Aug. 29, 2009
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
The University of Tennessee volleyball team kicked off the 2009 campaign in style on Saturday, cruising to a 3-0 sweep over Tennessee Tech, 25-22, 25-9, 25-14, in the seventh annual Comcast Lady Vol Classic at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn. The Lady Vols will be back in action this evening when they take on Western Kentucky at 7 p.m.
"I was very happy and proud of our entire team and how they performed today," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "Our players have all been practicing really hard and it was good to get out there and play another team. One of the things I was most excited about was that we were able to play so many players and it wasn't like we were just playing them to get them in there. Each and every player that got on the court today earned that opportunity. They have all done everything that we have asked them to do and we wanted to reward them for doing the right things in practice and playing well."
The Big Orange wasted little time getting in the flow offensively, hitting at an impressive .380 clip as a team. Junior outside hitter Nikki Fowler and senior middle blocker Farren Powe paced the attack with 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Powe tied her career-best with a .692 hitting percentage, recording just a single error in 13 swings, while Fowler blasted away to the tune of a .455 attack average with one error in a total of 22 attempts.
Also standing out for UT were sophomore Kayla Jeter with a career-high eight kills, junior Leah Hinkey who posted seven kills and a .636 hitting percentage in her return to the court after missing the majority of last season due to injury and freshman Leslie Cikra who tallied four kills in her Tennessee debut. Also making their initial appearances wearing the Orange and White were freshmen Natalie Guerra, DeeDee Harrison, Jasmine Brown and junior transfer Emily Steinbeck.
Defensively, the Lady Vols limited TTU to just a .131 hitting percentage and five different members of the squad combined to post eight total team blocks. Seniors Chloe Goldman and Kylie Marshall led the team in the digs category with 12 each.
Hinkey helped set the tone immediately for the Lady Vols in the opening set as consecutive kills from the Glenwood Springs, Colo., native and a Tennessee Tech hitting error granted UT a quick 4-1 advantage. The lead continued to expand behind the efforts of Fowler as four successful blasts and a service ace from the product of Dallas, Texas, granted the Orange and White an 11-5 advantage. Cikra then helped UT to its largest lead of the set at 16-9 via a kill, before Tech began to rally behind the strong hitting of Amanda Lindgren. The Golden Eagle senior outside hitter served as her squad's main offensive source, recording five of her eight total kills in near succession as TTU clawed within 18-15.
A kill from Jeter and a pair of putaways by Powe pushed the Lady Vol advantage back to six points at 21-15, before Tech exploded for four straight tallies to force Patrick to call a timeout. A Kelsey Gray kill got the Golden Eagles within one at 23-22 before Powe ripped her fourth successful blast of the set. Facing set point, Tennessee's Cikra and Hinkey made sure of UT would emerge victorious in the frame by combining to stuff Gray to secure the 25-22 victory. Fowler led the Orange & White with six kills in the opening set as UT hit a solid .304.
The second set started out as close as the opener with kills from Tennessee's Jeter and Tech's Lindgren setting the count at 5-5. That's when the Big Orange took serious control, however, igniting on a 12-1 run to race out to a 17-6 advantage. During the spurt a kill from Powe forced a timeout by TTU head coach John Blair at 12-6 in favor of the Lady Vols. However, the quick break failed to stop UT's freight train of momentum. The Golden Eagles helped out during the spurt by committing four miscues.
A blast from Gray got TTU back within 10 tallies at 18-8 before UT closed out the set via a 7-1 run. Successful kills from Hinkey and senior middle blocker Carol Cheade and another quartet of errors from Tech helped grant Tennessee the commanding 2-0 set advantage with a 25-9 victory. With Jeter leading the way by recording a squad-high five kills, UT posted a sterling .583 hitting percentage.
Tennessee closed out the match by taking the third set in impressive fashion, 25-14. Tech jumped out to an early 5-3 lead behind kills from Lindgren and junior middle blocker Marie Peddicord. Steinbeck got the Lady Vols back on track though, posting consecutive service aces to deadlock the count at 5-5. The Orange and White gained its initial lead of the set at 7-6 on an attack miscue by TTU's Katrina Dvorken. Shortly thereafter, consecutive successful blasts from Fowler and Jeter expanded the UT lead to 10-6, forcing yet another Golden Eagle timeout.
The advantage grew to seven as Powe delivered two kills and Fowler hammered home a kill off an assist from Goldman. Lindgren delivered a putaway to get Tech within four at 16-12, but that's as close as TTU would get, as Hinkey, Cikra and Marshall each scored kills over the next six plays to help the Lady Vols gain a 22-12 lead. Holding match point at 24-14, freshman middle blocker DeeDee Harrison closed out the contest in style with her first career kill as Tennessee secured the sweep.
The Big Orange will return to action later this evening at approximately 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena against Western Kentucky. Live stats via Gametracker and web-streamed video will be available for Tennessee's contest through utladyvols.com, while updates will be posted after the completion of each set at Twitter.com/utladyvols.
"Western Kentucky got their first match under their belt this morning," Patrick said. "They looked a little nervous out there, so I know that they are going to be more organized tonight. They do some things that are a little unorthodox, so we have to be prepared for that by being organized on our side of the court. That's one of the things we have to work on right now. We need to remain focused on our game and make adjustments a little bit quicker."