LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind the defensive prowess of sophomore Gretchen Giesler and the offensive production from junior Lauren Rapp the 10th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats marched to a 3-0 (25-13, 25-19, 25-12) sweep of South Carolina on Friday. With the victory Kentucky achieved its 27th win of the season to up its win total for the fifth consecutive season under head coach Craig Skinner.
Kentucky (27-2, 17-1) turned in another complete team effort to earn the victory. Giesler rejected nine South Carolina attacks and Rapp led the offense with 11 kills on a match-high .611 hitting percentage.
“It was a pretty consistent effort tonight,” Skinner said. “Offensively, limiting ourselves to just 10 hitting errors I think is pretty important in matches as we go down the stretch. A lot of people got involved and I thought it was a great team win.”
Rapp scorched the Gamecocks with a match-high 11 kills on a sizzling .611 hitting percentage. She accounted for her kill total on just 18 attempts with no errors. Sophomore Sarah Mendoza added 10 kills and junior Blaire Hiler chipped in with eight. Giesler led the front line defense with the nine blocks, but she also added seven kills to score a match-best 12.5 points on the night.
Nine UK players struck for at least one kill and senior Sarah Rumely passed out 36 assists and added four blocks of her own. Senior libero BriAnne Sauer and freshman Stephanie Klefot each had 15 digs to lead the back line defense.
UK opened the match with a 25-13 set one victory. Kentucky registered a match-high six blocks in the stanza while holding South Carolina to a -.077 hitting percentage. Kentucky tossed down 11 kills on .321 hitting. The Blue and White yielded just two hitting errors while South Carolina misfired on 12 attempts.
Kentucky rolled to a 6-0 early lead as the Blue and White scored three kills and a block in the opening points of the set. UK took a 16-10 advantage midway through the set and would limit the Gamecocks to just two points as the Wildcats rattled off a 9-2 run to end the set.
The Wildcats began the second set by capturing the first two points of the set behind a kills from Rapp and Klefot. South Carolina fought back to tie the score at four, but the home squad wasted little time in response with a kill from Giesler. South Carolina maintained poise and tied the score once again at 13, however UK would immediately score the next point on a kill from Hiler to recapture the lead. The Wildcats would never again allow South Carolina within two points the rest of the way as Hiler ended the stanza with another thunderous kill for a 25-19 win.
UK posted a staggering 19 blocks in the frame with Hiler leading the way with six hammers. Rapp totaled six to aid the Wildcat cause. Kentucky charted a .333 attack percentage on 42 attempts. South Carolina struck for .154 and 11 kills in the set.
The Gamecocks opened the scoring in the third set with one of the few erroneous attempts by a UK attacker. Kentucky knotted the score with a tap from Rumely. South Carolina earned its first lead of the match at 5-4, but the Wildcats answered with consecutive kills from Rapp to regain the advantage. A 9-0 run in the middle of the set propelled the Wildcats to an easy 19-7 lead. UK would never look back rolling to a match-clinching 25-12 win.
Kentucky hit a match-high .406 in the set with 16 kills led by four kills apiece from Mendoza and Rapp. Kentucky had four blocks in the set, with Giesler in on all four rejections. South Carolina had a mere nine kills on .028 hitting.
Under Skinner the Wildcats have not only posted five straight seasons of 17 or more wins and three consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins, but the Blue and White have increased its win total in each of those five seasons. Skinner has led UK to 17 wins in 2005, 19 in 2006, 22 in 2007, 26 in 2008 and now 27 wins in 2009.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday when it plays host to the 13th-ranked Florida Gators. Match time is set for a 2:05 p.m. ET start aired live on Fox Sports South. Sunday will also mark Senior Day for three UK seniors. Brooke Bartek, Sarah Rumely and BriAnne Sauer will play their final home matches Sunday.
For the most up-to-date news, highlights and features about the Kentucky volleyball team please visit UKathletics.com.