Kentucky Downs Auburn Volleyball 3-0 in SEC Opener
Sept. 16, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sarah Bullock had a season-high 14 kills, but the Auburn volleyball team fell in straight sets on Friday night, dropping a 3-0 (19-25, 12-25, 22-25) decision to the Kentucky Wildcats before 1,389 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
The Tigers (6-5, 0-1 SEC) dropped their SEC opener for third time in six seasons and fell to 3-12 all-time in Lexington. Kentucky (10-2, 1-0) won its eighth in a row, taking 24 of 25 sets in that stretch.
"Kentucky is a good team," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said, "and the difference for us is that we've got to put more pressure on them with our serve. We let them stay in system a little too much, and any team that stays in system is tough to play. We understand that it's a game of serve and serve-receive, they beat us in that area tonight, and that's going to win most times."
Bullock's 14 kills were the most in a three-set match by a Tiger this year and tied for the most in any match, matching Kelly Fidero's 14 in a five-set win over FIU. Bullock also had four digs in the match. Fidero, meanwhile, had eight kills. MacKenzy Harper had 11 digs to lead the Tigers, and Sarah Wroblicky had 10. Chelsea Wintzinger led Auburn with 28 assists, getting the majority of the touches as the Tigers ran a 5-1 offense for the first time this season.
In the service game, Auburn had two aces but made four errors, while Kentucky scored four service aces (along with eight errors). Kentucky hit .330 in the match to Auburn's .118, and had 42 kills to the Tigers' 34. Both teams had 41 digs, with Kentucky holding a 7-4 advantage in blocks.
Auburn had some momentum early in the first set after two kills by Vesela Zapryanova put the Tigers ahead 6-5. But things seemed to turn when a would-be ace from Harper was overturned when the Kentucky libero collided with the line judge trying to play a bad pass. Instead of a 7-5 Tiger lead, a replay was called and the Wildcats went on a 6-0 run, forcing Auburn into a timeout. It proved to be the turning point in the set as Kentucky went on to take a 25-19 victory. The Tigers hit just .054 in the set compared to .379 by the Wildcats; however, Bullock did have seven of the Tigers' 12 kills to lead all hitters.
The second set was more of the same as Kentucky rode a 15-3 run to a 25-12 win and a two-set lead in the match. Auburn had just seven kills along with seven errors for a .000 hitting percentage in the set while Kentucky racked up 12 kills with just two errors, hitting .345 in the game. Six of the Tigers' seven hitting errors were courtesy of Kentucky blocks.
Set number three, however, was a fight to the finish. The teams traded leads throughout the first several rallies with Kentucky finally gaining the upper hand at 15-11, forcing an Auburn timeout. But from there, the Tigers would go on a 6-2 run, punctuated by a block from Camila Jersonsky and Fidero to tie the game at 17-17. Auburn took its first late lead at 19-18 off a kill from Courtney McDonald, and McDonald then delivered a second straight kill to make it 20-18. After a Kentucky error to give the Tigers a three-point lead, the Wildcats called timeout. But from that point, the Wildcats would finish on a 7-1 run - two kills from Lauren O'Connor and a service ace ended the game - to take a 25-22 decision and a sweep in the match. Auburn had its best hitting percentage of the match at .278 with 15 kills and just five errors.
"I thought we made some adjustments before game three and we made some good runs," Nold said. "But right at the end, we let them off the hook. They made a run, and that's what a good team does."
The Tigers will conclude a season-long nine-match road swing Sunday with a trip to Knoxville, Tenn., to face the Tennessee Lady Vols. First serve is set for 12:30 p.m. CT at Thompson-Boling Arena.
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