Dec. 4, 2009

Courtesy of Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Behind a balanced offensive attack the 13th ranked Kentucky volleyball team rolled into the second round of the NCAA Tournament behind a 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-20) sweep of Michigan State in front of 1,653 fans at Memorial Coliseum on Friday evening.

Juniors Lauren Rapp and Sarah Mendoza tallied 14 and 13 kills, respectively, to lead a balanced UK attack that registered 46 kills on the night. UK posted a .214 hitting clip and five players had four or more kills in helping the Blue and White advance to the Second Round for the first time since 2006. Senior setter Sarah Rumely dished out 39 assists and sophomore Gretchen Giesler accounted for a team-high five blocks. Freshman Stephanie Klefot added 13 digs from the back row to pace the defensive effort.

UK (28-4) will face Oregon (20-9), the tournament's 14th overall seed, at 7 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum Saturday night. Oregon advanced behind a 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-20) win over Clemson in the first matchup of the day.

"It is a great win," Kentucky coach Craig Skinner said. "NCAA Tournament wins are always good. I like the way that we finished off sets tonight. We were very good at that most of the season, and I think that we did a good job of that tonight. That is a sign of a veteran team and a team that believes in each other. It is a great way to start the NCAA Tournament."

Tonight's match marked the second consecutive season that Lexington has played host to the NCAA Tournament and the Wildcats did not disappoint the home crowd. Mendoza posted her third consecutive double-double effort as she tallied 11 digs to accompany her 13 kills. Junior Blaire Hiler added six kills and senior BriAnne Sauer accounted for 11 scoops as well in adding to the Wildcat cause.

The Wildcats opened the match with a 25-23 set one victory. UK used a match-high .325 hitting clip in the opening frame and Mendoza and Giesler each struck for five kills.

After Michigan State opened the scoring with a kill, sophomore Becky Pavan posted a kill to give the Wildcats their first point of the night. The match was close throughout the first set as neither team led by more than three. Kentucky took its largest lead at 14-11 behind a kill from Rapp, but the Spartans quickly stormed back to tie the score at 15. Kentucky did not shake free until a 3-0 run made the score 23-20 in favor of the home team. Michigan State came back and knotted the score at 23, but the Wildcats would go on to score the final two points to take the set. Mendoza closed out the set for UK with her fifth kill of the frame giving UK a 25-23 win.

"It is important (to get off to a good start) but I didn't think that if we lost the first set that we were in danger of losing the match," Skinner said. "We have done that before and battled back in a lot of difficult situations. It was a good start and it built our confidence and helped make us believe that we can play well. It gives us confidence to finish sets and we did that tonight."

Michigan State earned the first two points of the second set behind back-to-back kills. However, UK would quickly respond with back-to-back points of its own to tie the score at two. Kentucky grabbed the lead at 18-17 and would never trail the rest of the stanza. Hiler tossed down the final kill of the set to give the Wildcats a 2-0 advantage into the break after its second straight 25-23 victory.

Kentucky had a .154 attacking clip and struck for 17 kills in the second set. Mendoza led the way with six kills in the frame. Klefot had 10 digs to ignite the defensive effort for the Wildcats as UK limited Michigan State to just .125 hitting and 11 kills. However, the Spartans were able to account for five blocks in the set to keep the scoring close.

For the third time in the match the Spartans opened the scoring with the first point in the third set behind a kill. Rapp gave UK its first point of the decisive third set with a kill of her own. Kentucky captured a lead at 2-1 after another Rapp hammer and the Wildcats would control the set from that point on. Kentucky earned its largest lead at 17-12 after a 4-0 run lifted the home team to a comfortable advantage. In the stretch Giesler got in on the scoring with a kill. UK's middle blocker would serve up a pair of aces to help the Wildcats close out the victory as she accounted for point's No. 23 and 24. Kentucky's defense forced the Spartans into a bad attack to end the match and lift the Wildcats to a 25-20 win in front of their home crowd.

Kentucky tallied 11 kills, led by four from Rapp in the final frame. UK used a .176 attacking percentage and had a match-high five blocks to stave off the Michigan State offense. The Spartans had 10 hitting errors and posted a .029 hitting clip in the set.

The Wildcats will return to action tomorrow night against Oregon. The two squads will be vying for a slot in the Sweet 16 in the Minneapolis Region next week.

A Tournament Central site is available at with information on all four teams, a seating chart and parking information. Follow along all week at Kentucky's official homepage for up-to-date information and news regarding the NCAA Volleyball Tournament.