UK Volleyball 2010: Five Signature Victories
Dec. 7, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - In a season marked by continual improvement and historical achievements the Wildcat volleyball team continued to shine for the University of Kentucky in 2010. The Wildcats capped off the year by advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive season - a feat only 18 other teams in the nation have been able to accomplish.
The Wildcats saw new faces in the starting lineups and budding stars emerge throughout the 30-match season. Veterans and newcomers alike achieved personal bests all the while putting forth exceptional effort en route to another winning season.
With a season full of immense achievements remembering some of the exciting victories from the 2010 season seemed necessary. Five victories this season stood out as memorable and helped the Wildcats impel themselves into the NCAA Tournament once again.
5) Hiler Ignites Comeback Five-Set Win Over Georgia
Following a disappointing five-set loss to Auburn on the first leg of a weekend road trip, Kentucky found themselves down 2-0 at Georgia on Sunday, Sept. 26. In a thrilling comeback effort, the Blue and White prevailed with a 3-2 victory over the Bulldogs encouraging UK Coach Craig Skinner to dub the victory as one of his "all-time favorite wins."
Senior Blaire Hiler's career day ignited a comeback effort by the Kentucky volleyball team to a dramatic 3-2 (21-25, 20-25, 28-26, 25-19, 15-13) win at Georgia. The senior totaled a career-best in kills (18) and blocks (seven) to help the Blue and White rally from a 2-0 deficit to win the final three stanzas and claim the match.
Sophomore setter Christine Hartmann also played a pivotal role in the comeback effort. Hartmann came off the bench to lead the UK rally from the floor general slot and post 30 assists and guide UK to an above .300 hitting clip. Four Wildcats registered 10 or more kills on the day including senior Lauren Rapp who added 14 kills on a blistering .542 hitting percentage. Junior Ann Armes and freshman Whitney Billings each chipped in with 10.
After literally propelling themselves to victory in the third set by a 28-26 margin, UK earned a comfortable 25-19 fourth set win to force the decisive fifth frame.
Kentucky started the fifth set by earning the first two points with consecutive blocks led by junior Becky Pavan. The junior teamed up with Hiler for one rejection and then Armes for the other. Georgia fired back with three consecutive kills to take the lead at 3-2, but UK benefited from a home team service error to tie the score at there. Georgia responded with another 3-0 run off of three straight kills to earn a 6-3 advantage and force UK into an early timeout.
Out of the break, Hiler notched her career-best 17th career kill of the match. The kill ignited a four-point UK swing to take an 8-6 lead into the switching of sides. Hartmann made a spectacular save off of the net during a long rally and then teamed up with Rapp for a UK block for the fourth point of the rally.
After the timeout, Kentucky kept the pressure on as Rapp was able to put down an over-pass ball for a 9-6 UK lead. After Georgia ended the six-point UK swing with a kill, Rapp fired right back with another hammer for a 10-7 Kentucky advantage. After consecutive points by the home squad to make the score 10-9, Rapp came up with another huge kill to keep UK out in front by a two-point margin. Hartmann then used a quick tap to find a spot in the back corner to make the score 12-9 in favor of the Wildcats and forcing Georgia to call its final timeout.
Kentucky earned match-point with the score 14-10 in favor of UK after another Georgia service error. The Bulldogs, however, fought back to save match-point three times to come to within one at 14-13. UK opted to use its final timeout to regroup. The timeout worked as Billings quickly came out firing with a kill to the back corner to help complete the comeback effort with a 15-13 final set win.
4) Second Set Rally Lifts UK to Sweep of Auburn
With eight games remaining in the regular season the Wildcats were 11-11 overall following consecutive road losses the weekend before. Georgia and Auburn were on the home slate for the Blue and White during the Halloween weekend. Kentucky turned momentum on its side with a 3-0 victory over Georgia on Friday night before meeting a hot Auburn squad on Sunday.
