LEXINGTON, Ky. - Desiree Elliott belted a career-high 20 kills on a .395 hitting percentage, but it wasn't enough as the No. 15 LSU volleyball team dropped a 3-2 battle to Kentucky [23-25, 25-21, 23-25, 25-18, 11-15] Sunday in-front of 1,791 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
"We have to credit Kentucky because they played with great heart and great tenacity," head coach Fran Flory said. "Their defensive effort was outstanding. They did a fantastic job of controlling the ball and creating in transition. Offensively, they brought it, and we didn't have an answer."
The Tigers (23-3, 14-3 SEC) were handed their fourth straight defeat in Lexington dating back to the 2006 season. LSU also had its SEC Western Division lead trimmed to 1.5 matches after Ole Miss claimed a five-set victory at Auburn.
Elliott powered home 19 of her 20 kills during the final four frames and became the fourth different player to reach the 20-spike plateau this season. She also recorded four blocks.
Brittney Johnson equaled a career-best 12 kills on a .500 hitting ratio and passed out 47 assists for her 10th double-double of the season. Her nine digs placed the Baton Rouge native just shy of her first career triple-double.
"The greatest thing about Desi's performance was they were keying on her, and she was still able to be successful," Flory said. "Brittney and Desi connected really well. I thought Brittney got back to being a great athlete who is playing the setting position."
Lauren Waclawczyk racked up 24 digs and pushed her streak to 13 consecutive matches with double figure digs. The San Antonio, Texas, native also surpassed the 20-scoop watermark for the sixth time in 2010. Meghan Mannari sprawled out for 12 digs and tied a career-high with four assists.
Kentucky (16-12, 10-8 SEC) connected for 13 kills on 26 swings without an attack error and converted on 9-of-11 sideout attempts during the deciding fifth set.
At 4-4, the Wildcats surged ahead with four straight points aided by kills from Whitney Billings, Blair Hiler and Gretchen Giesler.
LSU stayed within three points on four different occasions. At 11-8, Kentucky reeled off back-to-back kills from Lauren Rapp and Hiler to grab a five-point advantage.
The Tigers fought back to 13-10 and 14-11 before Hiler delivered the final blow to vault UK into the winner's circle. It marked the first time in four matches that LSU lost a five set match in 2010.
Kentucky was headlined by a trio of double-doubles from Billings [18 kills and 14 digs], Rapp [17 kills and 10 digs] and Christine Hartmann [52 assists and 16 digs]. HIler cranked 11 kills, while Giesler chipped in 10 kills. Defensively, Stephanie Klefot notched a match-high 29 digs.
After splitting the first 20 points of the opening set, Kentucky took advantage of Elliott and Bensend hitting miscues coupled with a Rapp kill to go up 13-10. The Tigers fired back with 10 of the next 14 points sparked by two Johnson kills and an ace to move ahead 20-17. After a timeout, UK used an 8-3 finishing kick capped by consecutive HIler spikes to pick up a 25-23 win.
LSU regrouped and jumped out to a 14-8 edge to start set two. Johnson set Elliott, Jones and Williams to multiple kills to highlight the run. The Wildcats pulled within 18-17, but Elliott answered with three more quick spikes to push to make it 21-18. Williams provided the finishing touches for the 25-21 victory to even the match at a set apiece.
Out of the halftime break, Kentucky ran ahead 14-7 to open the third set. The Tigers pieced together 13 of the next 18 points as Bensend led the charge with three kills to turn the tables in favor of LSU, 20-19. Kentucky's defense forced the Tigers into three hitting errors along with a pair of Billings kills to take a 25-23 decision.
Once again, the Tigers battled back in set four. LSU raced out to a 17-9 lead as Elliott and Jones clocked a trio of kills each. Kentucky would get no closer than five points, the latest at 23-18. The Tigers forced a deciding frame on a Johnson-Williams stuff to close out a 25-18 triumph.
"This was a NCAA Tournament type of match," Flory said. "It was a tough match both physically and mentally. Certainly, it's nice to be in that type of match late in the season and would have been more productive for us to come out with a 'W'. There's no doubt it hurts a little bit."
LSU returns home Friday to face South Carolina to open its final regular season home weekend. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. inside the Maravich Center.
Live video and live stats for the match are available on LSUsports.net in the Geaux Zone. Fans also can follow live in-match updates on the team's official blog at http://lsuvolleyball.posterous.com.