LEXINGTON, Ky. – September 1, 2023
The No. 15 Kentucky Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 SEC) fell to the 10th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers, 3-0 (25-14, 25-21, 25-22) inside of Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center with 5,048 members of Big Blue Nation in attendance, the fifth-largest crowd in program history.
Despite recovering from a slow start, Kentucky was never able to find its footing in the match, only holding a lead as large as two and never after the 15-point mark of any set. Pittsburgh led the way statistically, outhitting the Wildcats .248 to .084, while also recording ten more kills. Defensively, the Panthers found nine blocks to UK’s seven, and recorded a match-high 42 digs. Pitt sided out at an impressive 72.4% clip on the night.
Individually for the Wildcats, Junior Jordyn Williams led the way in hitting percentage among starters (.312), while also holding a game high in service aces (2) and in blocks (5). Senior Reagan Rutherford recorded seven kills for the Cats, a team high, while Juniors Eleanor Beavin and Emma Grome led the team in digs (10) and assists (24), respectively.
The match marked the second time that Kentucky Volleyball has played in Rupp Arena, and the first time since 2011, a Big Blue Madness appetizer against Mississippi State. Kentucky is now 1-1 all time in the historic venue.
Kentucky will complete the second leg of the 84 Lumber Volleyball Classic on Sunday, September 3, by making the return trip to Pittsburgh for a matinee matchup. The second installment of the home-and-home series will be played at the Peterson Events Center, home of Pitt Basketball, and be shown live on the ACC Network. First serve is scheduled for Noon ET.
Kentucky and Pittsburgh traded points early, but the Panthers utilized a 5-0 run, interrupted by a Craig Skinner timeout, to grab a 13-7 advantage and never looked back. The Cats were not able to bring the set within reach, as two more runs of 3-0 extended the lead for the defending ACC champions. Pitt attacked at a blistering .458 clip, compared to Kentucky’s .000, while also outblocking the Wildcats 5-1. Erin Lamb led the first set charge for the ‘Cats, logging three kills with no errors on a .500 hitting percentage. Kentucky is now 1-2 in first sets this season. PITTSBURGH 25 (1), KENTUCKY 14 (0)
After kills from Jordyn Williams and Reagan Rutherford, back-to-back Panther errors gave Kentucky its first lead of the night at 4-2. A 3-0 Pitt run returned the Panther advantage for a moment, but freshman Brooklyn DeLeye contributed two kills, along with a block assist in tandem with Azhani Tealer, to lead the Wildcats on a 4-0 run, their longest of the night at that point, to find a 8-5 advantage. The two top-15 squads would continue to tussle in the first half the second stanza, with eight instances of a tie score before the media timeout. After a Rutherford kill tied the score at 15, however, a 3-0 Panther run prompted a Kentucky timeout at 18-15. The Panther advantage would hold strong around three points until a DeLeye kill and Williams ace forced Pittsburgh head coach Dan Fisher into a timeout at 23-21. However, the late charge would not be enough for Kentucky as Pitt scored the final pair of points in the set and opened a 2-0 lead heading into intermission. PITTSBURGH 25(2), KENTUCKY 21 (0)
The third set saw the Wildcats begin with a lead for the first time in the match, as a Williams free ball found its way on the Pittsburgh side of the court. Kentucky registered back-to-back blocks for the first time in the match to take a 6-5 lead, as Williams got in the action in both rejections. After a small Panther charge, a third Williams block of the set returned the lead to the home squad and a subsequent Megan Wilson ace forced the Panthers to ask for the third stoppage of the third stanza. Out of the timeout, the Panthers scored six of the next seven points to find a three point advantage and force Kentucky into a timeout. The margin would hover around four points for much of the latter stages of the set, as the Wildcats were able to cut it to two on multiple occasions. Kentucky would mount one final push, scoring four out of five on a pair of Pitt errors in combination with kills from Wilson and Elise Goetzinger to bring the score to 23-22. However, a Wildcat error set up match point for the Panthers, where All-American Valeria Vazquez Gomez was able to terminate and seal the top 15 win. PITTSBURGH 25 (3), KENTUCKY 22 (0)