Playing its first home match of the season, where Coach Craig Skinner has a career .800 winning mark (74-19), Kentucky's volleyball women had great expectations Tuesday night.
Those expectations didn't come close to being met, though, as Cincinnati blitzed the Wildcats 25-20, 25-19 and 25-13 in Memorial Coliseum.
"It wasn't a good performance by us," Skinner said. "Cincinnati played very well and we did not respond to it."
UK (2-2) has qualified for six consecutive NCAA tournaments, and will host a regional Dec. 9-10.
The Cats will have to make much improvement if they expect to participate.
Tuesday marked the first of 10 straight matches in the Coliseum so, Skinner said, "we've got a chance to work it out right here at home."
Cincinnati (2-3) was led by Missy Harpenau, who had nine kills and 12 digs. Jordanne Scott had eight kills.
UK's Becky Pavan totaled seven kills, and Gretchen Giesler and Ann Armes each had six. Whitney Billings had four kills, two solo blocks, a block assist and three service aces. Stephanie Klefot had 18 digs.
However, the Wildcats hit a mere .070 and committed 40 errors. UC hit .237 and totaled 20 errors.
"We just didn't do what we needed to do today," said Giesler, a 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker. "Cincinnati's a great team. They always have had a great program. We just have to be more aggressive. You've got to be mentally focused in this game and we weren't mentally focused."
Giesler scored a kill and an ace for the first two points of the opening set.
Cincinnati charged back to open an 18-10 lead.
"Our kids are playing with confidence now," said Reed Sunahara, coach of the Bearcats. "We didn't have a great weekend last weekend, but I thought they were resilient, and they came back and we had a good day of practice (Monday). I thought we did a nice job tonight."
UK rallied to within 21-18 in the first set.
Trailing 11-7 in the second set, the Wildcats scored seven in a row to lead 14-11.
Cincinnati came back with the next seven and never lost the lead.
UK led 8-7 in the final set before a 9-1 Cincinnati run deflated the home team.
Afterward, the mood in the UK locker room was "probably frustration and disappointment," Giesler said, "knowing that that's not what Kentucky volleyball is about."
Asked what his post-match message to the players was, Skinner said: "If you're not motivated after a match like that, there's not a whole lot that I can say to make it different. That's a motivating situation and athletes have to understand how to respond to a loss like that. Give credit to Cincinnati. It was a good performance by them."
UK will try to bounce back Friday and Saturday in its Kentucky Classic. The Cats will face Western Kentucky on Friday.
"We've got to change things," Giesler said. "We've got to get motivated to change it. We've got to come to the gym (Wednesday) and work hard, and get our minds right for this weekend."