By Nick Gray
UK volleyball finished off LSU in a three-set sweep (25-19, 25-18, 25-22) in a third-set comeback in front of 1,244 at Memorial Coliseum Sunday.
The Cats out attacked the Tigers 50 kills to 36 and in hitting (.287 for UK, .160 for LSU). Defensively, UK out-dug LSU 59-49 and blocked eight LSU kill attempts (to LSU’s two blocks). Three UK players earned double-digit digs, including sophomore Jackie Napper and senior setter Christine Hartmann with 13 each and junior Whitney Billings with 14.
Billings led UK overall on the attack with 16 kills, recording her eighth double-double of the season. Sophomore Lauren O’Connor added 14 and senior Ashley Frazier contributed seven for the Cats. Hartmann hit 40 assists.
“It’s always important to respond after not getting the win on Friday night,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “LSU has been very good the past couple weeks and it was important for us to jump on them early.”
UK came out of the break ahead 2-0 when LSU played its best volleyball of the afternoon. The Tigers stormed out to a 12-6 advantage and pushed its lead to 16-9, the largest lead LSU held in the match. Then, the Cats earned three consecutive points to close within three, and traded points with LSU leading 20-16. UK went on a 7-0 run stamped by two kills from O’Connor and a service ace by senior libero Stephanie Klefot to hand UK a 23-20 lead it would not relinquish.
UK started the match ready to atone for the three-set sweep by Arkansas on Friday, holding leads as large as seven on the strength of O’Connor and Frazier on the attack. O’Connor earned seven kills in the initial frame, while Frazier added four kills on six attempts with no errors (.667 attacking percentage). The set included a 10-2 Cats run punctuated by three UK blocks as a team. The Cats earned 6.5 team blocks overall for the set.
In the second set, UK held a small advantage after a 4-0 run gave the Cats a 11-7 lead. Each team traded points up to a point where UK earned two straight points to go into an LSU timeout leading 20-16. LSU earned the first point out of the timeout, but the Cats claimed five out of the last six points to wrestle hold of the match away at two sets to none. Billings contributed most on the attack for UK on the set with eight kills on 10 attempts with no errors. Overall, the Cats hit .325 in the set with 17 kills and only four errors.
UK climbed to 13-8 overall and 7-4 in the SEC, while LSU dropped to 9-12 overall and 5-7 in the SEC.
Friday night UK volleyball fell to Arkansas in three sets (25-23, 25-23, 25-20) at Memorial Coliseum.
The Cats struggled in the closing moments of the first two sets, failing to convert in either set after holding a lead and a tie late. UK allowed Arkansas to hit .330 on the attack as a team and 50 kills overall, while the Cats struggled to a .252 hitting percentage with 17 errors. Junior Alexandra Morgan was the only UK hitter with double digit kills (11) and hit .400 as a bright spot for the Cats, but the rest of the team combined for only 33 kills. Hartmann dished out 34 assists.
“It’s a tough match against a very good team. They executed points and we did not. Bottom line, in games one and two, that was the difference,” Skinner said. “In the third game they had momentum and confidence, and we had to get that back on our side. We started out slowly, battled back but couldn’t close the door.”