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Rutherford’s 17 Kills Help No. 10 Kentucky to First Win of 2023

Photo: UK Athletics

Wildcats beat Northern Colorado, 3-1

GREELEY, Colo. – August 26, 2023

Thanks to 17 kills from senior opposite Reagan Rutherford and 13 kills each from freshman Brooklyn DeLeye and junior Erin Lamb, the No. 10 Kentucky Volleyball team earned its first win of the season Saturday night knocking off Northern Colorado 3-1 (25-22, 25-14, 22-25, 25-14).

The Wildcats hit an efficient .339 on the night led by 45 assists from junior setter and reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Emma Grome. The Loveland, Ohio native also had two kills and two aces on the night to close out her opening weekend of play.

Freshman made a huge impact in the match Saturday with Molly Tuozzo serving six aces, including four in the first set alone and DeLeye, an outside from Topeka, Kansas, earning 13 kills on 22 swings as she hit .409 on the night as one of four Wildcats in double-digit kills for the night.

Kentucky will play in Rupp Arena for regular season action for the first time on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET in the 2023 84 Lumber Volleyball Classic against No. 5 Pittsburgh. Tickets are on sale through and fans are encouraged to arrive early, as a large crowd is expected inside Rupp. Free parking will be available to everyone with a pre-purchased ticket.

Set One

The Bears got off to the strong start in the first set, taking a 9-5 lead induced by a 4-0 run before an Azhani Tealer kill and solo stuff brought the set back level with Kentucky winning the next four points to make it 9-9. Emma Grome and RS-sophomore Jordyn Williams stuffed the Bears attack to level the score at 16-16, the set’s first tie since 10 all as the frame reset. The Bears rallied to win three in a row and took a 19-16 lead as UK called its first timeout of the set. Following the break, Reagan Rutherford plastered a ball to the floor followed up by two Bear errors as UK pulled to within one at 20-19, forcing a UNC timeout with its lead down to one. Three-straight aces by freshman Molly Touzzo sent Kentucky into the lead for the first time since it was 2-1 at 22-20 and Northern Colorado called its final timeout trailing by two. Tuozzo then aced the Bears for a fourth time and that brought Kentucky to a 23-20 lead. Reagan Rutherford hammered home a ball from the left side to make it a 24-22 lead and on set point, Rutherford did it again to give UK the lead and a 25-22 first set.

Set Two

Thanks to better serving and efficiency offensively, Kentucky raced out to a 10-7 lead in the set and only trailed for one point in the frame. The Wildcats took a 15-10 lead into the media timeout thanks to an Azhani Tealer overpass termination, UK’s largest lead of the match and of the set to that point. Brooklyn DeLeye hammered home her third kill of the match from the left side to gibe Kentucky the 18-12 lead and pushed the Bears into their first timeout of the set down half a dozen. A Jordyn Williams kill led the Wildcats to a 21-13 lead, its largest of the set, and Northern Colorado burned its final timeout with UK four points from the set. Tealer and Rutherford combined to block the Bears attack on successive points out of the timeout and Kentucky took the commanding 2-0 lead in the match with a 25-14 second set win.

Set Three

The first half of the third set was played entirely within a two-point window with Kentucky never trailing, but never leading by more than two points. UK saw its 13-11 lead evaporate at the media timeout as the Bears got even with an attack error and the two sides stopped at 15 all in the third set. Kentucky had to call its first timeout of the set after a ball found the donut and Northern Colorado captured its first two-point lead of the set with a 21-19 lead. UNC then won four of the final six points to take the third set and force the match one set further with a 25-22 win.

Set Four

The Wildcats were relentless in the fourth set, getting back to its clinical offense it had run all night, as 18 points into the frame, Emma Grome notched her 41st assist of the game and Northern Colorado called timeout trailing by six. The lead ballooned to double digits on Brooklyn DeLeye’s 13th kill of the night, as she took over the lead for the match in that category and UNC called its final timeout trailing the Wildcats, 18-8. Kentucky closed out the match on a Bear attacking error and UK took the final set, 25-14.

Stat That Matters

11. Kentucky had 11 service aces in the match, with six coming off the arm of freshman Molly Tuozzo.

Key Moment

Tuozzo’s service run in the first set as she took UK from 20-19 deficit to a 23-20 lead and put the Wildcats on the frontfoot leading into the back few points of the set.

Key Player

Eleanor Beavin was the key player in Saturday’s win, recording 13 digs.

Kentucky Volleyball in Rupp Arena

UK Athletics announced earlier this spring that Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center will serve as the primary home venue for the Kentucky gymnastics, volleyball and women’s basketball teams for the 2023-24 season while Memorial Coliseum undergoes an $82 million renovation.

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