Rutherford recorded a game-high 16 kills on only 24 swings
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – September 13, 2023
In front of a record crowd of 12,780 spectators at the KFC Yum! Center, No. 21 Kentucky (2-5, 0-0 SEC) fell in a tightly contested 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-18) contest to No. 2 Louisville (9-0, 0-0 ACC).
Kentucky held leads in all three sets, including an advantage as high as four in the third set, but the story of the match was the Cardinals’ ability to string together points. Eight Louisville runs of three points or more, highlighted by stretches of 10 and six consecutive scores, continued to stimy any Wildcat momentum.
The best chance for the Wildcats to gain a foothold in the match came in the second stanza, as the Cats turned a 16-19 deficit into a 23-22 lead late in the frame. However, the Cardinals would string together the last three points of the set to take a two set lead into the locker room, a lead they would consolidate in the third and final set.
Reagan Rutherford, a senior from Missoui City, Tex., led the way for the Wildcats in a massive way, racking up 16 kills compared to only two errors. She managed to attack at a season high clip on .581, while also contributing a team high two aces and four blocks. Fifth-year senior Azhani Tealer shared the team high in blocks with Rutherford, with three rejections coming in consecutive points during the first set. Juniors Emma Grome and Eleanor Beavin would lead the way in assists and digs, respectively, with Grome dishing out 32 dimes and Beavin preventing 11 balls from finding the court.
Kentucky attacked at .194 in the Battle of the Bluegrass, compared to Louisville’s .344 clip. This marks only the second time this season that the Wildcats have been under the .200 mark. Both matches (at Louisville and at home vs. Pittsburgh) ended in 3-0 losses for UK. The Cards also recorded more digs and blocks than the Cats, while also winning the serving battle with one more ace and one less error.
Kentucky will close out its daunting non-conference slate with a road trip to undefeated, and fourth-ranked, Nebraska on Sunday Night, Sep. 17, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Action from the Bob Devaney Sports Center will commence at 7:30 p.m. (ET) and air live on the Big Ten Network.
The Cardinals took the opening point of the match, but back-to-back kills by Brooklyn DeLeye and Azhani Tealer gave the Cats their first advantage at 2-1. After the Cardinals scored a pair, three straight blocks from Tealer, twice assisted by Reagan Rutherford and once by Megan Wilson, pushed Kentucky out in front 5-4. After the two teams traded pairs of points, a kill, followed by an ace, from Rutherford pushed the Wildcats in front by three at 9-6, the largest separation of the set for either side to that point. Five straight from the Cardinals, however, would force coach Craig Skinner into the first timeout of the frame, as Kentucky trailed by multiple points for the first time in the frame. The Louisville lead would continue to balloon out of the timeout, as Skinner would burn his final stoppage of the frame, trailing 15-9. The Cardinal run, led by the serve of All-American Anna DeBeer, would terminate at ten, as Rutherford found a kill out of the back row. After the Louisville run, the two teams would trade points for much of the latter portion of the set. Rutherford led the way for the Wildcats in the set, raking in four kills on a .571 hitting clip to go along with two blocks and an ace, but the Cardinals outhit the Cats by almost 200 points to run away with the opening stanza.
KENTUCKY 19 (0), LOUISVILLE 25 (1)
After the home squad scored the first four points after the side-switch, Kentucky was able to open its scoring column with a service error. A DeLeye kill started a 4-0 Kentucky push to even the set that featured a Grome ace, Rutherford kill, and a block by Tealer and Rutherford. After the two side traded service errors, Kentucky took its first lead of Set 2 at 7-6 thanks to another Rutherford kill. The Cards would respond with a 4-0 run, once again led by the serve of DeBeer, to stretch in front 10-7. Two more Cardinal kills would force Kentucky into a timeout, trailing 12-8. Back-to-back kills by Rutherford, in combination with an ace of her own, would bring the Wildcats back into the set, trailing 11-13. The ‘Cats would continue to battle, staying within two points for much of the middle section of the stanza. Rutherford’s tenth kill would bring Kentucky within one at 19-18. Rutherford would continue her torrid start, scoring the next two Wildcat points that, in combination with a Louisville error, forced Louisville head coach Dani Busboom Kelly into her first timeout of the match with the score tied at 21. Kentucky would take the lead in the frame for the first time at 22-21, as Molly Tuozzo served up an ace out of the timeout. After a Louisville kill tied the frame once again, Goetzinger pushed the ‘Cats within two points of leveling the match. However, a service error and Rutherford’s first error of the match provided the Cards with a set point. After a Craig Skinner timeout, a long rally would end with a DeBeer kill to place the hosts on top two sets to none. Rutherford almost led a mighty Wildcat comeback, as she racked up eight kills, to just one error, on nine swings in the set.
KENTUCKY 23 (0), LOUISVILLE 25 (2)
Following intermission, Kentucky would open up a frame with the lead for the first time in the match thanks to a Cardinal service error. An ace from Eleanor Beavin, kills from DeLeye, Rutherford, and Lamb, and a block from Rutherford and the newly-entered Jordyn Williams would give the ‘Cats their largest lead of the night, 6-2. Louisville would score the next six points of the frame to take a two point lead, but two kills from Lamb, another from Tealer, and a Cardinal attack error would help push the frame square as the teams reached 10. Three straight points from Louisville would restore their lead to 13-10 and push Kentucky into its first timeout of the third set. A successful challenge from Coach Skinner changed a Rutherford attack error into her 15th kill of the night and brought the Wildcats back within two points, trailing 13-15. However, back-to-back Cardinal kills would extend the Louisville lead to four points, an advantage that the Wildcats were never able to overcome, as an ace would close out the match in three sets.
KENTUCKY 18 (0), LOUISVILLE 25 (3)
Stat That Matters
8. Louisville went on eight runs of three points or larger over the course of three sets, including a 10-point run in the opening frame to turn a three point deficit into a seven point advantage. Both Sets two and three ended on Cardinal runs of three points as well.
After Kentucky had taken a 23-22 lead in Set 2, a 3-0 Cardinal run, closed out by a long point that went Louisville’s way, gave the home squad a two set lead in the match, keeping the Wildcats from claiming a stake in the rivalry match.
Reagan Rutherford led the way for the ‘Cats, racking up a game high 16 kills on 24 swings, only committing two attack errors on her way to a season high .583 hitting percentage. She also added nine digs, four blocks, and two aces.