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Nov. 27, 2011

Tennessee captured its second SEC volleyball championship and the first outright conference title in program history Wednesday to headline a limited athletics weekend over the extended Thanksgiving holiday.

That victory sets up NCAA First and Second Round competition this Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena, with 14th-seeded UT hosting Duke (7 p.m.) and Middle Tennessee squaring off against Ohio State in the other contest. The winners meet Friday night (7 p.m.) for the chance to advance to the regional in Gainesville, Fla.

The Lady Vols sealed their first-round hosting duties by tripping Kentucky 3-1 to avenge their only league defeat. A boisterous crowd of 1,648 saw UT improve to 27-3 overall and 19-1 in SEC play. Tennessee's only loss in the conference was Oct. 12 at Lexington by a 3-2 margin.

Since that defeat, Tennessee has won 12 straight matches.

"This was incredible," Lady Vols head coach Rob Patrick said. "Obviously, most of the fans were Tennessee fans but we had a pretty big contingent of Kentucky fans also, which is fantastic. That is what college athletics are about. This was as high a level match that you're going to see in the NCAA. We wouldn't have been able to pull it out the way we did if we didn't have the backing of the fans. They really pushed us through some tight parts of the sets and I can't thank them enough. Tennessee fans are the best fans in the country."

The only other teams in action this weekend were football Saturday and women's basketball Sunday.

The Vols lost 10-7 at Kentucky to end their season at 5-7. It also marked Tennessee first loss to Kentucky since 1984, breaking a streak of 26 consecutive victories over the Wildcats. Tennessee opens next season against North Carolina State in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The Lady Vols lost 76-67 to No. 1-ranked Baylor. The loss snapped Tennessee's 38-game home winning streak that was the third-longest in program history and dropped UT to 2-2 for the young season. The last time Tennessee started 2-2 was 1990-91, when the Lady Vols went on to win their third NCAA championship and finish 30-5.

Volleyball (1-0 for the weekend)
Lady Vols 3, Kentucky 1
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - In front of the fifth-largest crowd in Tennessee history, 1,648 enthusiastic fans witnessed something special, as the No. 15 University of Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team knocked off No. 16 Kentucky, 3-1 (28-30, 25-20, 30-28, 25-18), to win the Southeastern Conference Championship outright on Wednesday evening at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"We knew it was going to be a great match," Lady Vol head volleyball coach Rob Patrick said. "My hat goes off to Kentucky, who really played a great match and put us on our heels. To be able to play such a quality opponent, such a well-coached team and be able to pull it out like that for an SEC Championship, it means a lot to our players. It was a fantastic match and I'm proud of the players, as they were able to come back from an emotional first-set loss."

Tennessee (27-3, 19-1) has now won two regular-season titles in its history, with this being the first outright crown for the program. UT shared the title in 2004 and also has three SEC Tournament Titles to its credit.

Next: Thursday vs. Duke, NCAA Championship First Round, 7 p.m.; Friday, NCAA Championship Second Round, 7 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Football (0-1 for the weekend)
Kentucky 10, Vols 7
LEXINGTON, Ky. - After 26 years, the nation's longest winning streak finally came to an end.

Tennessee fell 10-7 to Kentucky on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium, ending its streak of 26 consecutive victories.

Not only did Tennessee's winning streak - so much a part of this series that it became known simply as "The Streak" - come to an end, but the Vols failed to become bowl eligible.

This marks the first time since 1976-77 that the Vols (5-7, 1-7 in SEC play) failed to have back-to-back non-winning seasons.

"We had to hit our low point. It's inevitable you're going to hit bottom," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "We're going to begin our climb right now."

Next: Season complete // FULL SCHEDULE

Women's Basketball (0-1 for the weekend)
Baylor 76, Lady Vols 67
The No. 6 Lady Vols led for much of the second half, but No. 1 Baylor took the lead late in the second half and went on to a 76-67 win before an electric crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The contest was the first "WE BACK PAT" game as the Pat SummittFoundation was launched at halftime and $150,000 was presented to the Alzheimer's Tennessee and the UT Medical Center with money raised from sales of "WE BACK PAT" shirts.

Baylor All-American Brittney Griner scored 17 of her game-high 26 in the second half to lead the Bears' comeback as they moved to 6-0. UT's All-American Shekinna Stricklen led the Lady Vols with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Vicki Baugh also had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

With the loss, the Lady Vols' 38-game home win streak comes to an end as Tennessee falls to 2-2 overall. The last time UT started a season 2-2 was the 1990-91 season. That year, Tennessee went on to win its third NCAA Championship with a 30-5 record.

Next: Tuesday vs. Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m.; Sunday vs. Texas, 2 p.m. // FULL SCHEDULE

Upcoming This Week in Other UT Sports
Men's Basketball at Oakland, Monday, 9 p.m.; vs. Pittsburgh, Saturday, 5:15 p.m.
Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving at USA Swimming Winter Nationals, Dec. 1-3, Atlanta
 
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