ATHENS, Ga. - Freshman outside Brooklyn DeLeye helped rescue Kentucky from an 8-5 hole in the fifth set as the No. 23 Wildcats beat Georgia 3-2 (25-23, 25-16, 23-25, 19-25, 15-13) in a thriller Friday night at the Ramsey Student Center.
UK won each of the first two sets with set one closer than set two, before the Bulldogs turned the match around with wins in sets three and four to give them a chance in the fifth. The last set didn't start well for UK, but the Wildcats were able to turn things around with the help of DeLeye and fifth year Azhani Tealer, who had 12 kills on 26 swings with three blocks.
The entire set was played within a three-point window in the opening set, as Georgia's biggest lead was two and UK was able to garner nothing more than a one-point lead from the start of the set. UK won a challenge on an in/out call to give Azhani Tealer her second kill of the match and gave UK the 7-6 lead. The Wildcats again re-took the lead at 17-16 thanks to an ace from freshman Molly Tuozzo, who placed UK's second ace of the match to the floor in left back. Georgia won back-to-back points to square the set and took a 20-18 lead before UK was pushed into its first timeout of the set. Out of the timeout, UK got a service error from the Dawgs, a kill from Brooklyn DeLeye and a block from Elise Goetzinger and Emma Grome to re-take the lead at 21-20 and Georgia expended its first timeout. Georgia's fourth service error and an attack error gave Kentucky a 23-21 lead and UGA called its final timeout. Kentucky picked up set point at 24-22 and a Jordyn Williams kill on the right side ended the set with UK taking it, 25-23. Kentucky hit .522 in the frame with four players recording three or more kills.
Audrey Whitworth took command of the second set for Kentucky at the service line with two aces within three points and her run pushed Kentucky to a 4-0 run and at 7-2 with UK leading by five early points, Georgia called a timeout. Whitworth then aced the Dawgs for back-to-back aces out of the timeout and Kentucky's lead ballooned to 9-2. After a service error by the Bulldogs, UK got its seventh service ace of the night to make the lead 13-5 and UGA called its final timeout of the set down eight. After UGA had cut the lead to five, UK reinstated its lead to eight thanks to an out-of-system swing from Brooklyn DeLeye to make things 19-11. The Dawgs kept persisting, as the lead for UK decreased to five at 19-14 on an attack error by UK, but a timely kill by Elise Goetzinger on the right pin for her third kill of the night put UK back in a comfortable position at 20-14 and it was smooth sailing all the way to the clubhouse as Kentucky took a two sets to none lead.
It was a different story for Kentucky in the third set, as the Wildcats were blitzed out of the gates and quickly fell behind 5-1 and after a service error, 6-2. After UK tried to work its way back into the fold, the Bulldogs used back-to-back UK attack errors to pull away and grab an 11-7 lead with UK needed to call a timeout down by four after cutting the lead to one earlier in the frame. Kentucky again dug itself a deeper hole with service errors, their ninth of the match, as Georgia took a 16-9 lead and with a seven-point deficit - needed its final timeout of the set to talk things over. Georgia won the set, 25-23 after the set ended on a service error to make the match 2-1 overall.
After another slow start, Kentucky was behind 11-7 in the early stages of the fourth set and had to halt play trailing by four with a timeout, its first of the match. To that point in the set, Georgia was hitting .248, but it was a -.125 hitting percentage for UK that was the issue with just two kills and four attack errors in the frame. Georgia went on a 4-0 scoring run out of the timeout and Kentucky again had to stop play trailing 15-8 and it was the final timeout for the Wildcats. Georgia ran away with the fourth set, 25-19 to force a decisive fifth set in Athens.
It was another slow start to a set for UK in the fifth, as UGA took a 7-3 lead and reached the halfway mark in the decisive set leading by three at 8-5 as Kentucky's 14th service error of the night stopped a 3-0 run. Kentucky then turned on the jets and won three points in a row to make it 11-11 and the two sides sided out perfectly down the stretch to arrive at 13-13. A Georgia service error made things 14-13 and Elise Goetzinger pushed across her first ace of the match to close out the night as UK took the set, 15-13.
Stats That Matter
Brooklyn DeLeye had 25 kills in the match, the most of a single UK player in any match this season. Key Moment
The key moment was Elise Goetzinger's ace on match point.
The key player was DeLeye, who had 25 kills, hit .316, logged an assist, a block and 12 digs for her first-career double-double.
Kentucky Volleyball in Rupp Arena
UK Athletics announced earlier this spring that Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center will serve as the primary home venue for the Kentucky gymnastics, volleyball and women's basketball teams for the 2023-24 season while Memorial Coliseum undergoes an $82 million renovation.
Kentucky with the comeback win improves to 4-7 on the year and sits 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play. The Wildcats next play at Alabama on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET from Foster Auditorium.