LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The No. 10 Kentucky volleyball team suffered a heartbreaking 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-15, 30-28) loss to Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday in front of 5,007 fans in a wild affair. UK claimed the opening set and the Cardinals fired back to win the next three including outlasting the Blue and White 30-28 in the fourth frame to claim the match. With tonight’s win, the home squad has claimed the match in each of the last four seasons.
“You know Louisville is always going to be ready for us,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “We had trouble with our passing and against a good blocking team it’s hard to score points if you’re not passing well.”
With the loss the Wildcats fall to 3-1 on the season and Louisville improves to 3-1 on the year. Sophomore Lauren O’Conner posted her fourth consecutive match with double-figure kills at 12. Junior Whitney Billings notched her third-straight double-double effort with 12 kills and 13 digs. Senior Stephanie Klefot eclipsed the 20-dig mark for the first time this season for a match-high 22 scoops. Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week, Alexandra Morgan, and senior Christine Hartmann both led the way at the net with six blocks apiece.
In the decisive fourth frame, neither team could shake loose for more than a two-point lead. Louisville earned six match points before finally prevailing with consecutive kills for the 30-28 lead. UK tallied 13 kills in the set, but had a match-high five blocks in the frame. Louisville kept the offense flowing with 20 kills to earn the win.
Sophomore Whitney Billings opened the scoring in the first frame with consecutive kills including a crafty placement into the front left-corner. Louisville fought back and grabbed a lead at 6-5, before the teams exchanged points back and forth. A Morgan-Hartmann rejection ignited a rally for the visitors and consecutive kills from Morgan and freshman Sara Schwarzwalder lifted UK to a 15-12 edge midway through the frame forcing Louisville into a timeout.
Out of the break the Wildcats forced the Cardinals into a hitting error before out dueling with their opponent in a tremendous rally. Senior Ashley Frazier broke the battle with excellent court vision to find a hole in the center of the court and pushing the Blue and White’s lead to 17-12. The home squad rallied back with a pair of kills to bridge the gap to three at 21-18 and the Wildcats opted to use their first timeout of the stanza.
Kentucky stretched the lead to 23-18 before the Cardinals scored three-straight points. UK took its final timeout to quell the rally. The strategy worked as O’Conner closed out the frame with her fourth kill of the set before coming up with a set-clinching ace.
UK tallied 14 kills on .256 hitting led by O’Conner’s four in the first set. Morgan had two of UK’s three blocks, and Billings led the stanza with five digs.
Louisville jumped out to a wide margin to begin the second set leading by as many as five at 11-6. Kentucky slowly chipped away at the lead to eventually utilize a 6-0 run and grab the lead at 15-14. Morgan had a pair of kills and a Billings an ace to highlight the run. Following a Louisville timeout, the Cards fought back to knot the score and the teams swapped points back and forth until the home team grabbed a one-point edge at 22-21 forcing UK to use its final timeout.
Louisville was able to score three of the final four points to grab the second set by a close 25-23 margin to knot the score at one set apiece.
The Cardinals began the third set in much the same fashion by taking an early advantage pushing ahead 13-8 and forcing the Wildcats into a timeout. Kentucky could not mount a comeback effort falling 25-15 in the third set.
Kentucky returns to action at the Ohio Tournament in Athens, Ohio beginning Friday. UK will take on the host Bobcats on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. UK will also face Oregon and Western in the round-robin tournament.