KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 23 Tennessee used 46 kills to get by Kentucky, 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-22) Wednesday night in Knoxville, Tenn. For the first time in nine meetings between the two schools extra sets were not needed to determine a winner.
The Wildcats (8-7, 2-3) began the match sizzling and clicking on all cylinders and earning a four-point lead midway through the opening set. However, Tennessee was able use a 6-0 run to capture a lead and win the opening set.
“I really liked the way that we started the match,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “If we had been able to capitalize on that early start it would have changed the progression of the match. This team is thinking too much out on the court, and it really just needs to compete and react. We have to find a way to do that in the gym.”
Senior Blaire Hiler paced the offense for the Wildcats with 12 kills and a pair of blocks. Junior Ann Armes chipped in with eight kills and eight digs, while senior Lauren Rapp had six kills and a team-high three rejections. Setter Christine Hartmann dished out 26 assists and had five kills on .444 hitting.
Freshman Jessi Greenberg matched a career-high with nine digs while sophomore Stephanie Klefot scooped up a match-high 15 digs from the back row. Junior Gretchen Giesler came off the bench to play outside hitter midway through the second set and used her opportunity to shine. Giesler had four kills on .300 hitting.
“I was really proud of the way that Gretchen came in to a new position and played her heart out,” Skinner said. “That’s a great mentality to have as an athlete.”
For just the third time this season Kentucky was out-blocked. The Lady Vols scored seven points off of rejections, while UK had four in the match.
Tennessee scored the opening point of the match off of a kill, but UK fired right back with a kill from Hiler. The opening portion of the first stanza the teams exchanged points back-and-forth until Kentucky captured a two-point edge at 11-9. Hartmann found a gap in the middle of the defense and then the Wildcats forced the home team into an erroneous attack for the two-point swing.
After a Lady Vol timeout, Kentucky continued its run with three more points to earn a 14-9 lead. The 5-0 run was capped off by another kill from Hiler. The Blue and White maintain its lead until Tennessee scored consecutive points to inch closer at 18-16. After a Kentucky timeout, Tennessee was able to pull to within one at 18-17 and eventually knot the score once again at 19-19. The back-and-forth battle broke at 23-22 with Tennessee capturing its first lead since 5-4 in the early going with its 17th kill of the set. The home team would go on to score the next two points to claim the first set by a 25-22 margin.
Tennessee totaled 18 kills on .260 hitting. Kentucky posted 15 kills on a .229 hitting percentage while committing just four attacking errors. Hiler paced UK in the opening stanza with six hammers.
The Lady Vols opened the second set by earning the firs point to take the early edge. The teams exchanged points until the home squad posted a 10-4 run and capture a 14-8 lead forcing Kentucky to use its second timeout of the set. Tennessee closed out the set on a 15-11 run to earn a 2-0 lead after a 25-15 set two win.
Kentucky charted 11 kills on a mere .086 hitting clip. Tennessee posted 12 kills on .300 hitting in the set. Hartmann had three kills in the frame to continue to keep the defense honest.
Giesler’s kill began the scoring in the third set as Kentucky took an early 4-1 lead. Tennessee quickly responded by chipping away at Kentucky’s lead and eventually captured its first lead of the set at 6-5. After Kentucky scored consecutive points to tie the score at nine, Tennessee scored three out of the next four points to gain a 13-10 advantage. The Blue and White scored three consecutive points including a pair of Hiler kills to pull to within one at 18-17 and forcing Tennessee to use a timeout. Out of the break Tennessee responded by scoring to break the Wildcats’ run. Tennessee earned match-point at 24-20 and UK staved off the match twice behind a wild attack by the home team and then the senior duo of Rapp and Hiler posted a rejection. Tennessee took the opportunity to use its final timeout with UK rallying. Tennessee won the match out of the timeout as UK served a ball long to end the run at 25-22.
The Blue and White return home for the first time in three matches, Sunday Oct. 3. Kentucky will host the Ole Miss Rebels for a 1:30 p.m. ET match. The match will be UK’s Dig for the Cure match. All of the proceeds benefit breast cancer research, treatment, and education at the Markey Cancer Center. Fans can earn admission for just one dollar if you wear pink to the match.
Follow along all season long with the Wildcats at UKathletics.com.