Volleyball halts losing streak


Junior middle blocker Becky Pavan spikes a ball toward Arkansas defenders in their match last year. UK won the match 3 – 0. Photo by Scott Hannigan

The UK volleyball team returned to Lexington from a weekend road trip to Louisiana State and Arkansas, having split a pair of Southeastern Conference matches.

UK (9-9, 3-5 SEC) began its trip by falling to the defending conference champion LSU Tigers, but rebounded two days later by defeating the Razorbacks in Fayetteville.

“We had a good practice on Saturday,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “Our offense executed as well as it has all season against Arkansas to get us the win.”

The Cats began their road trip in Baton Rouge, La., falling in straight sets to the Tigers 25-13, 25-21, 25-22. Once again, the Cats were slow out of the gates, struggling to gain any momentum in the first set. In the second and third sets, the Cats played LSU close, but in the end were unable to prevail. It was the Cats’ third consecutive straight-set loss.

“As weird as it seems, I thought we made a lot of progress Friday against LSU,” Skinner said. “We lost 3-0, but we had chances up until about point 20 in the last two games. I thought we played better than we had the last couple of matches, and I thought we had a bit of a turning point there. Now it’s just about capitalizing on the opportunities you get at the end of close games to win them.”

The Cats snapped their losing streak Sunday against Arkansas, defeating the Razorbacks in four sets 25-21, 25-15, 21-25, 25-17. Junior Becky Pavan notched a career-high 19 kills in the victory, and sophomore setter Christine Hartmann recorded a career-high 50 assists.

As a team, UK had one of its best offensive performances of the season to match their normally consistent defense. The usually slow-starting Cats came out on fire in the first set, recording 19 kills in the opening set alone.

“I think everything is more mental,” Pavan said. “It got to the point where you want to win every game and at this point I just had it in my mind that we were going to pummel this team. We went out there, and I went out there, with it in my mind that I wanted to beat this team by as much as possible.”

UK will return home next week, as it prepares for matches against Alabama and Mississippi State this weekend at Memorial Coliseum. Mississippi State is currently sitting at 2-5 in the SEC, and Alabama has a 1-6 record in conference. The teams are fifth and sixth, respectively, in the SEC Western Division standings. The Cats understand the importance of their upcoming home stand.

“I know (the team) is practicing pretty well,” Skinner said. “Their concentration is good, we are learning things, focusing on fundamentals and basics, and I think that’s turning into better execution.”

The players echo their coach’s sentiments.

“We are really excited to be playing at home again, we love playing at Memorial,” Pavan said. “I want to go off the good note we took from Arkansas and just go out and beat Alabama and Mississippi State.”