NCAA Tournament Bracket Get Acrobat Reader | Cat Scratches: Strong schedule, late surge help extend UK's NCAA Tournament streak
LEXINGTON, Ky. - For a school-record sixth consecutive season the Kentucky volleyball team was selected to the field of 64 teams for the NCAA Tournament it was announced Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats will travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on the tournament's No. 16 overall seed in Purdue on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Middle Tennessee State and Louisville round out the competition UK could face in the second round.
This marks the second time in the Craig Skinner era that UK (17-13, 11-9 SEC) will meet Purdue in West Lafayette in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky and Purdue last played in the tournament in 2006 with the Boilermakers earning a 3-0 victory in the second round of play.
"We are excited to start the NCAA Tournament," Skinner said. "We've played a lot of good teams this year to prepare us for this. Purdue is playing very well right now, so we will really need to focus in this week."
With selection into the NCAA Tournament for the sixth consecutive year, Kentucky is now one of just 17 teams in the nation to appear in the field of 64 in six straight years. The Southeastern Conference advanced six teams to the NCAA Tournament including Florida the tournament's No. 1 overall seed. LSU joins Kentucky and the Gators as the only three teams in the league to play in six straight NCAA Tournaments. Tennessee, Ole Miss and Auburn were the other teams selected in 2010.
The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 a season ago behind the inspired play of Lauren Rapp. Rapp led UK to a 3-0 win over the tournament's No. 14 overall seed in Oregon in the second round of action. Rapp charted a career-best 10 blocks in UK's win as the Wildcats turned back 17 Duck attacks to advance to its first Regional appearance since 1993 and first under Skinner.
Kentucky achieved its sixth consecutive winning season and sixth with 17 victories in 2010. The last time a UK team posted six straight years with 17 or more wins was in the span of seasons from 1988-93. Rapp leads the Wildcats with 2.71 kills per frame on .295 hitting. She also records 1.05 blocks per stanza. Sophomore Stephanie Klefot averages 4.41 digs per set and is just the fifth player in school history to amass 500 or more digs in a single season with 511 on the year. Freshman Whitney Billings posts 2.73 kills per set while also contributing 2.33 digs per set which ranks as the second highest total on the squad.
Kentucky will first take on Purdue (21-10, 12-8) the tournament's 16th overall seed. The Boilermakers have victories over two similar opponents with the Wildcats. Purdue captured a 3-1 win over Louisville and a 3-0 win over Ohio State. Kentucky also earned victories over the Cardinals and Buckeyes. Both teams also dropped a match to Cincinnati, with Purdue falling by a 3-0 margin and UK by a 3-2 score.
The Boilermakers are led by Ariel Turner's 3.61 kills per frame. Jaclyn Hart delivers 1.35 kills per set on a team-high .372 attacking clip. As a unit, the Purdue offense strikes for 13.63 kills per stanza with Hart dishing out 10.58 assists per frame. On the defensive side, Carly Cramer earns 4.01 digs per set and Kristen Arthurs posts 1.03 blocks per set to lead the way at the net. Purdue charts 2.56 blocks per set and 14.96 digs per stanza.
Kentucky and Purdue have met on the volleyball court on 17 occasions. The Boilermakers have the slight edge in the overall series by a 9-8 margin. UK, however, captures the last meeting by a 3-1 score just last season.
Louisville and Middle Tennessee State will meet in the first match of the West Lafayette Regional with a 5 p.m. ET first serve. The squads are familiar foes with the teams recently meeting in the first round of the tournament in 2006 and 2007.
The Cardinals (22-7, 12-2) earned a bid into the NCAA Tournament by capturing the Big East Tournament crown. Kentucky toppled its in-state rival in Lexington on Sept. 1.
Behind the support of 2,178 electrifying members of the Big Blue Nation the then 16th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team earned a dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind win (14-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 15-10) over intrastate rival Louisville on Sept. 1. The victory snapped a nine-match winning streak by the Cardinals in the series with UK's last win coming in the 1999 season.
Kentucky trailed twice in the match and clawed its way back to a victory in its first home match of the season. The most remarkable climb was in the decisive fifth set when UK trailed 6-1 in the early portion of the frame. Three consecutive errors by the Cardinals and a kill from Rapp brought the score to within 6-5. UK knotted the score at eight apiece behind another Cardinal miscue. On the following play, junior Becky Pavan's powerful jump-serve caught the Louisville defense off guard for an ace. The momentum swung into the Wildcats' favor and UK never looked back. Senior Blaire Hiler finished the run for the Wildcats with three kills in the final five points of the stanza to bring the crowd to its feet for a final time with a 15-10 win.
UK's senior duo of Rapp and Hiler delivered in a big way down the stretch for the Wildcats. Rapp led the offensive output with 15 kills while adding four blocks and eight digs. Hiler charted 10 hammers. She chipped in a block and five scoops. Middle Tennessee State (29-5, 15-1) rounds out the potential field for the Wildcats. The Blue Raiders and Kentucky have three similar opponents this season. Middle Tennessee captured victories over three SEC foes in Auburn, South Carolina and Arkansas in the early stages of the season. Kentucky, also, has victories over all three teams.
The Blue Raiders are paced by Izabela Kozon's 4.05 kills per set while Ashley Adams adds 3.11 to the squad's 11.06 kills per frame. Middle Tennessee is led by Kendall Howard at the setter position who dishes out 10.24 assists per stanza. On the defensive side, Brynne Henderson scoops up a team-best 3.52 digs per stanza and three players average more than a block per set.