COLUMBUS, Ohio – Freshman Aleksandra Kazala recorded 14 kills to lead the American University women's volleyball team scored a 26-24, 25-17, 25-21 victory over 22nd-ranked Kentucky Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Senior Kristyna Lindovska added 10 kills and classmate Monika Smidova recorded 37 assists as the Eagles advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in program history.
The Wildcats started out strong in the first set, getting out to a 16-12 advantage. However, the Eagles responded with five straight points to take the lead. The two teams continued to trade points over the remainder of the set, but the AU was able to outlast Kentucky to earn the 26-24 victory.
Kazala was outstanding in the opening set, scoring nine of her match-high 14 kills without committing an error.
The Eagles controlled the second set from the first serve, starting on a 4-0 run. Kentucky fought back from a 10-4 deficit, eventually getting within two points at 16-14 before AU put together another run to pull away for its largest victory of the match.
American (28-6) faced another close battle in the third set, as the two teams traded points early on. However, after AU broke a 12-12 tie, the Eagles were able to keep a slim margin for the remainder of the set. With both teams hitting a high percentage in the third set, American came up with timely blocks down the stretch to pull ahead to a 23-20 advantage.
The Eagles hit .352 for the match and recorded nine service aces, while the Wildcats hit .273 with three aces and seven service errors. American came up with 55 digs, led by senior Allison Cappellino with 17. Meanwhile, Lindovska and sophomore Loren McKenzie each finished with four blocks to lead AU's effort at the net.
"It was our day," said American head coach Barry Goldberg. "We had a good roll. We were patient. We rallied really well back and forth, and we were able to control a lot of good opportunities.
"We took [Kentucky] out of their game pretty well, and we served them tough. I think that made a big difference. With us winning the serve-and-pass game, it opened up our ability to win the rallies as well. It's a good day for us, for sure."
With today's win, the Eagles advance to the second round to face 12th-seeded host Ohio State and Robert Morris. The match is slated to begin Saturday at 5:30 p.m.