Waves Sweep #19 Kentucky on the Road
Sept. 13, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Pepperdine women’s volleyball team captured perhaps its biggest win of the season thus far, shutting out #19-ranked Kentucky on Friday evening. The balanced effort was led by Katie Messing’s 14 kills and Samantha Cash’s eight blocks.
The Waves (5-2) made a brilliant comeback in set three, battling back from 17-23 to secure the sweep 26-24, 25-18, 25-23.
The Wildcats, who were undefeated at home prior to today, fall to 5-3 on the season.
“I thought we came out and played really steady,” remarked head coach Nina Matthies. “We served and passed well today and stayed composed no matter what was coming at us. I’m happy with how the team stuck with the game plan and it was nice to see that pay off.”
Messing (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands HS) contributed in all facets of the game, striking down a match-best 14 kills while hitting .542 (14 kills-1 errors-24 attempts). On defense the junior added nine digs and a career-high six blocks.
Entering the match ranked 44th in the NCAA with a 1.44 blocks per set season average, Cash (San Diego, Calif./Canyon Crest Academy) bumped her numbers up after registering eight blocks (2.67 b/s) versus Kentucky.
Becca Strehlow (Long Beach, Calif./Woodrow Wilson HS) managed the offense with 36 assists.
Overall, Pepperdine hit at a .297 (44-14-101) clip while limiting UK to a .135 (34-20-104) success rate on the attack.
The Waves jumped out to a 6-2 start in the opening frame, thanks in part to the attacking and blocking of Cash and Messing. The two combined for three kills and a joint-effort block to put Pepperdine ahead in the early going. Kentucky would not go away quietly however, and tied things up at 12-all before extending the lead by four, 12-16.
Pepperdine clawed their way back into the set, and tipped the scales back in its favor, 22-20. The Wildcats had the opportunity to strike first, up 24-23, but Kelley Larsen (Jamul, Calif./Christian HS) put a kill down to eliminate set point. Cash and Strehlow then teamed up for the roof, and Larsen clinched the frame with an ace, 26-24.
Messing was spectacular in set one, cashing in on six kills off of 10 errorless swings.
Larsen and Taylor Racich (Santa Barbara, Calif./Dos Pueblos HS) opened the second set with two kills and two aces, respectively, and it was all Pepperdine from there. After leading by as much as eight, 11-3, the Waves surged forward to win 25-18 and take a 2-0 overall advantage into the intermission.
After the Wildcats opened set three on a 5-1 run, the Waves answered by scoring seven consecutive points – three of which were courtesy of the Messing-Cash tandem block. The teams battled closely until a late UK run would put the Bluegrass Battle tournament hosts ahead 23-17.
Messing slammed down a kill to give Pepperdine the sideout and put the ball in the hands of Strehlow at the service line. Her tough serving translated into another Messing kill. The sophomore offensive maestro then dished an ace, which was sandwiched by a pair of UK attack errors to bring the Waves back within one, 22-23.
Racich sent home a kill to provide the 23rd point, followed by another Wildcat attack sent wide. Messing and Brooke Honeycutt (Phoenix, Ariz./Desert Vista HS) forced another error when they denied Alexandra Morgan at the net to secure the sweep for Pepperdine.
“We finally stole one,” said Matthies of the team’s comeback, “We’ve been in some tight matches already this season, and we finally got the tide to turn in our favor. Becca had missed a couple of serves earlier in the match, but finally honed in during that last run.
“Everyone contributed in those final points, getting some positive touches on the ball. I’m very proud of how they played today and hopefully we can continue at this level tomorrow,” said Matthies in conclusion.
The last time an unranked Pepperdine team defeated a ranked squad was on Sept. 7, 2011 when the Waves upset then #8-ranked UCLA at home in five sets. The Bruins went on to win the NCAA Championship that season, while Pepperdine reached the NCAA Regional Final and concluded the year at #6 in the rankings.
The Waves play Louisville, currently receiving votes in the AVCA poll, on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 2 p.m. (PT) The Cardinals are 2-5 on the season, with all losses coming to teams either ranked or receiving votes. Live stats for the contest can be followed here.