Oct 7, 2012 6:48 PM
Despite a career-high 18 kills from Kentucky sophomore Lauren O'Conner the No. 11 Florida Gators overcame a 2-0 deficit to capture a 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-8) win over visiting Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. The loss snaps a four-match winning streak by the Blue and White.
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 10-7 overall and 4-3 in Southeastern Conference action. Florida improves to 13-2 overall and 7-0 in league play. The Gators have now won 10-straight matches. Kentucky returns to action on Friday at 5 p.m. ET vs. Mississippi State in Rupp Arena. UK will play at Big Blue Madness, aiming to break the national attendance record.
"Give credit to Florida for stepping up and responding after being down 2-0," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "We have to do a better job applying pressure with our serve and blocking defense. We weren't able to sustain that after the first two sets."
O'Conner led the way for UK with a career-high tying 18 kills on an impressive .421 hitting clip. Junior Whitney Billings logged her fourth double-double in the last five matches with 12 kills and 12 digs. Senior Ashley Frazier had nine kills with junior Alexandra Morgan chipping in with seven.
Senior Christine Hartmann dished out 37 assists and had a season-high seven kills. Senior Stephanie Klefot totaled a match-high 22 digs and added a season-best five assists. Junior Jessi Greenberg logged eight scoops with sophomore Jackie Napper totaling six. Freshman Kayla Tronick and Billings led the way at the net with five blocks each.
"This is a tough one to swallow," Skinner said. "But, we have to get back into the gym and continue to work on improving and trying to get better every day."
Kentucky scored the fifth set's first two points which included an ace from Klefot, but Florida answered with a two-point swing of its own. The Gators eventually earned a three-point advantage at 6-3 after back-to-back service aces from the home team to force UK into a timeout. The Gators continued to pull away with a 6-3 run to stretch the lead to 12-6. Kentucky could not overcome the deficit as the Gators completed the rally with a 15-8 fifth set win.
The Gators opened to a 3-0 advantage before a kill from Morgan snapped the run. Kentucky fought back and knotted things at seven on ace from UK's junior middle blocker. A solo rejection from Frazier kept the rally going and UK stretched its lead to three points at 13-10 to force the Gators into an early timeout.
Out of the break, Kentucky kept the pressure on scoring three-straight points including an ace from Frazier to stretch the lead to 17-11. The Gators responded with a 3-0 run of their own to inch closer at 17-14, forcing UK to use its first timeout of the set. Following the timeout the Wildcats and Gators exchanged points until back-to-back points for UK highlighted by an authoritative kill into the middle for Billings to make the score 22-17 in favor of the Cats. The Gators responded with another 3-0 run to come to within two at 22-20, and Skinner opted for his final timeout of the set.
Frazier ended the run out of the break with a kill high off Florida's hands. UK earned set point at 24-21 on a Billings' kill, but the Gators saved the set with a kill. UK, however, wasted little time in earning the set with a kill from O'Conner for the 25-22 opening set win.
Kentucky posted 14 kills on .216 hitting led by four from the hand of Billings. The Gators managed 12 kills on .226 hitting, but committed five hitting errors.
The Wildcats began the second set by grabbing an early 8-4 advantage. UK utilized a 3-0 run to open to the four-point swing highlighted by another ace from Morgan. Florida opted for an early timeout. Kentucky kept the pressure on with a 4-0 run in the middle portion of the set to open up a 17-10 lead led by a pair of kills from Morgan and O'Conner. Florida attempted a comeback effort with a pair of 3-0 runs, but UK quelled the threat each and every time rolling to a 25-20 second set win and a 2-0 lead into the break.
UK's defense and serving continued to fluster the Gators as the home squad logged just five kills on a negative .033 hitting clip in the second set. UK, meanwhile, managed 14 kills on .119 hitting to claim the frame.
The teams swapped points back and forth until the Gators shook loose for a three-point swing to take a 10-7 lead in the third set. UK got to within one at 12-11 on a three-point swing, but the home team responded with a 5-2 run to take a 17-13 edge. Following its second timeout of the break, UK charted a 5-1 run capped off by a Tronick-O'Conner block to knot the score at 18.
In a back-and-forth battle down the stretch the Gators were able to convert on a pair of overpasses to break free for a 25-22 third set win.
Florida charged out to a 5-0 advantage in the fourth set and UK burned an early timeout. The home squad was able to keep the lead throughout the entire frame en route to a 25-22 fourth set win to force the decisive fifth frame.
The Gators logged 11 kills on .111 hitting, with UK charting 11 on a mere .056.
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