Form held true Friday night as Kentucky and Ohio State advanced in the first round of the NCAA volleyball tournament in Memorial Coliseum.
Ohio State, No. 14 in the national coaches' poll, first swept Notre Dame 3-0. Then Kentucky, seeded 16th, disposed of East Tennessee State 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-15).
"We came out really strong in set one with our serving," UK Coach Craig Skinner said. "ETSU has a couple really nice athletes, really nice attackers, and we were able to neutralize them by serving tough and getting them out of system. I think that set the tone for the match.
"But knowing what they're capable of, they came out in set two and did some really nice things. I was proud of the way we responded when they made a run on us. ... Our serving and blocking defense and digging were the difference in the match, and that needs to be a mainstay for tomorrow night."
UK (21-10) will host Ohio State in the second round at 7 p.m. Saturday. The winner of that matchup will play Penn State or Bowling Green next weekend at Purdue.
Ashley Frazier led UK against ETSU with 12 kills — four in each set — and only one attack error.
The 6-foot-2 senior said she was more aggressive than she had been in recent matches. Team passing was a key to her big night, she added.
"Christine (Hartmann, who had 31 assists) was able to distribute the ball to all of our hitters," Frazier said. "The middles were pulling the block so it gave me a lot of one-on-one opportunities."
Whitney Billings had eight kills, two aces and nine digs.
"I was just in the right spot at the right time," Billings said of the digs.
Stephanie Klefot, three-time Libero of the Year in the Southeastern Conference, had 10 of UK's 43 digs.
Alexandra Morgan, Lauren O'Connor, Kayla Tronick and Jackie Napper accounted for 12 of UK's 14 block assists.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first set, UK scored seven points in a row and rolled.
The Buccaneers (23-12) played tougher in the second set, taking a 13-8 lead on back-to-back aces by Megan Devine, Player of the Year in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
O'Connor answered with back-to-back kills.
"I knew we needed a change and, obviously, in the tournament everybody needs to make that play," the 6-5 sophomore said. "Since we were down, somebody needed to step up. And when I had the opportunity to, I just tried to step up as much as I could just so we could bring it back in."
The Cats tied at 14 on a O'Connor kill, then took a 15-14 lead on Hartmann's kill.
After a tie at 15, UK closed the set with a 10-2 run.
"When our team's doing what we're supposed to be doing and playing our 'A' game, everything's great. We're on top. Everything's flowing," said Devine, who had eight kills but nine errors. "At that point, Kentucky's a great team and they knew that they were down by five and had to crawl all the way back up to catch up with us. And we became satisfied and didn't keep pushing and putting our foot to the pedal. So that's the result."
Tied 5-5 in the third set, UK scored the next six points to take control.
As for Saturday's second-round matchup, "we need to rely on our defense," Skinner said. "Our defense has got to come to play tomorrow. Serving the right spots on the court. You have to expect Ohio State to make plays."
■ The Buckeyes, a Sweet Sixteen team each of the last two years, swept Notre Dame 25-16, 25-21, 25-17.
Kaitlyn Leary led Ohio State (23-10) with 16 kills, seven digs, a block solo and block assist.
Jeni Houser, out of Assumption High School, had 16 kills for the Irish (20-10).
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com