kentucky closes out its 2007 regular season on Sunday when it travels to Fayetteville, Ark., to square off with the Arkansas Lady ‘Backs. Opening serve is set for 2 p.m. EDT in Barnhill Arena with live statistics available at ukathletics.com.