UK volleyball prevails in intrastate battle


The UK volleyball team plays Ole Miss and Arkansas. Photo by Scott Hannigan

In a game which could have held the attention of the entire commonwealth of Kentucky, UK and intrastate rival Louisville failed to disappoint fans at Memorial Coliseum on the volleyball court Wednesday night.

In a dramatic five-set marathon, UK earned its first win of the season in a come-from-behind fashion 14-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 15-10.

“We didn’t start well,” senior Lauren Rapp said. “It couldn’t have been much worse. But we played with more heart than I have ever seen us play with to win this match.”

The Cats got off to a poor start, falling behind 7-0 to start the first set, and were unable to shake themselves out of their situation. After failing to land many of their serves inbounds, and sloppy passing by the back line created few spike opportunities, UK again struggled to put points on the board, posting just 14 for the set.

“We have had games like this where we start slow,” senior Blaire Hiler said. “But we have always come back. We have a lot of heart.”

But when the second set began, however, fans at Memorial Coliseum saw an entirely new UK team. In this set, it was the Cats who got off to a quick start, jumping out to an early 6-2 lead. With improved blocking and defense, and strong spikes on offense, the Cats took off running, winning the set in convincing way.

Once both teams had taken the other’s best shot, the Cats and the Cardinals each began to settle into a rhythm. For much of the third set, the two teams went back and forth. The scoring was fairly even. UK finished the set well, going on an 11-5 run to close it out and take a commanding two sets to one lead. But Louisville rallied, winning a dramatic fourth set to even out the match again.

Having blown three match points late in the fourth set, UK’s youth and immaturity showed as the Cats started slow in the fifth set. But after an early timeout by UK head coach Craig Skinner, the Cats came roaring back to clinch the set and the match behind the support of a deafening crowd.

“The crowd gets me pretty pumped,” said freshman Whitney Billings, one of the team’s most vocal players on the court. “I try and spread that to my teammates.”

After losing the first two games of their season, UK was left searching for an identity. With Sarah Rumley, Sarah Mendoza and BriAnne Sauer gone from last year’s team, it has been up to a new crop of seniors to take leadership of this rather inexperienced UK squad, including Rapp and Hiler.

“The veterans stepped up (against Louisville),” Hiler said. “We just all told the team we could do this.”

UK will look to build off of their first win this weekend when they host the Kentucky Classic. The two day event includes matches against Miami University, the University of South Florida, and Ohio State.

“You better not leave your seat (when Kentucky is playing) or you are going to miss something,” Skinner said. “This team can compete. They are not afraid to give up.”