Lincoln, Neb. -- The University of Oklahoma volleyball team knocked off No. 19 Kentucky in a thrilling four-set victory (25-20, 25-20, 17-25, 25-22) Friday night at NU Coliseum in the second match of the 2012 Ameritas Player Invitational. The win is the first for the Sooners against a ranked opponent on the season, and improves the team to 7-3 on the year.
"It was a great win for the program," remarked head coach Santiago Restrepo. "To beat a ranked team, especially when we have new players on the roster - players that haven't experienced what it is to beat a ranked team - it's just great to see."
The victory is just the 14th win in program history for the Sooners against a top-25 team, to lift head coach Santiago Restrepo's record against ranked opponents to 13-58 while at the helm of the Oklahoma volleyball program.
In a team performance that saw the Sooners continue their spectacular blocking this season with 19.0 total team blocks, the Crimson and Cream set a new, four-set match record, with 30 block assists. Freshman Kierra Holst led the way for OU with a personal-best 11 blocks on the night.
"I thought that everyone contributed to the cause tonight," explained Restrepo. "Overall we won the battle. We played pretty consistent, and that's something that we need to do every time we go out on the court."
Junior Sallie McLaurin added another eight blocks, and contributed a team-leading 11 kills off of 30 attempts with just one error for a .333 hitting percentage against the Wildcats. Freshman Julia Doyle, who totaled another six blocks for the Sooners, was just one successful attack shy of a double-double output as the setter put together nine kills from 15 swings with just one error to clip .533, and contribute a team-leading 26 assists.
Senior standout Maria Fernanda collected the fourth 20-plus dig performance of the season, and 39th of her career, as the libero led OU's back court with 23 digs on the night. Junior Keila Rodriguez combined efforts with Tara Dunn and Doyle to total 22 of Oklahoma's 63 digs against the Wildcats.
It was a big night for sophomore defensive specialist Caroline Weir who made her season debut in the Crimson and Cream against Kentucky. Restrepo added that the sophomore "came in with some very key serves and defensive plays tonight. She showed up," appearing in every set and contributing nine digs on the night.
The Sooners jumped out to an overwhelming 6-0 lead to begin the first set against the Wildcats. Kentucky dumped just five points by the time Oklahoma had put 12 on the board, largely in part to a four-point scoring run behind serves from Weir, to go up 12-5 nearly halfway through the set.
Back-to-back kills from Holst and Dunn gave the Sooners a 17-9 advantage in an effort to close out the first stanza quickly, but the Wildcats battled back late in the set to come within four of the Sooners at 20-16. A quick service error from Kentucky's Ashley Frazier widened the gap, 21-16 and paced OU to the first set victory, 25-20.
Both Kentucky and Oklahoma traded points in the second stanza, but it was the Wildcats who took the lead early and widened the gap, 7-3, thanks to a 3-0 scoring run. A Sooner timeout prompted four quick points for the Crimson and Cream to tie it up, 7-7.
OU grabbed its first lead of the second set off consecutive Wildcat attack errors to go up 9-8, but the match wasn't secured yet. Both teams traded quick points until OU jumped ahead, 20-14, and gained a lead it wouldn't drop throughout the remainder of the set.
Kentucky battled back in an effort to stay in contention for the second-set victory, stringing together a 4-0 scoring run to make it 23-19. Back-to-back Sooner kills from Doyle and McLaurin prevented a Kentucky comeback and secured the 2-0 OU lead, as the Sooners closed out the second stanza, 25-20.
Once again, the Wildcats took an early lead in the beginning of the third set, 8-3, to force a Sooner timeout. A successful swing by Dunn put Oklahoma back on the board at 8-4, but couldn't hold off Kentucky as it went on a 3-0 run to quickly widen the gap, 11-4.
Kills from Doyle and Dunn put the Sooners back in the game 8-17, despite the Wildcat lead. Dunn delayed Kentucky's initial set point with a successful hit to the ground, but it wasn't enough as the Wildcats avoided the sweep with a 25-17 third set victory.
The fourth set was a back-and-forth battle that saw four tie scores before breaking into double-digit points. A four-point breakaway from the Sooners put them ahead for the first time in the fourth stanza, 12-11, until the Wildcats managed to tie-it-up at 13-13 all. The battle continued late into the set, until the Sooners secured a five-point, 20-15 lead, sparked by a successful Rodriguez strike.
The Wildcats continued the fight, tying the set one more time at 21-21. A series of Kentucky attack errors gave Oklahoma set point, as McLaurin secured the fourth set, and match victory for the Sooners with a successful solo block to push it back on Kentucky's court.
The Sooners will end an eight-match road stand, and the Ameritas Player Invitational tomorrow afternoon with a matinee showdown against Duquesne. First serve is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
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