Bowling Green, Ky. — A crowd of 1,312 witnessed Kentucky and the Western Kentucky University volleyball team compete at mid-season form through the first two games Wednesday night at E.A. Diddle Arena. However, it was the Wildcats who took control in the final two games as the Lady Toppers fell 3-1 (28-30, 34-32, 21-30, 22-30) in their 2007 home opener.
“We came out of the locker room not very focused in at the start of game three, and that cost us,” said Lady Topper head coach Travis Hudson. “It was a very high-level volleyball match the first two games. Unfortunately, we broke down ball-control wise in those last two games, and it allowed Kentucky to get some separation.”
That high level of play resulted in the teams splitting a pair of two-point games in the first two contests. The Lady Toppers (3-1) grabbed the early lead in the opener before Kentucky (3-1) came back to take its first lead of the contest at 11-10 on a Queen Nzenwa kill. The opener saw 18 ties and nine lead changes as offense dominated with WKU hitting .333 in the game and UK finishing at .303. After the Lady Toppers grabbed a 25-24 lead following a Wildcat attack error, Kentucky bounced back with two straight to grab a one-point lead of its own. The Wildcats led 38-26 following a Nicole Britenricker kill, and the teams traded points as a kill from Megan Argabright brought WKU back within one at 29-28. However, a kill from Brooke Bartek gave the visitors a 30-28 victory in the first contest.
It was much of the same in game two as the second game was tied 21 teams with the teams swapping the lead 11 different times. After UK grabbed a 3-0 lead to open the game, the Lady Toppers came right back to tie things up at 6-6, and eventually open up a 14-11 lead on a Wildcat ball-handling error.
Three points would be the biggest lead for either squad during the game as they went back and forth before three straight Kentucky attack errors got the Lady Toppers to game point at 29-26. However, following a timeout, the Wildcats scored three straight to stay alive, tying things up at 29-29 on a block by Britenriker. Aquila Orr stopped the bleeding with a kill for WKU, but the teams traded points again until finding themselves deadlocked at 32-32. The Lady Toppers finally were able to break through, scoring the next two points to go into the locker room tied 1-1 after a 34-32 victory.
Unfortunately for WKU, Kentucky dominated the second half of the match, holding the Lady Toppers to a .040 hitting percentage in the final two games and recording 14 of its 19 blocks. UK stormed out to a 14-6 lead in game three, then opened up a 12-point lead when a Lady Topper attack error made it 22-10. WKU fought back, however, scoring nine of the next 11 points to pull within five at 24-19 following an Argabright kill. That would be as close as the Lady Toppers could get as UK closed on a 6-2 run for the 30-21 win.
BriAnne Sauer served the Wildcats to six straight points to open game four as the UK defense recorded four blocks in that span. WKU fought back to make it an 8-6 game following a pair of Kentucky attack errors, but the Lady Toppers were never able to get over the UK jumped back out to a nine-point lead when a block from Britenricker and Lauren Rapp made it an 18-9 game. Again, the Lady Toppers fought back, getting within three points when a service ace from Hayley Koetter cut the deficit to 21-18. But 13 attack errors and a -.058 hitting percentage was too much to overcome as Kentucky again pulled away late and closed out the match with a 30-22 win in game four.
WKU setter Julia Noe finished the match one kill shy of a triple-double as she posted nine kills, 43 assists and a team-high 12 digs in the match. Argabright and Jenna Gideon each posted a match-best 14 kills, while Gideon finished with nine total blocks. Nzenwa and Britenricker each had 14 kills to pace Kentucky, with Britenricker also adding nine digs and 12 blocks. Bartek also posted 10 kills for the Wildcats.
The Lady Toppers will look to get back in the win column this weekend as they host the annual Lady Topper Invitational at E.A. Diddle Arena, with Marshall, Gardner-Webb and Tennessee State coming to town for the two-day, round-robin event. Play opens Friday (Aug. 31) at 4 p.m. (CDT) with Gardner-Webb taking on Marshall. WKU and Tennessee State will follow at 7 p.m. Four matches are slated for Saturday (Sept. 1) with WKU opening the action against Gardner-Webb at 10 a.m., then closing out the tournament against Marshall at 7 p.m.