No. 19 Volleyball Downs Louisville in Five-Set Thriller
Kentucky wins fifth straight in 2013 and defeats in-state rival to go up 26-25 in all-time series
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No.
19 University of Kentucky volleyball team defeated in-state rival
Louisville in a five-set thriller (17-25, 25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 15-11)
Tuesday night in Memorial Coliseum.
extended its winning streak to five straight matches, and four in a row
at home. The victory over Louisville (2-4) came in front of a crowd of
1,888 eager to see UK win its third straight home match against U of L
and break a 25-25 tie in the all-time series between the Bluegrass
State rivals. The Wildcats now own a 14-10 series edge in Lexington.
were matched in a lot of different ways,” UK head coach Craig Skinner
said. “[It was a] gutty performance, in my opinion, for both teams. It
was back-and-forth. It wasn’t pretty volleyball the whole time, but I’m
proud of our kids for the way they stepped up and made some great
plays. It could have gone the other way after the fourth, but they came
out ready to go. I give our players a lot of credit. A couple of great
digs, a couple of key swings, and some good serving by Whitney
(Billings) there at the end.”
Kentucky resumes action with
the Bluegrass Battle tournament featuring both UK and Louisville on
Friday and Saturday. UK takes on Pepperdine at 7 p.m. on Friday, before
meeting No. 4 Minnesota at the same hour on Saturday.
addition to witnessing one of college volleyball’s most intense
rivalries, UK fans watched history unfold when senior Whitney Billings
notched her sixth dig of the match. The historic dig gave the right
side hitter 1,000 in her career. Combined with more than 1,000 career
kills, she is the first player in the modern era of Kentucky volleyball
to achieve 1,000 kills and digs in her career.
Anni Thomasson led UK with a team-high-tying 13 kills and a team best
16 digs. Both marks were career highs for the outside hitter, who
posted her second double-double in the last three games.
Alexandra Morgan also contributed 13 kills, while sophomore Shelby
Workman added 11. Workman matched her career best and Morgan’s total
resulted in a season high. Morgan led the way for UK with a .407
A career best 51 assists from
sophomore Morgan Bergren was a match high. On the defensive side,
Morgan had five blocks to lead the Wildcats.
of our last six have gone five,” Skinner said about the series with
Louisville. “It was a battle. You can throw out records, you can throw
out our last match, you can throw out statistics, and it always just
seems to be a real competition. You see a lot of emotions, a lot of
adrenaline, and a lot of nerves. Tonight was no exception.”
took the first set by a 25-17 margin, but Kentucky responded by winning
the following two, 25-23 and 25-20 to take a 2-1 advantage. The
Cardinal claimed the fourth stanza 25-19, which set up the decisive
“It’s a lot of experience,” Skinner
said. “You can’t create that in practice. You can’t create being up big
in a set. You can’t create being down big in the fourth and coming back
in the fifth. We weathered the storm and it says a lot about the
toughness of these guys running at us. “
The final set
was the closest of the night and featured seven ties. After the
Cardinals took an early 7-3 lead, the Wildcats wouldn’t allow them to
score again before they tied it at seven. It was knotted again at
eight, nine, and 10 before the Cards took an 11-10 lead. It was their
last advantage of the match, as the Wildcats scored the final five
points of the contest to secure the victory. UK’s 12th and 14th points
came courtesy of kills from Thomasson. A bad set by Louisville gave
Kentucky the win and raised the noise level in Memorial Coliseum to a
“I just thought we left everything out
there and all of us knew we were going to win that game,” Morgan said.
“We knew we were going to fight our hardest for every point. Morgan
(Bergren) had a huge block which gave us a ton of momentum and then
Anni’s (Thomasson) big swing, all the momentum was on our side. We knew
we had to keep the momentum on our side so we could win the game.”
match’s opening frame began like so many others this year. UK has
played plenty of close sets this season, and the opening stanza against
its in-state rivals began no differently. The Wildcats opened with a
2-0 lead, thanks to a kill from Thomasson and an ace from Billings.
Kentucky maintained its lead until the score reached 9-9, but it was an
advantage that never reached more than two points. After Louisville
gained an 11-9 lead, UK tied it at 11 for the fifth tie of the set. The
Cardinals responded with a 6-0 run to take a 17-11 edge they would not
The second set began much the way the
first did, with back-and-forth action, but it was the Cardinals who had
the lead 7-5 before the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to take their first
lead of the set, one they would never give up. From UK’s 12-7 lead to a
19-14 advantage, the two teams traded points, with neither team taking
more than two straight points. That was when Kentucky scored three
straight to take a 22-14 lead. Louisville wouldn’t go down without a
fight, however. With a 24-18 lead, U of L staved off five-straight set
point attempts and got within one before an attack error gave UK the
set victory at 25-23.
The Wildcats couldn’t have
asked for a better start to the third set and began the frame on a 6-0
run. UK would keep its six point edge until U of L closed the gap and
got to within two at 13-11 and 14-12. Kentucky responded right back
with three straight points to lengthen its lead to 17-12. The two teams
would trade the next 10 points to make it 22-18 when the Cardinals
scored four consecutive points to cut the Wildcats’ lead to three. A
kill from Morgan followed, which set up set point, and a U of L attack
error ended the set and gave UK its 2-1 advantage.
how the third set began with a 6-0 UK run, the fourth frame started
with a 6-0 U of L run. A strong kill from Billings gave the Wildcats
their first point at 6-1, but they had trouble getting any closer until
late in the set. With the score 20-13 in favor of the visitors, the
Blue and White went on a 4-1 run that brought the score to 21-17 and
the UK faithful to their feet. Two points came at the hands of a
Billings kill to help make it just a four point deficit. It was 23-19
when a U of L kill and a UK attack error ended the frame with the
victory to the Cardinals.
Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. UK is one of
four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one
team advancing to the Final Four in Seattle, Wash., from the Lexington
Region. This marks the second time in three seasons Memorial Coliseum
will host this premier volleyball event.