Volleyball runs by the Great Danes

By Keith Buckhout

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The UK volleyball team will head into their Southeastern Conference schedule riding a six-match winning streak after fighting off the University of Albany for a 3-1 victory at Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night in the final match of the UK Invitational.

“It’s pretty cool to know we’re on a six match winning streak and we still can continue to get better,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I think we’re a little bit inconsistent at times, and we need to continue to grow as a team and play every point like it’s the last point.”

The Cats were able to jump out to an early two set lead after earning 25-19 and 25-20 victories in the first two sets. In both sets Albany found enough opportunities to keep the game close, but the Cats were able to use their height advantage at the net.

Four different players recorded three kills for UK in the first set, while sophomore middle blocker Lauren Rapp dominated in the second set blasting six kills at the Albany defense. Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Mendoza complimented Rapp’s attack with four kills of her own.

Despite UK’s early dominance, the Cats struggled to keep their composure in the third set, and Albany was able to open up a 17-10 lead.

After falling behind early, the Cats were able to find their game from the first two sets and recapture the lead after an Albany service error.

But even after the Cats eventually tied the match at 21, the Great Danes refused to fold. UK failed to use its size advantage at the net as Albany junior outside hitter Valerie Sourbeer recorded two kills to help Albany hold on for the 25-23 win, and send the match to a fourth set.

UK got back to a more consistent attack in the fourth set, looking to Queen Nzenwa and freshman middle blocker Becky Pavan, as the two torched Albany for eight of the Cats 15 fourth set kills.

With the fourth set tied at 22, the Cats relied on Rapp, as she registered a kill and a block to close out the match for a 25-22 victory.

Pavan finished the match with nine kills and a block, while Mendoza added a double-double of 11 kills and 13 digs, but it was Lauren Rapp who led the Cats with her third career double-double of 14 kills and 10 digs and registering a .364 attack percentage. Rapp was named the UK Invitational MVP.

“As a team we played with more intensity,” Rapp said. “With that we all raised our play, and I was just glad it happened with me especially.”

That increased intensity led to a defensive effort that Skinner was also pleased with after the team registered a season high 18 blocks. He says his team’s defense should be something the team is known for even with an array of offensive weapons.

“I really like the balance of this team. I think we have a lot of people who can score at any time, and I think that makes it difficult for other teams to defend us,” Skinner said. “When were on, we’re special.”