Cats to take on No. 1 Nebraska volleyball



By Nick Gray

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The Ameritas Players Invitational, starting Thursday at the University of Nebraska, will provide the UK volleyball team with its sternest test to date.

The Cats will compete against Duquesne (7-1), Oklahoma (5-2) and No. 1 Nebraska (5-0) over the three-day tournament, its third consecutive weekend playing in a four-team, round-robin invitational tournament.

UK went 2-1 last weekend, with wins over Ohio and Western Carolina. A cause of concern is the only loss, which was a dominating three-set sweep by then No. 17 Oregon, where the Cats had season lows in blocks and digs. UK struggled against the Oregon attack, unable to defend against the Ducks’ 51 kills and .500 attacking percentage.

“We were not ready to perform that day,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “It was all parts of the game. It was not just one thing.”

“Oregon is a good team and we need to be ready to compete when we end up on the floor and get our players experience against good teams like that.”

Skinner has preached since the Blue and White Scrimmage about his team’s defense. Defense was a focal point during the preseason, Skinner said, and is the key to success for the team.

It will not be easy to defend the top-ranked Huskers. Nebraska averages 15.1 kills per set over the early part of the season and features three women who average more than three kills a set on attack, the strength of the team. Also, Nebraska has already upset defending NCAA Champion and then-No. 1 UCLA 3-1 11 days ago.

“We are a very physical team and have a lot of experience in four or five positions on the floor and very green in the other two positions. It will be a very physical battle in a great volleyball environment so it will be a fun match,” Skinner said. “Anytime you play the No. 1 ranked team in the country, they are going to be very physical and able to do things around the net, so your defense has to be well prepared.”

Skinner did laud Duquesne and Oklahoma as well, saying that his team has “to focus on Duquesne and Oklahoma, who are two very good teams in their own right.”

Oklahoma features a strong defense (2.83 blocks per set) while Duquesne is a solid all-around team that averages more than 13 kills a set (13.39).

UK will face Duquesne on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., Oklahoma on Friday at 7 p.m. and Nebraska on Saturday at 5 p.m.