Sophomore trio’s effort not enough to topple Wichita State
WICHITA, Kan. – The No. 21 Kentucky Wildcats fell in a tough, five-set match, 3-2 (14-25, 26-24, 25-15, 23-25, 12-15), to the Wichita State Shockers late Friday night.
After four sets, the Wildcats and Shockers found themselves tied with two sets a piece, the final frame deciding the match. UK jumped out to a 4-1 lead early on, forcing a Wichita State timeout. The two sides tussled, trading points until Kentucky grabbed a five-point lead on a block from sophomores Emily Franklin and Sharay Barnes to give the Wildcats a 9-4 advantage. The resilient Wichita State squad leapt out on a 6-1 run in order to tie the match back at 10-10. The Shockers would go on to complete the upset, taking five of the final seven points to win the fifth set and match, 12-15.
“I’m really proud of how Darian [Mack], Sharay [Barnes] and Kaz [Brown] impacted the match,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “Their offensive production was important and gave us another chance to be successful. Unfortunately we’re working through some situations where we have different people playing in new positions, and we have to be able to execute better at the end [of sets]. I thought we improved a lot today. Our second match we were much better than our first and tomorrow we have a chance to get back on the court tomorrow and get better.”
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 4-5 on the season, as Wichita State progresses to 6-3. The Wildcats wrap up the Shocker Volleyball Classic tomorrow, when they face the Huskies of Northern Illinois at 6:30 p.m.
The sophomore trio of Barnes, Mack and Brown paced the Wildcats offense. Barnes had a career night in her first start of the season, nearly tripling her previous single-game best six kills with 16 against the Shockers. The Swathmore, Pennsylvania product hit a team-high .406 with only three errors in her 32 attempts while adding a block and a dig. Mack joined Barnes with 16 kills, while also registering 11 digs for her third double-double of the season. Mack also contributed three assists, two blocks and an ace in the effort. Brown remained consistent, slamming home 15 kills in the match and tacking on six blocks in the five-setter.
Senior setter Morgan Bergren led the Wildcats in assists with 46 while adding five kills of her own. She logged five blocks, a season best, and contributed four digs and an ace. Freshman Anna Nyberg logged six kills and six blocks in the match, while sophomore Emily Franklin had four kills and five blocks.
Sophomore libero Ashley Dusek made it eight consecutive matches with double-figure digs, logging 15 in the match, closely followed by freshman defensive specialist McKenzie Watson with 14, and Mack with 11. Dusek also had four assists, while Watson dished three helpers and had an ace. Sophomore defensive specialist Harper Hempel had four digs, an assist and a kill in five sets of action.
Set No. 1 started in UK’s favor, with the Wildcats opening on a 4-1 run. The tide turned as Wichita State had a 5-2 run in the Shockers’ favor to tie the match at 6-6. Wichita State went on to take six of the next seven points, opening the lead to 12-7. The Cats closed the gap to four before Wichita State closed out the set with a 9-4 run for a final score of 14-25.
The closest-contested set of the evening featured 16 ties and five lead changes en route to a 26-24 Kentucky victory. The set was a tug-of-war throughout, with neither side ever leading by more than three. Barnes and Mack powered the UK offense in the second with a combined 12 kills. UK hit a set-high .441 in the second.
Kentucky ran away in the third set, holding the Shockers to .026 hitting in the frame. After trailing 3-6, the Cats tied the match at 11-11 before rolling on a 14-4 run to close out the third set. Kentucky hit .360 in the set while also registering four team blocks. UK took the final three points of the set to claim it, 25-15.
The fourth frame resembled the second, the contest tight from wire-to-wire and neither team gaining a significant advantage throughout. Brown’s play led the Cats in the fourth, putting up seven kills and three blocks (two solos), but a kill by Wichita State’s Jody Larson gave the Shockers a 23-25 win.
See paragraph two.
By the Numbers
.441 – The Wildcats hit a set-high .441 in the second, a single-set best for UK this season
16 – Sophomore Sharay Barnes had a career night, posting 16 kills in the five-set match
15 – Three UK players in Barnes, Darian Mack and Kaz Brown posted 15 or more kills in the match
7 – Ashley Dusek now has seven consecutive games with double-figure digs after logging 15 tonight
3 – With 16 kills and 11 digs, Darian Mack recorded her third double-double of 2015
.026 – The Wildcats held Wichita State to just a .026 hitting percentage while rolling to a 25-15 victory in the third set
Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 11-12. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Omaha, Neb., from the Lexington Region. This marks the third time in five seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.