No. 15 Volleyball Wildcats upset # 5 Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Nearly 20 years to the day the Kentucky volleyball team came away with a win from Gainesville, Fla., as the 15th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats upset the fifth-ranked Florida Gators in five gut-wrenching sets (9-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11). It is the first win for Kentucky at Florida since Oct. 1, 1989.

After suffering a humiliating 25-9 loss in the opening set, Kentucky (14-1, 4-0) pulled through to tally its second straight win over Florida (10-2, 4-1) after earning a five-set victory in Lexington a season ago. It was a total team effort for the Blue and White who have now hit over .200 in all 14 matches this season. With the victory, Kentucky is the only remaining unbeaten team in Southeastern Conference action.

"I obviously thought this was a really great win tonight," said Kentucky coach Craig Skinner. "It is really hard to come into Florida and get a win because they hardly ever lose at home. To be able to pull out a win after getting crushed 25-9 in the opening set really is outstanding.

"I think it showed a lot of toughness to be able to come out and perform. Florida is a great, great team and there are a lot of tremendous athletes out there. For us to be able to perform under pressure like that is just another stepping stone for this program and for this team."

Kentucky was led offensively by junior Sarah Mendoza who posted her third career match of 20 or more kills with a 20-kill performance tonight. Sophomore Gretchen Giesler set a career-high with 11 kills on the night. Juniors Blaire Hiler (9) and Lauren Rapp (6) contributed nicely to the offensive effort.

Senior Sarah Rumely directed the offense to the tune of 46 assists on a .206 hitting clip, while adding five kills of her own. Defensively, Giesler led the way with five blocks as the Blue and White came up with 10 rejections on the evening. Sophomore Becky Pavan added four to the front wall effort. Senior BriAnne Sauer continued her hot start to conference action by posting her second straight match with 20 or more digs with 22 scoops tonight. Junior Laura Stokowski added eight scoops with freshman Stephanie Klefot contributing seven.

In the deciding fifth set Florida was able to take the early lead at 4-1, but Kentucky quickly answered with three straight points to knot the score at four apiece. In that stretch Giesler put down her career-high 11th kill of the night. From that point on the teams exchanged points throughout the early portion of the set. Hiler gave Kentucky the one-point advantage with a kill during the bench change at 8-7.

After the exchange of sides Florida took the first two points to grab a lead of its own. Rapp responded with a kill to once again knot the score at nine. Neither team could shake the other as the teams continued to trade points. Kentucky rattled off two straight points after a Mendoza kill and a Florida error to take an 11-10 advantage and Florida took the first timeout of the fifth frame.

Out of the break Florida committed another hitting error sailing it high attempting to avoid the Big Blue wall of defenders at the net. Rumely's crafty placement allowed UK to take a 13-10 advantage and Florida burned its final timeout.

The home team benefited from a Kentucky hitting error inching closer at 13-11, but Kentucky came up with a huge kill from the hand of the Florida native Mendoza. With match point on the line, Kentucky's defense once again came up with a match-changing play forcing Florida to hit the ball high which eventually sailed deep past the line giving Kentucky its monumental victory.

The Blue and White return to action on Sunday in Columbia, S.C., with a match against South Carolina. Match time is set for 1:30 p.m. ET.

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