Rutherford’s Career-High 26 Kills Knock Off Arkansas in Four
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Junior opposite Reagan Rutherford had a career-high 26 kills Friday night as the No. 19 Kentucky Volleyball team secured a 3-1 (18-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-23) four-set win over Arkansas on the road.
Rutherford was just one block away from a triple-double as the Missouri City, Texas native lauded the 26 kills, 14 digs and nine blocks in Friday night’s contest – undoubtedly the best match of her career in the Kentucky.
UK lost the opening set 25-18, hitting just .083 for the frame but rallied to turn things around in the later stages of the match to close out the Razorbacks in four. Rutherford was the only Wildcat player to hit in double-figures for the contest, but balance carried the day for UK with Lamb and Azhani Tealer both logging nine kills. Friday night marked the return for Azhani Tealer after missing the last four matches with a shoulder injury. Tealer hit .474 with nine aforementioned kills, no errors, eight blocks and a dig.
Bella Bell had a terrific night for UK with 10 blocks, killing six balls and also tallying a dig. Her 10 blocks were a large part of UK’s defensive night where the Wildcats held Arkansas to a .153 hitting percentage for the evening and under .100 in sets three and four.
Emma Grome had another impressive night, logging 50 assists with a kill, five digs and four blocks in the contest.
The Wildcats are now 9-5 on the 2022 season overall and sit 4-1 in Southeastern Conference play. The 4-1 record is currently tied for first in the conference standings.
Kentucky and Arkansas conclude their two-match SEC series on Saturday in Fayetteville at 6 p.m. ET live on the SEC Network+, ESPN+ and the ESPN app.
Arkansas came out with a commanding lead in the opening set, never letting UK closer than two points from a 4-1 margin to start the match. Back-to-back blocking errors and attack errors against the Wildcats pushed the Razorbacks lead to 15-10 at the media timeout, its largest lead of the match to that point. Kentucky burned its first timeout down seven, a match-high number, at 20-13 with the Wildcats only hitting .055 at the time of that stoppage. UK clawed back in the set to within six but got no closer as Arkansas convincingly closed out the set, 25-18. Kentucky hit .083 in the frame with five kills from Reagan Rutherford as the offensive bright spot for UK. Jill Gillen had seven kills on 15 swings in the opener for Arkansas to lead all players in the match.
Kentucky was much more clinical in the beginning of the second set, jumping out to a 6-3 lead on the arm of junior opposite Reagan Rutherford. Arkansas went on a 4-0 run to re-take the lead at 7-6 but Kentucky responded well winning four in a row itself to buoy a 10-7 lead. Azhani Tealer’s fourth kill of the match put Kentucky up 11-8 and a service ace for Eleanor Beavin climbed the lead up a ladder rung to four points and Arkansas called its first timeout down, 12-8. A Bella Bell block after an extended rally gave Kentucky a 19-13 lead and prompted Kentucky into its second timeout of the set as UK’s lead ballooned to a match-high six points in the set. A kill by Erin Lamb, her sixth of the night, ended the set with Kentucky leveling the match at 25-18. UK hit .303 for the set, while holding Arkansas to just a .179 clip, a much better performance in the second by Kentucky. Rutherford had 10 kills on 20 swings through the opening two frames to lead all players in the match.
It was one of the most impressive starts to a set all season for Kentucky in the third as UK jetted out to a 10-2 lead with an 8-0 Audrey Whitworth service run and five kills or blocks from Bella Bell within that run to open up the lead. Arkansas called a timeout when it was 7-2 and finally built some momentum towards the middle of the frame, closing the gap to just three points at 12-9 on back-to-back 3-0 runs separated by a hitting error. Reagan Rutherford kept the gap at four with a nice cross-court kill and it got extended back to a 15-10 margin thanks to an Azhani Tealer kill from an overpass to thwart the UA momentum. Arkansas took the lead for the first time in the set, climbing all the way back from 10-2 down to claim an 18-17 lead and UK called its final timeout down a point after a 5-0 Razorback scoring run. Kentucky won three of the next four points out of the timeout to make it a 20-18 lead for the Wildcats and Arkansas elected to call its final timeout down a pair. Azhani Tealer’s fifth kill of the match closed out the set as she went offspeed from the right pin and put the capper on a 25-21 Kentucky third-set win to give UK the 2-1 lead in the match and placed the Wildcats in front for the first time all evening.
Similar to set three, Kentucky came bolting out of the gates in impressive fashion, jumping out to an 8-2 lead to get the early edge on the Hogs. But, also similar to set three, Arkansas fought back and clawed its way right back into the thick of things with a long chippy run to climb to within just three points at the media timeout, 15-12. Erin Lamb’s ninth termination of the evening made it a two-point lead at 18-16 after Arkansas cut the deficit to one, its closest margin since it was 3-2 in the early parts of the set. Arkansas then called its first timeout of the set down by three at 19-16 following a block from Azhani Tealer and Emma Grome, their third tandem-block of the match and the sixth for Tealer on the evening. Kentucky then got to set point at 24-21 and fought off two points from Arkansas to secure the 3-1 win on Bella Bell’s sixth kill of the match.