Nov. 20, 2011
Tennessee kept its football bowl hopes alive with a thrilling overtime win over Vanderbilt, and the Lady Vols clinched no worse than a tie for the SEC volleyball championship to headline UT's sports weekend.
Eric Gordon's interception and 90-yard touchdown return lifted Tennessee to its first conference victory of the season and improved the Vols to 5-6 overall. Tennessee must win Saturday's finale at Kentucky to secure its second straight bowl berth under head coach Derek Dooley.
Quarterback Tyler Bray returned to the field for the first time in more than a month and hit Da'Rick Rogers with a pair of touchdown passes. The second one came with less than seven minutes remaining on a fourth-and-goal situation and tied the score at 21. Tennessee won the toss and chose defense to start overtime, and then Gordon responded with his second interception this season and second career pick-six for the victory.
Volleyball has its own showdown against Kentucky, this one Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena (7 p.m.) with the SEC title on the line. The Lady Vols have won 11 straight matches - 10 in the league - since their only conference loss of the season Oct. 12 in Lexington. That was a 3-2 thriller down to the wire, and UT head coach Rob Patrick expects Wednesday's match to equal the intensity.
"Kentucky is a great team that is playing as well as we are," Patrick said. "We have to be willing to be out here for three hours if that's what it takes to be successful."
Women's basketball dropped a 69-64 overtime decision Sunday at Virginia. The Lady Vols turned the ball over 24 times and shot just 52 percent from the free throw line in their first loss of the season. Taber Spani paced all scorers with 22 points.
And Tennessee's swimming and diving squads completed the Tennessee Invitational on Friday, with the women finishing second and the men third. The final meet of the fall semester takes place Dec. 1-3 at the USA Swimming Winter Nationals in Atlanta.
Behind a match-high 17 kills from sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Robinson and 11 kills by junior outside hitter Leslie Cikra on Friday night at the Thompson-Boling Arena, the No. 14 Tennessee Lady Vols volleyball team picked up its 10th consecutive victory and 12th sweep of 2011 by rolling past Arkansas, 25-21, 25-17, 25-21.
With the victory, the Big Orange (25-3, 17-1 Southeastern Conference) now needs just one more triumph over its final two regular-season matches to secure the program's second SEC Championship.
Tennessee hit .352 overall as a team (44 kills, 12 errors on 91 attacks) while holding Arkansas to just a .149 percentage (31 kills, 18 errors on 87 attacks), well below its season mark of .239. UT hit over .300 in each of the three sets, highlighted by a clip of .393 during the 25-21 final set.
Lady Vols 3, LSU 0
In front of 932 Orange-clad fans, the No. 14 Tennessee Lady Vols volleyball team rode a blistering .415 hitting percentage to a 25-19, 25-18, 25-15, sweep over LSU to clinch at least a share of the 2011 SEC Championship on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Robinson delivered her SEC-leading 20th double-double of the season with a team-best 16 kills and 13 digs, while hitting .400 overall. Freshman outside hitter Tiffany Baker contributed 10 kills, while junior outside hitter Leslie Cikra and junior middle blocker DeeDee Harrison added eight kills each. Freshman setter Mary Pollmiller recorded 39 assists on Tennessee's 47 successful attacks during the match.
"We played one of our best all-around matches today," Lady Vols head coach Rob Patrick said. "LSU has always been a great defensive team, and they lead the conference in digs. I really challenged our team to see if we could match their defensive intensity, and we did. I was really excited about that. When we are in system, it is pretty tough to defend all of our hitters."
Tennessee improved to 26-3 overall and 18-1 in the Southeastern Conference.
Next: Wednesday vs. Kentucky, 7 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE
Twice last season, Tennessee celebrated in vain. First at LSU, then in Music City Bowl against North Carolina, joy turned into gut-punch losses.
On Saturday night at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee celebrated in the south end zone, only to have it interrupted for an official review.
But only interrupted.
Officials eventually ruled that the Vols' game-winning interception return was good for a touchdown, giving Tennessee a 27-21 victory over Vanderbilt and moving it one step closer to clinching a bowl berth.
"The black cloud over Knoxville blew away tonight, and we got a little sunshine," UT coach Derek Dooley said.
But for a minute, it looked like the Vols might get caught in another downpour.
During the first possession of overtime, UT defensive back Eric Gordon intercepted Jordan Rodgers' pass, stumbled and continued 90 yards down the far sideline for a touchdown.
Next: Saturday at Kentucky, 12:21 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Chelsea Shine scored 18 points, including a key basket in overtime, and Virginia stunned turnover-prone No. 3 Tennessee 69-64 here Sunday.
The Cavaliers (4-0) came into the game allowing just 42 points a game under first-year coach Joanne Boyle, and dictated the pace against a Lady Vols team averaging 90.5 points.
Taber Spani led the Lady Vols (2-1) with 22 points, including a 3-pointer 59 seconds into overtime that gave Tennessee a 61-58 lead. But the Cavaliers scored the next 11 points, the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena getting more excited with each backet.
China Crosby had 13 points and Ataira Franklin 12 for Virginia, which beat Tennessee for just the third time in 16 games. Lexie Gerson and Ariana Moorer each scored 10. Shekinna Stricklen had 16 and Glory Johnson 15 for the Lady Vols, who missed 10 of 21 free throws.
Next: Sunday vs. Baylor, 2 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE
Behind multiple finalists in three races and a trio of NCAA B-cut times Friday, the ninth-ranked Lady Vols remained second to finish the Tennessee Invitational at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center.
Tennessee ended the three-day swimming and diving meet with 691 points. Texas A&M was the champion with 1173.5 points. Louisville was third with 594.5, followed by Arkansas (580.5), LSU (517.5), Kentucky (331) and Southern Illinois (45).
Tennessee did not have any individual champions on the final day, but three Lady Vols recorded NCAA B-cut times: Molly Hannis in the 200-yard breaststroke, Lindsey Gendron in the 1650 freestyle and Kelsey Floyd in the 200 butterfly.
Next: Jan USA Swimming Winter Nationals, Dec. 1-3, Atlanta // FULL SCHEDULE
Freshman Mauricio Robles' collegiate debut in platform diving Friday was nothing short of historic.
Robles became the second Vol ever to score more than 400 points in the platform diving event, winning the contest with a 404.00 total as the Vols finished third of five schools in the team standings in the Tennessee Invitational.
Tennessee (3-1, 2-0 SEC) ended with 822.5 points behind Louisville's leading 1,038 and LSU's 914. Kentucky (543.5) and Southern Illinois (280) followed Tennessee in fourth and fifth.
"Overall, it was a good team performance," Tennessee head coach John Trembley said. "You have to pick your fights in swimming. When teams shave and taper, they perform extremely well. And we as a team chose not to here at the invitational, which is not fun.
"In some years, we've done this at this Invite. This year we didn't so we could save more eggs in the basket for February for the SEC Championships, which we're hosting."
Next: USA Swimming Winter Nationals, Dec. 1-3, Atlanta // FULL SCHEDULE
Women's Cross Country at NCAA Championships, Monday, 12:58 p.m. Eastern time, Terre Haute, Ind.