MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Kentucky volleyball team had another gritty comeback effort end in heartbreak Friday, losing 3-2 (16-25, 26-24, 25-17, 19-25, 17-15) to Florida State in the round of 16 at the NCAA Tournament.
Kentucky senior BriAnne Sauer's 23 digs propelled her to claim the school's single-season digs record in the loss.
The Wildcats (29-5) fought hard with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line, storming back to force a deciding fifth set. They fought off four set points and a three-point deficit in the middle of the fifth frame.
UK had four players reach double figures in kills, led by juniors Sarah Mendoza with 19 and Lauren Rapp with a season-high 18. Junior Blaire Hiler had a career-best 15 kills, and sophomore Becky Pavan added 13.
Kentucky used a .290 hitting percentage in the match and accounted for 75 kills. Senior setter Sarah Rumely dished out a season-high 63 assists, and Sauer led the defensive effort with 23 digs.
Mendoza registered her fifth straight double-double with the 19 kills and 14 digs. Rapp posted six blocks, and sophomore Gretchen Giesler turned back four. Junior Laura Stokowski and freshman Stephanie Klefot picked up six digs each in the loss.
Rapp had the first point of the fifth set to give UK the early edge. After Florida State tied the score, the teams traded points back and forth until the Seminoles broke free for back-to-back kills to take a 6-4 lead. They maintained the two-point edge into the switch of benches, earning their eighth point on a kill that rolled the length of the net and barely fell into play.
Out of the break, Rapp posted a kill to bring UK within 8-7. Then Florida State had another stroke of luck when a ball just grazed the net and dropped in front of UK's defense. Back-to-back kills enabled the Seminoles to take an 11-8 advantage, forcing UK into a timeout. Kentucky fired back with consecutive kills from Mendoza and Hiler to pull to within 11-10. Florida State responded with a timeout of its own.
Florida State earned a rejection out of the timeout to once again take a two-point lead at 12-10. Hiler came up with another huge kill, and UK once again got to within one. A long defensive battle ended in a slam by Pavan to tie the score at 12. Florida State responded with a kill of its own to go ahead once again. Hiler's answer tied the score at 13 as she found a seam deep in the backcourt.
UK served the ball into the net to give Florida State set point, but Rapp kept the match alive with a kill. Kentucky then committed another unforced error to allow Florida State to earn set point at 15-14, and UK opted to use its final timeout.
A block from Rapp and Pavan once again kept the match alive for the Wildcats, but Florida State (31-2) captured set point again with a kill, and the match ended on a service ace.