By Kyle Arensdorf | Volleyball beat writer
No. 19 UK volleyball won a five-set match (17-25, 25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 15-11) against Louisville Tuesday night, redeeming the loss that came at the hands of the Cardinals a season ago.
“It was back-and-forth and it certainly wasn’t pretty volleyball all the way through,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I was proud of our kids in the way they stepped up and made some great plays in the fifth set.”
UK began the first set with an opening-point kill from freshman outside-hitter Anna Thomasson. After the start, Louisville grew their lead to three points at 14-11, forcing a UK timeout.
Sophomore setter Morgan Bergren then recorded her first kill of the match, reducing the Louisville lead to five at 13-18. Louisville took control of the waning stages of the set and closed it out behind four kills by freshman outside-hitters Maya McClendon and Janelle Jenkins.
After two early errors by Louisville, the second-set set was knotted at 7-7. Behind three kills by sophomore outside-hitter Shelby Workman, UK increased their lead to 20-14. The Cats collected the second set despite five straight points by Louisville once UK had reached set-point. Workman garnered five kills in her second-set effort.
The Cats jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the third set behind the serving of senior outside-hitter Whitney Billings, but Louisville reduced UK’s lead to four at 17-13.
After small runs by both teams, a kill by senior middle-blocker Alexander Morgan gave UK set-point. The Cats took the third set, 25-20, on the heels of five kills by Morgan.
The Cats trailed 6-0 in the fourth set, leading to a UK timeout. Despite two early kills by Morgan, UK remained in a seven-point hole at 12-19 in the set. The Cats began to mount a run as the lead was reduced to four at 18-22 but Louisville took the fourth set 25-19.
After four lead changes, the score was tied at 11-11 in the fifth set. The Cats rattled off three more points to get to game point behind a Thomasson kill. The final set, and the match, was won by UK after a service error by Louisville sophomore setter Katie George.
“We left everything out there,” Morgan said. “All of us knew we were going to win that game.”
Thomasson was asked what she thought of her first experience with the UK-Louisville rivalry.
“It’s intense,” she said. “I’ve never really been on a team that wants to win as badly as this team does … it’s unreal.”
According to Skinner, four of the last six matches between Louisville and UK have gone five sets.
“It’s a battle,” Skinner said. “You can throw out records, you can throw out the last match, you can throw out statistics … You see a lot of nerves and a lot of emotion. Tonight was no exception.”