Cats roll, down Gamecocks 3-1


UK Volleyball vs South Carolina in Memorial Coliseum Sunday September 19, 2010. Photo by Ian Hamilton

By Ethan Levine

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UK volleyball is officially on the board in the Southeastern Conference standings.

UK (7-5, 1-1 SEC) notched its first conference win of the 2010 season Sunday against the visiting South Carolina Gamecocks in four sets 25-20, 25-10, 21-25, 25-20. After the Cats dropped their SEC opener Friday night against the number three ranked Florida Gators, the Cats looked like a team focused and determined to win their first conference match of the young season.

“It was really exciting,” senior Lauren Rapp said. “It was a great turnaround from Friday. I am just excited for the team and hope to carry this over into next weekend.”

The Cats came out strong in the first two sets of the match, executing both offensively and defensively. After a back and forth first set, UK focused to finish off South Carolina and take the set. The players carried that focus into the second set, during which the Gamecocks hardly challenged them.

But after taking a commanding two sets to none lead, South Carolina regrouped and rallied to stay alive in the match and force a fourth set.

“I told (the team) that it’s going to be a challenge now, it’s going to be a battle,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said regarding the third set. “You put South Carolina in a position to make it a match, and you really have to refocus and regrind.”

And that is exactly what the Cats did, taking the fourth set by force to win the match.

On Friday night, the Cats played for a crowd of more than 2,000 hometown fans at Memorial Coliseum for their conference opener against Florida. They came charging out of the tunnel all the way to a first set victory 25-18.

But UK was unable to keep that intensity throughout the rest of the match as the Gators, the perennial conference favorite, pulled away to win the next three sets to take the match.

The Cats rebounded against South Carolina, playing some of the cleanest volleyball they have played all year, both offensively and defensively.

Sophomore Stephanie Klefot led UK with 21 digs. The Cats’ front line of Anne Armes, Whitney Billings, Blaire Hiler and Lauren Rapp each notched double-digit kills for the match. One surprise of the match was the insertion of Elizabeth Koberstein into the starting lineup as the setter. She recorded 48 assists for the match as well as a service ace in the first set.

“I made the decision to start Elizabeth this morning,” Skinner said. “I felt like we needed a boost offensively, and Elizabeth has been doing a nice job.”

The Cats will look to build off the momentum of the win as they hit the road next weekend for matches against Auburn, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I actually don’t mind the road,” Skinner said. “It’s a good test, it brings the team together, and they stay pretty focused on the road. It’s just another test for us.”