UK volleyball emerges victorious from two-marathon weekend matches



By Nick Gray

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The Cats put forth one of the most balanced and explosive offensive attacks of the season as the team hit .338 overall led by 18 kills from junior Whitney Billings, who posted 14 digs for her tenth double-double of the season. Three other Cats produced double digit kill totals, including junior Alexandra Morgan and senior Ashley Frazier, who contributed 15 kills each. Sophomore Lauren O’Connor added 14 kills as UK killed 72 balls and only committed 18 errors.

“Georgia (13-9, 7-5 SEC) has as much fire-power as anyone in the conference and we were able to withstand it with our blocking defense as the match went on,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “We had some great defensive plays by (Jessi) Greenberg and (Christine) Hartmann; and a big-time kill from (Lauren) O’Conner at the end of the match. We showed the grit we needed to win on the road.”

After a dominating first set win from the Cats, Georgia battled back in the second set, capturing the set after UK held a 21-20 late advantage. The Cats used their size advantage to block four Georgia balls at opportune times and win the third set 25-19. The match continued after the fourth set when a UK comeback attempt from as many as six down fell short, even as the Cats knotted up the set at 24. UK couldn’t complete the comeback as the Bulldogs finished the set off with two points.

The fifth set saw the Cats recover, as a five-all tie turned into an 8-5 UK lead on a 3-0 run, a lead the Cats would not relinquish.

UK finished their biggest comeback of the year in style, capping the climb from 2-0 down to dominate the fifth set 15-5 and capture the five set victory ( 27-29, 25-14, 25-22, 15-5) over Tennessee (15-6, 8-4 SEC) in front of 1,026 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

Frazier led the balanced Cats offense up front with 18 kills.  Billings hit 11 kills and earned her ninth double-double of the season with 15 digs. Morgan hit a career high five service errors to go alongside 11 kills. Senior setter Christine Hartmann narrowly missed a triple double with eight kills, 51 assists and 11 digs.

“This match goes to our seniors, they stepped up when we needed them to,” Skinner said. “We knew we had it in us to compete in big matches like this. Our seniors literally willed us to a win.”

Coming off of the first set loss, UK and Tennessee played another intense, competitive set which came right down to the wire. The Cats tied the set at 22 before dueling points by each team; Tennessee took two straight points at 27-27 to win.

UK continued to fight coming out of the break, winning the third set 25-14. The comeback within the comeback for the Cats came in set four, where UK finished off the set on a 16-6 run to climb back from eight down to extend the match. The fifth set was in the hands of the Cats from the first point as UK never trailed.

UK returns home to face Ole Miss on Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.