Cats volleyball defeat VCU in first game of the Kentucky Classic

By Kyle Arensdorf

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The UK volleyball team won in five sets against Virginia Commonwealth University (24-26, 25-15, 20-25, 25-19, 15-12) on Friday in the first day of the  behind performances by senior outside-hitter Whitney Billings and junior outside hitter Lauren O’Connor.

“After seeing (VCU) on video this week as a coaching staff we knew it would be a tough match-up,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We were fortunate enough to come out on top after falling behind 2-1.”

Billings notched her fourth double-double in as many games in a 13-kill, 14-dig effort.

“She’s very skilled,” Skinner said. “She’s a great server and a great attacker, and everyone always underestimates her defense but she made big plays in (set) four and five for us.”

O’Connor had two kills in the first two sets combined before catching fire and finishing the match with a team-high 14 kills.

“Lauren was huge tonight,” Skinner said. “She’s someone who likes the pressure and steps up when we need her, and she did that tonight.”

The Cats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first set on the back of a kill by senior middle-blocker Alexandra Morgan. UK retained the lead until an error by Billings tied the set at 24-24. VCU rattled off two more points and took the first set 26-24 despite four kills from Billings.

The Cats held a lead through the beginning phases of the second set to bolster a 16-10 lead. After an error by VCU sophomore setter Samantha Blaze, the score was 20-13 in UK’s favor. The Cats finished the second set with a .263 hitting percentage to secure a 10-point win.

After an error by sophomore middle-blocker Sara Schwarzwalder, the score was knotted 8-8 in the third set. An error by Morgan facilitated a time-out from Skinner with UK trailing 16-20. The Cats surrendered the third set 25-20 as a result of 11 errors as a team.

Trailing in the fourth set 15-17, the Cats mounted a 10-2 rally to win the set 25-17 on the heels of four kills by Billings and six kills by O’Connor.

The Cats opened up the final set with seven kills in 11 points to take a one-point lead over VCU, 11-10. After an attack error by VCU, UK had match-point.  A kill by Billings seized the set and the game for the Cats at 15-12.