In a match televised nationally, the Wildcats rallied from seven points down late in the second set to inspire the home crowd and come away with an impressive sweep of Auburn. The win signified a marquee victory over an NCAA Tournament team and was the beginning of a thrilling finish for the Blue and White who would go on to win six of its final eight matches.
Senior Lauren Rapp notched 10 kills on the afternoon to move into sole possession of 10th place all-time on UK's career kills list to guide the Wildcats to a 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-23) sweep of visiting Auburn.
UK faced its largest deficit in the second set when it trailed 22-15. Kentucky would close the frame on a 10-2 run, including scoring the final five points of the stanza to earn a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
In a second set that featured six tie scores and four lead changes it was the home team that eventually prevailed after fighting off a seven-point deficit. With Auburn leading 22-15, Kentucky began its incredible comeback by forcing the Tigers into a miscue. Junior Ann Armes, junior Becky Pavan and sophomore Christine Hartmann teamed up for a triple block as the momentum began to shift in the home team's favor. The Tigers earned set point with the score at 24-21, but UK would not go away. The Wildcats then rattled off five straight points behind four kills from upperclassmen. Rapp, senior Blaire Hiler, Armes and Pavan all struck for a kill in the run for the 26-24 victory.
3) Rapp Named MVP as Cats Down Ohio State for Classic Title
Ohio State came into Lexington for the Kentucky Classic with an unscathed record in the early stages of the 2010 season. Both the Buckeyes and Wildcats dispatched of Miami (OH) and South Florida to stage a showdown between the two squads in the final match of the Kentucky Classic.
Although there was not a signature comeback effort or late rally as in the previous two memorable wins, the victory over Ohio State was stylish as UK used a balanced effort in all three phases for a 3-1 (25-17, 22-25, 27-25, 25-20) win over a team that would eventually be among the field of 64 in the NCAA Tournament.
Senior Lauren Rapp posted her second double-double effort of the Kentucky Classic in helping the Wildcats to a 3-1 win over previously undefeated Ohio State. Rapp was named MVP of the tournament following a 12-kill, 12-dig performance against the Buckeyes. Rapp was joined on the All-Tournament team by fellow senior Blaire Hiler who pitched in 10 kills and six digs as well as sophomore Stephanie Klefot who totaled three double-figure dig efforts in the tournament including a match-high 18 digs against Ohio State.
The Wildcats opened the match with a dominating 25-17 victory. Freshman Whitney Billings and junior Becky Pavan combined for nine kills in the stanza as UK charted a match-high .321 hitting percentage and 16 kills in the opening frame. UK's defense limited the Buckeyes to 12 kills on a mere .128 hitting clip and turned back four Ohio State attacks.
Ohio State would go on to even the match following a 25-22 second set win, but UK roared back by claiming a 27-25 third set. The Wildcats saved two set points before shaking loose and picking up consecutive points to edge the visitors. Rapp's kill finished things for the Blue and White and brought 1,327 UK fans to their feet.
In the final set, the Wildcats endured five tie scores and four lead changes to capture the match behind a 25-20 win. Billings and Rapp each posted four kills while Rapp added two important blocks. Kentucky capped the set by scoring 10 of the final 17 points with Rapp and Pavan teaming up for a stylish block to secure the tournament crown.
2) Electrifying Crowd Propels Kentucky to Victory over Louisville
For the first time since 2004 the Louisville Cardinals paid a visit to Memorial Coliseum for a match with the Wildcats. The Cardinals also owned a nine-match winning streak in the series including a thrilling five-set affair in 2009 in Louisville. Kentucky was coming off a pair of tough losses to top-10 opponents in the season-opening AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb. The teams put on a show for more than 2,000 fans in Memorial Coliseum on a muggy night to begin the month of September.
Behind the support of 2,178 electrifying members of the Big Blue Nation the Kentucky volleyball team earned a dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind win (14-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 15-10) over intrastate rival Louisville to snap a nine-match winning streak by the Cardinals. UK's last victory over Louisville came in the 1999 season.
