Oct. 25, 2009

Courtesy of Kentucky Athletics

LEXINGTON, Ky. - In a match that featured 32 ties and 13 lead changes, the seventh-ranked Kentucky Wildcats overcame a one-set deficit to claw back and defeat No. 20 LSU in five gut-wrenching sets (25-23, 19-25, 16-25, 25-15, 15-12) to once again take sole possession atop the Southeastern Conference standings.

Kentucky (20-2, 10-1) trailed two sets to one and mounted a thrilling comeback to overcome the hot-hitting LSU Tigers to earn its third consecutive season with 20 or more victories. With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats needed to capture a fourth-set victory and the Blue and White used a top-notch performance from the entire squad to secure a 25-15 fourth set win.

Three UK players tallied over 10 kills led by junior Sarah Mendoza's 21 kills. Junior Blaire Hiler posted 13 and sophomore Gretchen Giesler matched a career-high with 11 hammers. Senior setter Sarah Rumely dished out 56 assists and found six players for three or more kills as the Wildcats hit over .200 for the 18th time this season.

Mendoza notched a double-double effort with 12 digs and Giesler tallied six blocks on the afternoon - including three solo rejections. Senior libero BriAnne Sauer had 21 scoops and freshman Stephanie Klefot added 15.

"I am just very proud of our team," Kentucky coach Craig Skinner said. "LSU was great tonight and they put us in a big hole, but for us to be able to respond and be aggressive like that is a huge credit to our team. All of them found a way to contribute and to defeat top-20 ranked teams you have to play aggressively and there's no doubt we did that in games four and five."

In the decisive fifth set, LSU earned the first point of the set on a Wildcat miscue. However, the home squad answered with three consecutive points behind a kill from junior Lauren Rapp and a solo rejection from Giesler. UK stretched its lead to 10-6 midway through the set, but LSU caught fire and grabbed the lead at 11-10. Kentucky responded with tremendous defensive work by Rumely who kept a rally alive and the Blue and White wall forced the Tigers into a hitting error. After LSU responded to once again even the match at 12, Mendoza tossed down a powerful slam and Giesler followed with a kill of her own. Mendoza ended the match when she found a hole in the center of the defense for the match-clinching point.

UK used a match-high .474 hitting clip in the stanza with both Mendoza and Hiler torching the Tiger defense with four kills each.

With their backs against the wall and trailing by a set, Kentucky came up with an impressive 25-15 fourth set victory to force the deciding set. Kentucky opened the stanza with two straight points, but LSU was able to quickly tie it up at two. From there the squads continued to trade points back and forth until the Blue and White finally broke free for three straight points to make the score 13-10. In the run Rapp and Giesler teamed up for back-to-back blocks.

LSU never again got within two points of the Wildcats who found balance in the set with 18 kills and three blocks. Hiler was the difference-maker for UK in the set with five kills on a blistering .571 hitting average. Kentucky hit .262, but the key was holding LSU to a .000 clip. LSU could only come up with seven kills while charting an equaling seven errors.

To open the match Kentucky score a 25-23 set one victory in impressive fashion. Trailing 19-15 Kentucky would string together a 10-4 run to end the set and claim the opening frame. In the outstanding run Mendoza had a pair of kills and Giesler came up with two huge blocks to ignite the crowd of 1,341 UK fans.

Kentucky struck for a .314 clip in the opening stanza and Mendoza notched seven kills in the set to lead the Blue and White.

The Tigers were able to limit Kentucky's high-octane offense to take sets two and three and grab the lead. LSU tallied nine blocks in the two sets and forced 16 UK hitting errors in the process. The visitors won the second set by a 25-19 score and the third by a 25-16 margin.

With the win, Kentucky takes over sole possession of first place in the SEC standings. LSU (15-5, 9-2) and the Wildcats were the only remaining one-loss teams in the conference coming into the start of the second half of the conference slate.