Nov. 14, 2008
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Despite a strong effort by redshirt senior Belita Salters, South Carolina could not overcome the 22nd-ranked Kentucky Wildcats in a 25-19, 25-16, 25-18 loss in Memorial Coliseum on Friday evening.
Salters led the Gamecocks (19-7, 10-6 SEC) with a .467 hitting percentage and eight kills. Junior Ivana Kujundzic also had eight kills in the loss. Junior libero Sarah Cline had 12 digs, while sophomore Hannah Lawing added 11. Sarah Mendoza topped the Wildcats (24-4, 15-2) with 12 kills and a match-best 16 digs. Queen Nzenwa added 10 kills on a .471 clip, tops in the match. Becky Pavan had seven kills and seven block assists, while setter Sarah Rumely made seven kills, seven digs, six blocks and 29 assists on the match. Libero BriAnne Sauer had 10 digs.
Four early Kentucky attacking errors and a Lawing kill on an overpass gave South Carolina a 5-0 lead early. But Kentucky came back, eventually taking a 12-10 lead behind five kills by Mendoza. The Gamecocks tied it up at 15-15 after a Salters kill and a Lawing ace. A three-point Wildcat run, which included a block and dump by Rumely, swung the momentum back to UK, forcing South Carolina to use its final timeout at 18-15. A block by Rumely and Pavan pushed the lead to four before Salters stopped it with a thunderous kill. Three-consecutive Kentucky errors brought the Gamecocks to within one at 20-19. Out of the Kentucky timeout, the Wildcats would go on a five-point skein to wrap up the first, 25-19. Pavan and Lauren Rapp both had a kill and combined for the set-clinching block. Mendoza had six kills and seven digs, while Rumely added three kills, four digs and 10 assists in the first.
South Carolina had an 8-5 lead in the second, but the Wildcats erased that on a four-point run to put them up 11-9. The Gamecocks tied it up at 12-12 after kills by Lawing and Kujundzic. Kentucky took four of the next five points, including two on Pavan kills, to take the advantage back at 16-13. A four-point string made it 21-15 for the hosts before sophomore Megan Laughlin got a kill to snap it. But the Wildcats would not be denied as Nzenwa had two kills in the final stretch to give UK the 25-16 set two win. Nzenwa had five kills in the frame on six attacks. For the second-consecutive frame, the Gamecocks hit .000, compared to .387 this frame for the Wildcats.
Three Gamecock blocks helped the squad take a 10-7 advantage in the third set. Kentucky called a timeout to stop a three-point South Carolina run, and it worked. Seven points later, the Wildcats had a 14-10 lead, with two kills and a block assist for Rapp in the stretch. A Laughlin kill and ace made it 14-12, but consecutive Mendoza kills put the UK advantage back to four at 18-14. The Gamecocks got within two again at 18-16, but the Wildcats would take seven of the final nine points, five on blocks, to take the set, 25-18. Seven Kentucky blocks held the Gamecocks under .100 for the third-straight frame.
For the match, South Carolina had more digs than Kentucky, but the Wildcats had more kills, assists, aces and blocks and hit for a better average.
The Gamecocks take on Tennessee on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn. The match will be shown on FOX Sports Net South and other regional networks at 3:30 p.m. ET.