ATHENS, Ga. – The Georgia volleyball team picked up its first win over a ranked opponent in the Lizzy Stemke era when it upset No. 15 Kentucky with a 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 13-25, 25-21, 23-21) win in front of 1,799 fans and a nationally-televised ESPNU audience at Stegeman Coliseum on Wednesday, Oct. 23. The win marked the first time the Bulldogs defeated an opponent ranked in the top-15 since 2008. Georgia improves to 15-6 on the season and 5-4 in the Southeastern Conference, while Kentucky drops to 13-5 overall and 5-2 in league play.
“What a match,” Stemke said. “I’m speechless right now. We fought so hard. When you have a 23-21 fifth set, that’s just competitive volleyball. I am so proud of our team right now. We’ve had such a tough week. We kept talking about the fact that maybe these last three matches we haven’t gotten the (win), but we’ve gotten better. Statistically we’ve gotten better. We have fought as a team. We had good vibes going into this match even though we lost our last three because we continue to work on improving. It’s been about improving and when you focus on improving then you work hard for these types of wins. I’m so excited for this group. They need that notch there and they got it.”
Tirah Le’au notched one of the best performances of her career, leading the match with 18 kills and hitting at a .343 efficiency. Brittany Northcutt and Maggie Baumert each earned double-doubles, with Northcutt finishing with 13 kills and 10 digs and Baumert notching 23 assists and 11 digs. Lauren Teknipp finished the match with 13 kills. Kaylee Kehoe led the team with 24 assists to go along with Baumert’s 23. As a team, the Bulldogs finished with 13 total blocks, led by Jasmine Eatmon with six, including two solo stops. Elena Perri added five blocks, while Teknipp posted four. Allison Summers helped pace the Bulldogs with 19 digs.
Georgia picked up a 25-21 win in the fourth set that tied the match at two and forced a fifth and deciding set in the match. The Wildcats took the lead early, scoring three-straight points to take an 11-6 lead that forced Georgia to use a timeout. The Bulldogs fought back to tie the set at 13 on a kill by Stacey Smith. The teams went point-for-point over the next 17 possessions, resulting in nine match points. A pair of Wildcat errors gave the Bulldogs a 22-21 lead before Smith found the court for a kill that sealed the 23-21 set five win that gave Georgia the upset.
The score remained close through the opening possessions of the first set, tying five times before a block by Perri and Teknipp sparked 3-0 run that put the Bulldogs up 10-7. Georgia increased its lead to 12-8 on a service ace by Kehoe that forced the Wildcats to burn a timeout. Using the serve of Summers, the Bulldogs scored five-straight points to extend its lead to 19-10. Kentucky looked to answer, scoring three-straight points, but a Teknipp kill ended the run and allowed Georgia to take a 23-16 lead. The Bulldogs scored three of the final four points take a 1-0 match lead with a 25-18 set one win.
Neither team was able to take control in the early stages of the second set, as the score tied four times before back-to-back Georgia points allowed the Bulldogs to take a 12-10 lead. The Wildcats tied the set at 12 and 13 before taking a 15-13 lead. With the Wildcats holding a 20-14 advantage after a 5-0 run, Georgia fought back to within three at 20-17 on a pair of blocks that caused Kentucky to use a timeout. With Kentucky holding set point, a Kentucky error sparked a 4-0 Georgia run, which was highlighted by a pair of Le’au kills, that put the Bulldogs within one at 24-23. Kentucky took advantage of a Georgia miscue to seal a 25-23 set two win that tied the match at one set each.
After dropping the third set 25-13, the Bulldogs came out fighting the fourth set to take 25-23 win that forced the fifth and deciding set. Georgia edged out to an 8-6 lead before Kentucky tied the set at eight. The score knotted two more times before back-to-back Kentucky kills gave the Wildcats a 13-11 lead. The Bulldogs took advantage of a trio of Kentucky errors to retake the lead at 15-14. Georgia extended its lead to 20-17 on a block by Smith and Perri that forced Kentucky to use its first timeout at the set. Kentucky scored three-straight points to tie the set at 21, but the Bulldogs responded by scoring the final four points, including three straight on kills by Le’au, to tie the match at 2-2 with a 25-21 set four win.
Georgia continues its home stand on Friday, Oct. 25 when it hosts Alabama at 7 p.m., in the Ramsey Center. The Bulldogs will close out the home stretch with on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 1:30 p.m., against Mississippi State.