Volleyball’s defense shines in tournament despite losses

Defensive+specialist+Jackie+Napper+%2815%29+digs+a+ball+in+the+first+half+against+Florida+on+Sunday%2C+November+16%2C+2014+in+Lexington%2C+Ky.+Florida+defeated+Kentucky+3-1.+Photo+by+Hunter+Mitchell

Defensive specialist Jackie Napper (15) digs a ball in the first half against Florida on Sunday, November 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ky. Florida defeated Kentucky 3-1. Photo by Hunter Mitchell

By Caitlin Schwartz

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The No. 24 ranked UK volleyball team is now 5-5 on the season after their attempt to bounce back last weekend as they competed in Wichita, Kan. in the Shocker Volleyball Classic.

The Cats kicked off the weekend poorly, being swept Friday afternoon 3-0 (24-26, 19-25, 18-25) by the No. 7 Illinois Fighting Illini.

Despite the score, the defense was nothing short of impressive. The front line registered 13.0 team blocks, just shy of their season-best 13.5 blocks.

Freshman right-side hitter Brooke Morgan recorded six blocks topping her previous high of five set the week before. Sophomore middle blocker Kaz Brown tied her career-high with eight blocks. Senior Morgan Bergren, sophomore middle Emily Franklin and freshman Anna Nyberg all tied season highs in blocks as well.

On offense, sophomore outside hitter Darian Mack led the team with eight kills while Brown and Franklin added seven of their own.

Friday night the Cats tumbled in a hard-hitting, five-set match against the host, Wichita State Shockers 3-2 (14-25, 26-24, 25-15, 23-25, 12-25.)

The Cats and Shockers went back and forth in the fifth set, trading points until Kentucky grabbed a five-point lead to give them a 9-4 advantage.

Wichita State bounced back on a 6-1 run to tie the match at 10-10. The Shockers completed the upset to win the fifth set and the match, 12-15.

Sophomore outside hitter Sharay Barnes had a career night with 16 kills against the Shockers, nearly tripling her previous record. Mack also had 16 kills with 11 digs making it her third double-double of the season.

Bergren led the Cats with 46 assists and added five kills, four digs and an ace to the mix.

UK flew passed the Northern Illinois Huskies on Saturday evening with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-19) win to end their tournament play for the weekend. Sophomore duo Brown and Mack were placed on the Shocker Volleyball Classic All-Tournament team.

Mack finished the tournament with 39 kills, 29 digs with four assists and four blocks. Brown added 28 kills and led the team with 18 blocks and added an assist as well.

The Cats will resume play on Friday, Sept. 18, for a regional match-up in Cincinnati against Xavier at 6 p.m.