Offensive struggles send UK volleyball to pair of road SEC losses

By Nick Gray

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UK volleyball let a two set lead slip away, falling in five sets to Arkansas (19-8, 10-6 SEC) 3-2 (22-25, 16-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-10) in Barnhill Arena at Fayetteville, Ark.

Junior Whitney Billings led the Cats with a double-double effort with 18 kills and 15 digs. Senior Ashley Frazier hit 13 kills for her sixth straight performance with 10 or more kills, while junior Alexandra Morgan and sophomore Lauren O’Conner added 10 kills apiece.

The attack for UK bogged down after the second set break, combining for 28 kills in the final three sets with 17 errors (the Cats had 25 errors in the match) and a hitting percentage of .111 over those sets. UK hit .192 overall.

“We didn’t do a good enough job stopping Arkansas’ point scorers in the fourth and fifth games,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “We also didn’t execute on our side of the net like we did in the first two sets. We’ll get back in the gym and figure it out this week.”

UK began the game hitting well offensively, earning 20 kills and only committing two errors in the first set en route to the 25-22 victory. The second set was dominated by the Cats’ defense who limited Arkansas to seven kills and seven errors, good for .000 hitting.

The offensive struggles were prevalent in the final three sets for UK, and Arkansas hit 39 of the team’s 60 kills in sets three, four and five to take advantage.

The Razorbacks led throughout the entire fifth set. The Cats pulled to 9-7, forcing a timeout, but an error (four in the fifth set alone) pushed the lead to three, and UK would not get any closer.

Friday, UK struggled offensively in a 3-1 loss to Alabama (25-23, 15-25, 25-18, 25-20) at Foster Auditorium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Cats committed 25 hitting errors, 13 service errors and seven blocking errors in the match. UK hit .176 in the match, a chief factor in the loss for the Cats which snapped a five game winning streak.

“Give credit to Alabama for applying pressure on us,” Skinner said. “Mentally we weren’t sharp to start the match and as it went on we weren’t able to engage ourselves.”

Frazier continued to produce for UK with 10 kills, her fifth consecutive double digit kill output in as many games. Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder hit nine kills with no errors for a .643 hitting percentage, and Billings and Morgan contributed eight kills each.

But the attack overall was inconsistent for UK. In set three, the Cats hit -.062 with nine errors and six service errors alongside seven kills; UK hit .098 with 12 kills and eight errors in set four.