The Cardinals, who have won 16 of the last 17 matches over Kentucky improved their record to 18-4. UK drops to 14-13 on the season with the 26-30, 30-19, 30-23, 30-26 loss.
"This match was very competitive and huge crowd may have made the difference tonight," said Leonid Yelin, U of L head coach of the 998 fans packed into Cardinal Arena. "Kentucky kept after us and took any advantage they could. We will look back on this match as one that helped us win over a team that was very determined to beat us."
The Cardinals started out tight in the first game, falling behind 8-2. Ustymenko took over serving trailing 11-4 and helped spark the Cardinals with a six point rally, including three aces to pull to 11-10. The Cardinals finally tied at 16 and took their first and only lead at 20-19 on an Ustymenko kill. UK reached game point at 29-24 but U of L managed to stave off the loss for two points before UK closed the door. It was the first game win for UK since Sept .22, 1999. The Cardinals have swept the last five matches.
"Our adrenalin was going with the noisy crowd and the anticipation of the UK game," said Yelin. "We were wound a little too tight at first."
U of L regrouped in game two, using an 11-point run to jump out to an 18-4 lead. UK used its last time out at 26-14 to try to shift momentum before falling 30-19. U of L hitting improved to .290 to UK's .050.
In the third game, UK used a 6-2 run to pull to 18-17 and force a U of L time-out. The teams traded five point runs to make it 23-22 before U of L outscored the Cats 7-1 down the stretch. U of L outhit UK .275 to .170.
In the final set, Kentucky scooted out to an 11-5 lead, taking advantage of five U of L miscues in that run. U of L clawed its way back with a 9-3 run to tie at 14. U of L finally took the lead at 16-15 and built the lead to five a t 28-23 on a kill by Ana Yartseva. She had another kill to take U of L to game point and a Sonja Percan smash ended the match.
UK's Danielle Wallace led all hitters with 18 kills and had 12 digs. Sissy Canfield added 15 kills and four aces.
U of L's Bing Sun added 11 kills and four blocks with senior Sonja Percan connecting for 16 kills and two aces. The Cardinals outblocked UK 11-6 with Jennifer Hoffman chipping in four.