Volleyball Falls in Three at No. 7 Florida
The University of Kentucky volleyball team lost their final regular season Southeastern Conference match today, Nov. 19, falling at No. 7 Florida by a final of 3-0 (25-30, 23-30, 30-32). The Wildcats fall to 18-10 on the year and 11-9 in SEC play, while the Gators improve to 26-2 overall with a 19-1 mark in league contests.
Junior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker finished with a team-high 14 kills on .385 hitting to go alogn with seven digs and four blocks. Sophomore Queen Nzenwa added seven kills and five blocks, while sophomore Ashlee Fisher chipped in with nine kills. Senior Jenni Casper added to her SEC record with 20 digs to lead the Wildcats, while Melissa Popp and Sarah Rumely each finished with five kills on the night.
The conference foes battled evenly in the early goings of game one and were tied at 6-6 after back-to-back kills by Popp. The Gators scored two straight on a kill coupled with a Kentucky attack error to take a two-point edge at 8-6. The Cats pulled to within one on another Popp kill, but saw UF put together a 5-2 run to take a 13-8 lead and force a Kentucky timeout. The Wildcats pulled with in four at 14-10 after a putdown by Rumely, but the Gators put together a 6-1 run to go on top 20-11until an attack error stopped the Kentucky scoring drought. The Cats scored three straight on another kill by Popp and back-to-back UF attack errors to slash the lead to six at 21-15. UK then scored six straight points to pull within one, 22-21, on the strength of a kill by Britenriker and back-to-back service aces by Popp. A 4-0 Gator run pushed the lead back to five at 26-21, but the Cats slashed the lead to four, 29-25, on kills by Britenriker and Fisher before the Gators eventually pulled away for good and won the opening game by a final of 30-25.
Game two provided more even play early with the teams separated by just one point at 9-8 after a Florida attack error. The Wildcats were still within one after a kill by Fisher made it a 12-11 Gator lead. The home team scored seven of the next nine to take a 19-13 lead, but a kill by Rumely started a run that saw UK slash the lead to four at 20-16 after a pair of UF attack errors and a Gator service error. A pair of back-to-back kills by Fisher and Nzenwa, followed by a put-down by Tess Edwards made it a three-point margin, 23-20. However, a kill and four costly Kentucky errors pushed the UF lead back to eight, 28-21, and the Gators went on to take game two by a final of 30-23.
Kentucky opened game three on a tear and took an 8-4 lead. Britenriker and Nzenwa each had a pair of putdowns in the run which was capped by a Heather Hausfeld kill. The Wildcats led by five, 11-6, after three consecutive kills by Rumely, Britenriker and Julie Gagnon to force the Gators to call a timeout. UF scored four straight out of the break to pull to within one at 11-10, which resulted in a Kentucky timeout. The Wildcats pushed their lead back to three, 15-12, after kills by Britenriker, Fisher and Nzenwa. Hausfeld added another kill which would give UK a four-point edge at 18-14. The Wildcats continued to build on their lead and made it a six-point cushion after Britenriker recorded a pair of kills which gave the Cats a 21-15 lead.
Florida began to chip away at the Wildcats’ lead and made a 9-3 run to eventually tie the score at 24-all. Kills by Nznewa and Fisher helped the Wildcats push their lead back to two, 27-25, but the Gators kept pace. A service error by Alisa Pierce followed by a Hausfeld hitting error tied the score again at 28-28. A kill by UF’s Kristina Johnson gave the Gators their first lead of the game at 29-28, but a UF ball handling error knotted the score again at 29 apiece. Johnson had another kill to give UF a 30-29 advantage, but Britenriker answered with a kill of her own to tie the score at 30 to keep the Wildcats’ chances alive. The Gators, however, ended the Kentucky rally with back-to-back kills to win the final frame 32-30 and sweep the season series with the Cats.
The Wildcats wrap up the regular season next Friday night, Nov. 24, when they travel to take on Cincinnati. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.