Aug. 28, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-match interview with head coach Rob Patrick
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 19-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team picked up its second straight sweep to start the 2010 season, downing Chattanooga, 25-21, 20, 25-11, 25-13, in its first of two matches on the second day of action at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic Saturday afternoon.
Video highlights of UT's victory over Chattanooga
"Although we got off to a bit of a slow start, I told the team in the locker room that I was actually very happy with the match in its entirety," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We obviously made a few too many service errors and some unforced hitting errors that we usually don't make, but I thought how we responded to that early inconsistent play was something we can hang our hat on. We really buckled down and continued to serve tough and significantly reduced our errors.
"Another positive from this match was that we were able to stay organized on the court despite playing a lot of different people. Even when we brought in a few new players, the team continued to play disciplined volleyball at a very high level."
For the second straight day, a true freshman put forth a strong performance in her first extended collegiate appearance as Carly Sahagian tallied seven kills, hit .333 with just one error in 18 swings and collected a team-high 12 digs. The Bartlett, Ill., product also had a pair of assists and a service ace.
"The great thing about Carly is that she is such a good volleyball player that she knows how to adapt and react within matches. At the beginning of today's match she was attacking to the same area of the court and wasn't getting kills. She was able to process that information and learn throughout the course of the match where she needed to move the ball around to be effective.
"That is encouraging to see, especially out of a freshman, and the best part was that she was able to do it without making many errors. She didn't allow the magnitude of playing in a collegiate match to interfere with her performance. That is a very mature attitude for a freshman to have."
Senior Nikki Fowler, meanwhile, continued to do what she does best, rack up double-doubles, picking up her 18th straight dating back to last season with a squad-best 12 kills to go along with 10 digs, three aces and two blocks. She was extremely efficient on the offensive side of the net, registering a .357 attack average with only two errors in a match-high 28 attacks.
Also putting forth a strong performance was sophomore middle blocker DeeDee Harrison. The Nashville native posted career highs with 11 kills, 20 total attacks and three digs, in addition to notching three blocks. Fellow classmate Leslie Cikra followed up her six-kill contest last night with seven more against the Lady Mocs.
"We are really excited about DeeDee's development and you could see why today. She is figuring it out on the fly a little, but she put a ton of work in during the offseason and the past two years and it is starting to pay off. I have to commend (assistant coach) Gregg Whitis for bringing her along in terms of the success she is having both hitting and blocking for us right now."
The Lady Vols were a little slow out of the gates, registering an uncharacteristic 12 unforced errors in the opening frame. Fortunately, they were able to generate enough offensively to edge out a 25-20 victory. Fowler and Harrison led the way with six and five putaways, respectively, while Sahagian scooped up seven attacks.
With a narrow, one-point lead at 13-12, it seemed Tennessee had begun to pull away with a five-point tear that featured a blast by Harrison and back-to-back aces from Fowler. Chattanooga had other ideas, however, moving back within a single score with a 7-2 spree of its own.
That would be as close as UT would allow the Lady Mocs to get though as Cikra and senior Leah Hinkey joined forces to send back an attack by Heather Parman and Fowler finished with a cross-court smash to make it 22-19. Although a timeout netted Chattanooga a score on a Parman kill, consecutive hammers by Fowler and a blast by Hinkey down the center of the court sealed the deal, giving the Lady Vols a 25-20 triumph.
The first set must have served as a bit of a wake-up call, as the Big Orange came out firing on all cylinders in the second, cruising to a 25-11 win. UT hit .600 as a team and did not have even a single attack error after recording seven in the initial set. Cikra was perfect, tallying five kills on five swings, and junior Kayla Jeter and Sahagian each had four putaways.
The knockout blow came in the middle of the frame as Sahagian sparked a set-changing eight-point run with a shot that landed just inside the back line. After a setting error and a Fowler kill, Cikra simply took over, sending home an over pass, crushing one cross-court from the outside and blasting a ball down the left-side line to put the Lady Vols up 15-4. They weren't done yet though as a double contact call and a Sahagian service ace effectively put the frame out of reach at 17-4. From there, UT would cruise before emerging with a two-set advantage at the break.
The Orange and White scored the first five points in the third set and never looked back en route to a 25-13 victory that clinched its second sweep in as many days. Junior Kelsey Mahoney set the tone right off the bat with a service ace for the first point. That was followed by a kill by Fowler from the right side and an attack error by Ellie Kuhn. Jeter then stuffed the next attack by Kuhn before Hinkey and Fowler followed suit on the next play with a block on Jennifer Kuroski.
Although the Lady Mocs would close the gap to four at 15-11, the Tennessee lead was never really in jeopardy as it thwarted the comeback attempt with a 7-0 run. It was the "Fowler and Harrison Show" during that stretch as they combined to score all seven points. In addition to joining forces on a block, Harrison had four kills and Fowler had the other two. Sahagian then closed out the contest five plays later with a laser that landed just inside the back-right corner.
The Big Orange will close out the Comcast Lady Vol Classic with a 7 p.m. showdown against Virginia Tech Saturday night. General admission tickets are $3, while tickets for children ages 12-and-under are available for only $1. Those same children will also be able to eat free, as they will receive a voucher for a free hot dog and a small soft drink at the gate.
Fans wishing to follow along at home can do so by clicking on the "GameTracker" link available at UTLadyVols.com. Live video will also be available free of charge with Courtney Lyle and Tim DeMartin on the call.