Louisville 3, Western Kentucky 1

Dec. 2, 2005

Lena Ustymenko had a career-high, match-high 31 kills to lead the University of Louisville to a 3-1 win over intrastate rival Western Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship Friday night at Louisville Gardens. The Cardinals advance to the second round where they will face Maryland at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Gardens.

U of L improves to 30-2 with the 30-24, 28-30, 30-23, 30-22 win over the Hilltoppers. WKU ends its run at 31-3.

"Western Kentucky came in as the underdog, so when we step on the court we can't be tentative, because they have everything to gain and we have everything to lose," said U of L head coach Leonid Yelin.

In the first game, U of L never trailed and outhit the Hilltoppers .515 to .455 with both teams with hot hitting hands. For the Cardinals, Lena Ustymenko had eight kills and hit .467. Louisville native Megan Argabright led the Toppers with seven kills on eight swings and no errors.

In the second game, despite hitting just .159, WKU had four aces and WKU's Caron Blotch came alive with five kills to lead WKU to a 30-28 win over the Cardinals to even the score at one apiece going into the break. U of L had four service errors but did outblock the Toppers 3-0. U of L was led by Ustymenko's six kills.

"It was a great night for volleyball in the state of Kentucky. I am very proud of our kids. But in the end, U of L was the better team tonight. That is what we came here to find out," said Western Kentucky Travis Hudson.

The Cardinals regouped after the break and tore out to an 8-1 lead early in the third game. The Cardinals built the lead to as many as 11 at 21-10. WKU chipped away to get as close as five at 27-22 but could get no closer as the Cardinals won 30-23. U of L hitting reheated to .432 in the third set. U of L's Jennifer Hoffman had five kills and Ustymenko added nine in that set.

"We played well like we played all year in the third game," said Yelin. "We had everything hitting on all cylinders."

U of L used a 9-0 run in the fourth game to build their lead to 20-10 and force a WKU timeout. WKU scrambled back with a 10-4 run of their own to get as close as 25-21. But WKU would score just once more.

"I hope they make a deep run in the tournament," said Hudson. "They demand that you be in your system. Their block is set and it is very hard to penetrate."

Ustymenko's 31 kills, five blocks and eight digs acounted for 34 points.

"Ustymenko out of the back row is just a backbreaker," said Hudson. "For them to have that outlet really puts the pressure on."

WKU was led by Argabright's 18 kills. Crystal Towler added 14. U of L had strong performances from Jennifer Hoffman who had 15 kills and six blocks while Ana Yartseva added 10 kills, 10 digs and four blocks.

-- Courtesy Louisville