Cats suffer first home loss

The UK volleyball team’s perfect home record came to an end yesterday at Memorial Coliseum.

The Cats fell to Alabama 3-2 (30-25, 24-30, 27-30, 30-27, 10-15), snapping a 12-game winning streak at home dating back to last season. The Cats’ home record also fell to 5-1 after the loss.

“It’s important to win at home,” junior libero Alisha Pierce said. “It gets the fans pumped.”

The Cats (10-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) raced out to a 12-6 lead in game one. Alabama (5-6, 2-0 SEC) staged a comeback, tying the game 20-20 before the Cats finally put the Crimson Tide away 30-25.

“At first we came out playing Kentucky volleyball,” sophomore outside hitter Brooke Bartek said. “But we didn’t execute like we could have.”

The Cats lost their momentum in game two when they were unable to break away from Alabama early in the game. Alabama capitalized on UK’s mistakes to eventually lead 19-13. UK got within a point, but Alabama ended the game with an 8-1 run to tie the match at 1-1. Bartek paced the Cats with nine kills while sophomore setter Sarah Rumely added three service aces.

“We need to practice better and train better this week,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “Every rep matters.”

Game three didn’t bode well for UK either, as the Cats could never overtake the Crimson Tide. The Cats consistently stayed with Alabama, tying the game at 19-19, but the Cats eventually lost 30-27.

“Statistically, we were better than Alabama,” Skinner said. “Mechanically, we weren’t.”

UK fought to stay alive in the match, winning game four 30-27. UK trailed until a 22-22 tie gave the Cats the momentum they needed to win the match. Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker helped the Cats tie the match at 2-2 with a .625 hitting percentage in game four.

Even with the momentum in their favor, the Cats fell apart in game five. Alabama used a four-point run to put UK down 11-7 and never looked back while ending the match with a 15-10 win.

“We need to stay focused,” Bartek said. “We can’t hang our heads, but we have to learn from this.”

The loss might have been an awakening for the Cats, who will need to play better in conference play, Pierce said.

“We are in a spot we wouldn’t want to be in (with the loss),” Pierce said. “This shows you can’t play mediocre in the SEC.”

UK opened SEC play Friday with a 3-1 win over Mississippi State. It was the third straight SEC opener win for the Cats, who played in front of the sixth-largest crowd in school history.