Wildcats Set for Sweet 16 Showdown with No. 1 Penn State
Dec. 6, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. - For the second-consecutive season and the third time in four years, the Kentucky volleyball team will play in the NCAA Sweet 16. UK is set for a showdown with No. 1 Penn State on Friday at 5 p.m. ET in the West Lafayette, Ind., Regional.
ESPN3.com will have the broadcast on Friday, while Saturday's regional championship match will air live on ESPNU. Pam Ward and Krista Blunk will call the action for ESPN. Dick Gabriel and Mandy Robbe will also have the call on UKathletics.com. UK's official website will also have a live blog in addition to live stats.
The Wildcats (22-10) moved on to the round of 16 behind a 3-0 sweep of East Tennessee State in the opening round and a 3-1 victory over Ohio State on Saturday. Sophomore Lauren O'Conner paced the offensive attack against the Buckeyes with a team-high 16 kills. Juniors Whitney Billings and Alexandra Morgan both logged 10 kills apiece. Both contributed to a strong defensive performance from the Cats with Morgan leading the way with seven blocks and Billings charting her 17th double-double of the season with 12 digs.
Senior Stephanie Klefot led the back line defense with a match-high 18 digs and senior Christine Hartman directed the offense to the tune of 41 assists.
Klefot and Billings were named American Volleyball Coaches Association first-team All-South Region team members on Tuesday. Hartmann was an honorable mention selection.
Penn State is 31-2 on the year and is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions advanced following a 3-0 sweep of Bowling Green on Saturday. The Lions are making their 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Regional semifinals and owns an all-time record of 5-1 against UK, although this will be the first meeting between the teams in the Craig Skinner era.
Penn State is led by a pair of attackers who average 3.25 kills or more for a team that laces 14.36 hammers per stanza. Ariel Scott (3.64) and Deja McClendon (3.25) key the Lion attack. Katie Slay turns back 1.35 opponent attacks per set and Dominique Gonzalez averages 3.54 digs per set to lead the defense.
If Kentucky can pull off the upset, the Blue and White will take on the winner of Purdue and No. 10 Minnesota on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET for a right to punch a ticket to the Final Four.
Minnesota is the tournament's No. 10 overall seed and has tallied a 26-7 record on the year. The Gophers moved to the NCAA Regional semis behind a 3-1 win over Creighton on Saturday. Minnesota leads the all-time series with UK by a 3-2 margin, but a matchup between the two teams would be a first in the Skinner tenure.
Minnesota attacks at a 14.50 kill per set rate on a .301 hitting clip. Katherine Harms leads the way with 4.10 kills per frame and also has 40 aces on the year. Minnesota's attack begins at the service line as four players have 22 or more on the year.
The host Purdue Boilermakers upset the tournament's No. 9 overall seed in Florida State in a five-set thriller on Saturday. Purdue is 10-8 all-time vs. UK and is 2-1 against the Wildcats during Skinner's tenure including earning a 3-1 win in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in 2010.
Purdue is paced by 4.42 kills per set from the hand of Ariel Turner. The Boilermakers average 13.37 hammers pet set on a .248 attacking clip. Kaisley Fisher posts 1.07 blocks and Carly Cramer tallies 4.18 digs per set on defense.