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Kentucky volleyball suffers 3-2 defeat in NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen

Kentucky Wildcats outside hitter Erin Lamb (13) waits during the Kentucky vs. Pitt volleyball match on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky lost 3-0. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff

Kentucky volleyball (21-8) fell to the Arkansas Razorbacks (28-5) in a five set battle in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, ending the Wildcats’ 2023 season.

With the loss, the Wildcats also had their 18-match win streak snapped.

Eleanor Beavin, Emma Grome, Reagan Rutherford, Elise Goetzinger, Molly Tuozzo, Azhani Tealer and Brooklyn DeLeye started the match for the Cats.

The first set began with Kentucky using a three-point run to jump out to a 3-1 lead.

The Razorbacks responded with back-to-back points before the Wildcats went on another three-point run to gain a 6-3 lead.

Kentucky continued to play keep away with the lead, but the Razorbacks crept closer with a four-point run to bring the score to 12-11.

This did not phase Kentucky as it went on a six-point run to pull away in the first set. Despite that, Arkansas would not go down without a fight as it went on a five-point run late in the set to bring the score to 24-22.

A kill by the senior Rutherford secured the first set for Kentucky by a score of 25-22.

Kentucky defensive specialist Audrey Whitworth digs a ball during the Kentucky vs. Baylor volleyball game on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 3-0. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff (Sydney Yonker)

The second set opened with Kentucky jumping out to a 4-1 lead.

The Razorbacks kept the set close and used a three-point run to propel them to a 7-6 lead.

The Wildcats proved to be resilient again as they responded with a three-point run of their own to take a 9-7 lead.

The seesaw battle continued with Arkansas going on another three-point run to reclaim a 10-9 lead.

Both teams continued trading scores and runs back-and-forth until the Razorbacks went on a three-point run to take a 22-20 lead late in the set.

Kentucky was able to counter by taking back-to-back points, but another three-point run secured the set for the Razorbacks 25-22 and evened the match 1-1.

Finding itself in the pivotal third set, Kentucky started by taking the first point, but got behind after surrendering a four-point run to the Razorbacks.

This was repeated throughout the set as the Razorbacks used a five-point run, two four-point runs and two three-point runs to take the set by a score of 25-15.

Now facing elimination, the Wildcats took the opening two points of the fourth set.

As the set progressed, Arkansas broke a 7-7 tie with a two-point run as it looked to close out the match.

Despite this, Kentucky was able to seize momentum with a three-point run to take a 10-9 lead.

Much like other moments in the match, Arkansas would not lay down as it was able to tie the set at 11-all before the Cats used a three-point run to take a 14-11 lead and did not look back.

DeLeye used an assist from Grome for a kill to take the fourth set by a score of 25-22 and force a deciding fifth set.

With both teams now in a race to 15 points to keep their seasons alive, the Razorbacks gained the advantage quickly by taking a 5-1 lead.

Kentucky tried its best to battle back and was able to get within one point with an 8-7 score, but a three-point swing by the Razorbacks gave them an 11-7 lead.

The deficit was ultimately too much for the Wildcats to comeback from as they fell in the set 15-10.

A season-high 31 attack errors, 10 service errors and a .184 kill percentage proved to be costly for the Cats.

DeLeye led the team with 16 kills and was one of the four Wildcats in double figure kills. She was joined by Erin Lamb with 15, Tealer with 12 and Rutherford with 11.

The loss marked the end of the season for the Wildcats and also potentially the final match in blue and white for seniors Rutherford, Goetzinger, and Riah Walker, as well as fifth-year senior Tealer.

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Jonathon Bruner, Assistant Sports Editor

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    JimDec 7, 2023 at 7:45 pm

    Nice job.Like the Cats and the Kernel