WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The No. 19 Kentucky Volleyball team picked up its second win of the season Friday afternoon, winning a top-25 showdown with No. 21 Houston behind 13 kills from both Brooklyn DeLeye and Elise Goetzinger alongside three service aces from sophomore Audrey Whitworth in a 3-1 (25-21, 18-25, 25-17, 25-22) decision.
Kentucky will take on the winner of Friday night's Purdue vs. Southern Methodist match, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET. If UK plays Purdue, the match will begin at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday. If the match is with SMU, the match will begin at 4 p.m. ET.
Kentucky used a bevy of Houston service errors and a clinical sideout rate early in the set to take an 11-4 lead and after Brooklyn DeLeye's third kill of a 5-0 run, the Cougars called their first timeout trailing the Wildcats, 15-8 in the early parts of the set. With Kentucky holding UH to a -.143 hitting percentage, the Cougars then saw their deficit drop another point to make things 18-12 and a block from Brooklyn DeLeye on the left side. Kentucky rode the back of five kills from Elise Goetzinger, hitting .500 on the match to get to a seven-point lead at 22-15 as the Wildcats crept towards set point. After a sideout to get to 23-17, the Cougars won a challenge to clip back a point and ran off three in a row to make it 23-19 and Kentucky burned its first timeout of the set with a four-point cushion. DeLeye's team-leading sixth kill of the set ended things from the left pin and Kentucky took a 1-0 lead in the match with a 25-21 opening set win, hitting .308 as a team with 14 assists from setter Emma Grome and six digs from opposite Reagan Rutherford as the UK defense held the Cougars to .265 offensively.
It was not the same start for Kentucky in the second set, as the Wildcats trailed 11-6 after back-to-back hitting errors and were forced into an early timeout trailing by five, its largest deficit of the match to that point. The Houston lead continued to balloon, as the Cougars took a 17-11 lead and UK needed its second timeout down six after creeping the lead to four at one point at 15-11. Houston arrived at set point 24-14, but four-straight by the Wildcats on a service run from Reagan Rutherford asked questions of the Cougars and UH took its first timeout needing a sideout to close out the set. Out of the timeout, UH got a first-ball kill and evened the match, 1-1.
The two teams sided out for the first 16 points of the third set, with Kentucky finally breaking the patters and an Azhani Tealer kill on a quick giving UK the 9-7 lead, the first two-point edge of the set for either side. After Tealer began to assert her will in the middle and Reagan Rutherford picking up a pair of kills after a quiet start, Megan Wilson hammered an overpass from the left pin to give the Wildcats a 13-9 lead and Houston promptly stopped action with the first of its two timeouts. Kentucky took its largest lead of the third with a kill from Tealer on an out-of-system ball and a 16-11, UK was more than halfway to the lead in the match with a five-point cushion in the frame. Kentucky used Tealer and Rutherford well the rest of the way and Megan Wilson got in on the action with four kills to push UK to the 25-17 third-set win and 2-1 lead in the match overall.
Elise Goetzinger logged her 13th kill of the match in the early stages of the fourth set and after UK used her offense and blocking from Grome, Wilson and DeLeye, it quickly turned into a 5-0 run and 11-6 lead as the Cougars were forced into an early halt of play with its first timeout. The five-point lead evaporated into just two as the Cougars took advantage of a 4-1 run to pull within 15-13 and Kentucky called its first timeout of the set up a pair. Audrey Whitworth then responded out of the stoppage with three-straight points for UK with a pair of aces sprinkled in and UH called its final timeout trailing 19-13 in the set. Houston then ran off six of the next seven with sloppy serve receive for UK and the Coogs pulled to within 21-20 as Kentucky burned its final timeout. Brooklyn DeLeye recused the Wildcats with a sideout and an Emma Grome service ace ended the match.
Stat That Matters
Emma Grome had 45 assists on the night, with three UK players, Goetzinger, DeLeye and Rutherford all notching double-digit kills on the afternoon.
Brooklyn DeLeye's out-of-system kill at 21-20 in the fourth set to stop a 5-0 Cougar run was the key play in the match as the Wildcats were able to coast to the win from there.
The key player in Friday afternoon's match was Audrey Whitworth, who had 10 digs and three service aces.
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.