LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Senior outside hitter Tess Clark had a match-high 13 kills, hitting .312 and adding a block as the University of Louisville volleyball team upset in-state rival No. 24 Western Kentucky 3-1 Friday night in the second match of the Cardinal Classic in front of a soldout crowd. Illinois beat Kent State 3-0 in the first match of the evening.
"I don't think we could have scripted it any better with bringing in Western Kentucky, who's an in-state rival, a great team, a team that's always in the top-25 and top of their conference," said Dani Busboom Kelly, UofL head coach. "You know getting kind of punched in the mouth a little bit in game one and being able to respond was huge for this team and I think just set the tone in Cardinal Arena. We've been talking about the 87% winning percentage here and we want to do everything we can to protect that."
The Cardinals won 18-25, 25-19, 25-15, 25-15 to notch their first win of the season and move to 1-2. WKU moves to 4-1. The Toppers hit .151 led by Sydney Engel's 10 kills and three blocks. UofL got 12 kills from Melanie McHenry, who also had seven blocks. Maggie DeJong led all blockers with nine. In all. the Cards had a season-high 13 blocks.
"As a team blocking has been a focus since the spring so we've really been harping on them that we've got to get better and be more physical blocking," said Busboom Kelly. "Western hit .340 in game one and once we kind of figured out what they were doing, you know our players were just fantastic at making adjustments and then you saw they had 13 blocks in three sets."
The Cards fell behind early in the first set and could not overcome .343 hitting by the Hilltoppers before falling 25-18. WKU setter Jessica Lucas was able to dump for three kills and added an ace, hitting .600 for the set. UofL hit just .107 led by Amanda Green's two kills.
Cards came out strong in the second set and took a 5-0 lead early to spark a timeout by WKU. Tess Clark was able to get free on the left side for four kills and was helped by Maggie DeJong's four blocks for the 25-18 win to tie the set score going into the break. WKU's hitting cooled to .161 with no blocks.
The Cards took the lead early in the third set at 5-4 on a kill by Tess Clark. Although WKU tied at seven, they never retook the lead. UofL ran off the final seven points unanswered down the stretch, powered by Gabbie Wiley's serving five straight points as the Cards cruised to the 25-16 win.
The Cards fell behind 4-2 early in the fourth set but tied at nine and then kept the Toppers at arm's length as the set moved on. Tied at 11, U of L outscored the Toppers 14-5 for the 25-17 win.
On Saturday morning, Illinois takes on WKU at 10:30, followed by Louisville vs. Kent State at 12:30 p.m. Western Kentucky plays Kent State at 5:30 p.m. followed by the nightcap of Louisville vs. Illinois at 7:30 p.m.