LEXINGTON, Ky. - Ole Miss freshman middle blocker Nakeyta Clair had a team-high 11 kills and four block assists, but it wasn't enough, as the Rebels (10-12, 4-9 Southeastern Conference) dropped a tough 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 22-25, 16-25) match at Kentucky on Friday evening.
Clair, in addition to leading the Rebels in kills and blocks, also recorded her first two service aces of the season. Senior setter Amanda Philpot was one dig shy of a double-double, finishing with 38 assists, nine digs and five kills. Freshman middle blocker Ty Laporte and junior outside hitter Kara Morgan joined Clair with double-digit kills, finishing with 10 each.
"The team did a good job of competing tonight," Ole Miss head coach Joe Getzin said. "We had some chances in the third game that we didn't take advantage of. In the fourth set, our system broke down a little bit. We've got to find more ways to be more consistent with that."
The Rebels have gotten great production from Laporte and Clair over the last six matches. The two freshmen are first and second on the team, respectively, in kills over the six-match span, with Clair also leading the Rebels in blocks and Laporte in second during the stretch.
"Nakeyta is continuing to improve every day," Getzin said. "We let her do some serving today and she got two aces. I think Nakeyta is an untapped source of talent for us who we have to continue to develop."
After Kentucky jumped out to an early 3-1 lead in the opening set, the Rebels and Wildcats exchanged points until Ole Miss tied it at 13-13. The Rebels would then take a 17-16 lead, but Kentucky (16-8, 10-4 SEC) caught fire at the end and scored nine of the final 12 points in the set to win 25-20. Clair led Ole Miss offensively with five kills, while Philpot passed out a dozen assists.
With the scored tied 9-9 in the second set, the Rebels went on a 3-0 run to take a 12-9 lead and force the Wildcats into their first timeout of the set. Kentucky called its final timeout of the set after the Rebels went on another 3-0 run to take a 19-17 lead. Ole Miss came out of the second timeout strong, scoring six of the next eight points, including Clair's first two service aces of the season, to win the set 25-19 and tie the match 1-1.
The Rebels jumped out to a quick 6-3 lead to open the third set and did not trail until a 2-0 run by the Wildcats pushed UK ahead 17-15, prompting an Ole Miss timeout. Trailing by three at 16-19, Ole Miss went on a 4-1 run to tie the match at 20 points apiece. The Wildcats closed out the third set on a 5-2 run though, and took the set 25-22 to take a 2-1 lead in the match. Laporte led Ole Miss with a team-high five kills in the third frame, as Morgan had four kills of her own and Philpot tallied 11 assists.
Ole Miss fell in an early 2-7 hole to start the fourth set, but a 5-1 run by the Rebels cut the deficit to just a single point at 7-8. Kentucky went on another 7-2 run midway through the fourth set, though, and took an 18-12 lead they wouldn't surrender.
The Rebels will now head south to Baton Rouge, La., to take on the LSU Tigers on Sunday. The matchup between the Rebels and Tigers will begin at 3 p.m. CT and will be televised by Cox. It will be the first matchup of the season between the two schools. Ole Miss won the two teams' last meeting Oct. 23 of last season, a five-set thriller where the Rebels staved off six match points in the fourth set.
LSU plays just one match this week. The Tigers have split their matches for six straight weekends in SEC action. LSU has been led offensively by Desiree Elliott (3.58 kills per set) and Madie Jones (3.56 kills per set), who each rank in the top 10 in kills in the SEC. LSU senior libero Meghan Mannari is currently second in the league with 4.83 digs per set.
For all Ole Miss volleyball news and information, including live stats, recaps and results, go to OleMissSports.com. Follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissVB and go to Facebook at Ole Miss Volleyball.
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