Kentucky trailed twice in the match and clawed its way back to a victory - it's first of the season. The most remarkable climb was in the decisive fifth set when UK trailed 6-1 in the early portion of the frame. Three consecutive errors by the Cardinals and a kill from senior Lauren Rapp brought the score to within 6-5. UK knotted the score at eight apiece behind another Cardinal miscue. On the following play, junior Becky Pavan's powerful jump-serve caught the Louisville defense off guard for an ace. The momentum swing had clearly shifted to Kentucky's favor and the Wildcats never looked back. Senior Blaire Hiler finished the run for the Wildcats with three kills in the final five points of the stanza to bring the crowd to its feet for a final time with a 15-10 match-clinching win.
"I love coaching this team because they compete," UK coach Craig Skinner said following the match. "They never give up and they are not afraid to make mistakes. You have to have that type of mentality to beat good teams and win five-game matches."
The never-quit attitude became a signifying quality of the 2010 edition of the UK volleyball team led by the senior duo of Rapp and Hiler. Against Louisville, the pair delivered in a big way. Rapp led the offensive output with a then season-high 15 kills. Hiler charted 10 hammers to reach double-figures, but none were more important than the final three in the fifth stanza.
Kentucky's defensive prowess was the difference-maker as UK charted a combined 15 blocks and 64 digs in the match while limiting Louisville to a mere .080 hitting clip and just 39 assists. Freshman Alexandra Morgan made her first career start and totaled eight of UK's 15 blocks to jump-start the defensive effort, while Stephanie Klefot anchored the back row with a match-high 14 digs.
1) Wildcats Rally to Upset No. 15 LSU on Senior Day
No win distinguished the season more than the five-set victory over the 15th-ranked LSU Tigers and the eventual SEC Western Division champions. On Senior Day, the Wildcats put together their most complete effort of the season to knock off the Tigers and finally possess the season-defining victory for the NCAA Tournament. Thirteen timely kills on a remarkable .500 hitting percentage in the final set of action lifted the Kentucky volleyball team to a thrilling 3-2 (25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 18-25, 15-11) upset of No. 15 LSU. The senior duo of Lauren Rapp and Blaire Hiler both posted double-figure kill efforts to help guide UK to the upset over a ranked foe.
Rapp totaled 17 kills on .279 hitting while accounting for 10 digs for a double-double effort. The Indianapolis native also added four blocks and a career-best six assists. Later in the week, Rapp would earn AVCA National Player of the Week and SEC Player of the Week honors for her performance.
Hiler scored 11 kills, including three in the decisive fifth frame. Freshman Whitney Billings led the UK offense with 18 kills on .255 hitting while adding 14 digs for her seventh career double-double. Setter Christine Hartmann dished out 53 assists and scooped up a career-best 16 digs. Junior Gretchen Giesler was the fourth Wildcat to reach double-figures in the kills' column with 10 hammers on .348 hitting. Giesler also added a match-best six blocks. Junior Becky Pavan notched nine kills on a team-high .350 hitting.
Sophomore libero Stephanie Klefot picked up a match-high and career-best 29 digs to lead UK's back-line defense that had four players tally double-figure numbers. Klefot would go on to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
In the incredible fifth frame, Rapp began the scoring. LSU quickly responded by scoring the next two points. The teams exchanged points back and forth until UK Billings' kill enabled the Wildcats to break the tie at 5-4. The Blue and White forced the Tigers into an erroneous attack and then had Hiler and Giesler strike for consecutive kills to lift UK to an 8-4 edge into the switch.
LSU pulled back to within three at 10-7, but Hartmann found a spot with a dump to immediately increase the home team's lead back to four. Rapp gave the Wildcats' match point at 14-10 with her 17th kill of the match. LSU was able to save match point once before Hiler struck for a match-clinching slam. Fittingly, the final two points of the match for the home team were scored by UK's two seniors on Senior Day.
"I'm really proud of them (Rapp and Hiler) because they played with a lot of emotion," UK coach Craig Skinner said that afternoon. "They've been major factors for this program throughout their four years here and they've given everything they've had. This program is forever indebted to them, and we know they're always going to be Kentucky Wildcats."
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