Volleyball advances to Sweet 16



The UK volleyball team eliminated No. 16-seeded Texas A&M from the NCAA Tournament Friday, 25-18, 25-21, 25-19, at Reed Arena. The Cats advance to the Sweet Sixteen on Dec. 9, where they will play No. 1 Texas.

UK head coach Craig Skinner said he expected his team to perform well going into the game against A&M.

“For whatever reason, I had a feeling on the bus coming over here that we were pretty focused and ready to go,” Skinner said. “I’m real excited, not just because we won the match but how we performed tonight.”

Although A&M scored the first point of the match, UK started the game with more energy and took the early lead. Junior libero Stephanie Klefot was UK’s emotional catalyst to extend the lead in the first set to 15-11. Junior hitter Ashley Frazier served an ace followed by a service error that left the UK advantage at 17-13. Another couple of points for the Cats forced the Aggies to take their second timeout while trailing 19-13.

A&M came out of the timeout with a newfound energy, but UK never relinquished its lead with a .441 hitting percentage and 11 blocks to win the first game, 25-18. UK junior Christine Hartmann said the coaches prepared effective scouting reports.

“Our coaches do a great job of getting us ready to go and I don’t think there was anything that we weren’t expecting,” Hartmann said. “(A&M’s Lindsey Miller) played great against us but we knew it was coming.”

UK withstood a 4-1 A&M run early in the second set to take a 2-0 lead.

Another quick start for UK in the third set led the Aggies to call a timeout after falling behind 10-4. A&M battled back to cut the UK lead to 13-11 before the Cats called a timeout of their own. A&M rode a string of points to take the lead at 18-17.

Tension mounted when UK’s Billings blocked a spike from A&M’s Black, seeming to take back momentum from the surging Aggies. UK scored five consecutive points to finish the match and A&M’s season.

Billings helped UK advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament with 17 kills on a .400 hitting percentage. She said playing at Memorial Coliseum will play in the Cats’ favor.

“That’s a huge advantage for us,” Billings said. “Obviously we’re going to have a big opponent (but) our fans are very loyal and they get us in to it.”