LOS ANGELES – The UNI volleyball team trailed Kentucky, the No. 5 team in the country, two sets to one and the Wildcats had all the momentum after winning the third set 25-11. But the Panthers outscored the Wildcats 40-25 in the final two sets to earn the 23-25, 25-20, 11-25, 25-17, 15-8 win in UNI's final match at the USC Trojan Invite in the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
The win marks the second win over a top 15 opponent in two days for the Panthers. UNI went 2-1 at the Trojan Invite with wins over Kentucky and No. 13 Creighton and a close loss to No. 10 USC in a true road match.
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Saturday evening, the Panthers got the job done on the defensive side. UNI (2-1) notched 72 digs to 59 for Kentucky (0-3) and the Panthers tallied 11 blocks. Kate Buzzwitz tallied a solo block and five block assists while Piper Thomas added three solo blocks. Three Panthers notched double-digit digs, led by Kendyl Sorge with 20.
The Panthers outhit the Wildcats 77-70, led by Karlie Taylor with 18 kills, Jaydlin Seehase with 14 kills, Thomas with 13 kills and Busswitz with 12 kills. Rachel Koop notched 51 assists and added five kills with no errors.
The first set was a back and forth battle, but tied at 23, Kentucky scored a pair of points to earn the first-set win.
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In the second, UNI took control early and built a 22-15 lead before Kentucky rattled off four-straight points to cut the lead to 22-19. The Panthers closed the set on a 3-1 run to pick up the 25-20 win.
Down goes No. 5! Panthers open the season with two wins over top-15 teams! pic.twitter.com/90umSCo7sK— UNIVolleyball (@UNIVolleyball) August 26, 2018
Set three was all Kentucky. The Wildcats took a 16-2 lead and cruised to a 25-11 win. The Panthers needed a response and they got it. Tied at 7-7 in the fourth set, the Panther went on a 4-0 run to take control of the set and cruised to the 25-17 lead.
With the momentum squarely on the side of UNI, the Panthers went up 6-1 to start the fifth set and cruised to the 15-8 win.
The Panthers now return home for three matches over the next week, starting with No. 21 Iowa State and closing the week with matches Friday and Saturday against Washington State (RV).