Volleyball wins one, loses one

The UK volleyball team says there is no other team that works as hard on the court than it does. That philosophy was put to the test yesterday, as the Cats prevailed in a tough 3-1 (34-36, 30-28, 30-27, 30-26) victory over South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.

“The statement we made today was we can outwork teams,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “We played very blue-collar.”

The victory, which came on the heels of Friday’s 3-0 loss at No. 6 Florida, improved UK’s overall record to 15-4 (6-2 Southeastern Conference). For the players, beating South Carolina showed they could bounce back from a big defeat.

“Obviously, coming out of a loss you have to respond,” said junior libero Alisa Pierce. “You have to show the other team you are not going to lose again.”

South Carolina (9-8, 2-6 SEC) seized victory in a prolonged game one to open the match. UK committed 12 attacking errors in the first game, two more than the Gamecocks did, which left the Cats facing an early deficit.

The Cats had trouble defending against South Carolina’s attacks, and junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa said that might have been an aftereffect of Friday’s loss.

“We came out slow,” Nzenwa said. “We knew South Carolina would come out firing, but we finished strong.”

After dropping the first game, the Cats rallied to win the next three and claim the match. Nzenwa’s 20 kills paced UK, and sophomore Sarah Rumely recorded a double-double with 12 digs and 65 assists.

With a share of the lead in the SEC Eastern Division on the line, UK had traveled to Gainesville to take on No. 6 Florida on Friday. But the Cats were unable to capture the division lead, falling to the Gators in three straight games (21-30, 26-30, 19-30) for their 30th consecutive loss against Florida.

Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker led the Cats with 14 kills and tallied a career-high .591 hitting percentage against the Gators. Rumely pitched in with 33 assists for the Cats.

Despite the defeat, Nzenwa said their goal of winning the SEC is still within reach.

“We can win the rest of our games,” said Nzenwa. “And we get (Florida) one more time at home. This time we know what to expect.”

Though Friday’s loss gave Florida a more solid footing at the top of the SEC, Skinner said it is still in good shape within the conference, especially after yesterday’s win.

“It’s a 20-match season (in the SEC),” Skinner said. “And we have 12 left in the conference. Yes, (winning the SEC) is attainable.”

UK resumes action over the weekend when it hosts matches against Ole Miss and Louisiana State on Friday and Sunday, respectively. A sweep of the weekend could put UK back in contention for the SEC title.