Michelle Piantadosi led UT with 20 kills.
Aug. 30, 2003
COLLEGE PARK, Md.
The University of Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team dropped a hard-fought five-game (30-28, 30-26, 29-31, 28-30, 15-17) match to the No. 25 Michigan State Spartans at the Maryland Invitational on Saturday. The Lady Vols fall to 1-1 on the season, while MSU, a team that returned five starters after advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Third Round last year, improves to 2-0. Junior outside hitter Michelle Piantadosi led UT with 20 kills and sophomore Julie Knytych recorded 55 assists to go along with 16 digs. Sophomore Amy Morris had a team-high 18 digs, as sophomore Kristen Andre also played inspired defense, registering two solo blocks and five block assists.
"I'm really proud of the way our team competed," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "This was a contest between two evenly-matched teams, and someone had to end up winning. We played well, most of the time with three freshmen or sophomores on the court, against a very experienced Michigan State team. I feel good about where our team is at right now, and this sets a high standard for us early in the season."
Tennessee jumped out to an early 5-2 lead in game one after a block by Piantadosi and freshman Sarah Blum, however, the Spartans hung tough, tying the score at 13. The Lady Vols would not give up the lead to MSU though, and looked to be in control after a solo block by Andre made the score 26-20. Michigan State, however, would battle back again, closing their deficit to one point at 29-28 before a kill by Piantadosi put the game away. Andre led UT with four kills and two blocks in the first game, while Knytych chipped in five digs and three kills to go along with her 10 assists. Blocking proved to be a deciding factor in the game, as the Big Orange out-blocked MSU three to zero and won despite being out-hit .245 to .214.
The Lady Vols got off to another quick start in the second game, jumping out to a 3-0 lead after an ace by Andre, then extending that margin to 15-9. MSU again battled back, taking their first advantage of the game at 23-22, however, UT would not let the lead grow to greater than one point. The Lady Vols rattled off four straight points behind the serving of freshman Jennifer Rudy to take control, 29-25, going on to win, 30-26. Both teams had a strong offensive output, as Tennessee out-hit Michigan State .359 to .310. Andre had the hot hand for UT, hitting flawlessly with five kills on five attempts, while Knytych dished out 18 assists and junior Whitney Gifford added six digs.
In game three, it was Michigan State that started quickly, jumping out to a 6-1 advantage. The Lady Vols got things going, however, and tied the count at seven after a well placed tip by Jasmine Fullove landed in-bounds on the MSU side of the court. The score remained close until an MSU run put the Spartans ahead 25-20. Once again, Tennessee was not ready to give up and battled to tie the score at 29 before Michigan put away the game, 31-29. The Orange and White struggled to get its offense going in the third game and hit only .119 as a team, compared to MSU's .260. Piantadosi led UT with seven kills in the game, while Fullove supplied six digs.
The fourth game had a similar theme to game three, as Michigan State jumped out to an 11-6 lead, only to have the Lady Vols claw back to tie the game late at 25. After the Spartans re-gained the lead at 29-26, UT tried to stage a comeback but fell short at 30-28. Tennessee again struggled to get in an offensive rhythm, as the Lady Vols were out-hit .140 to .218. Piantadosi, who registered four kills on 14 attacks, was once again a go-to player for UT. Morris played well defensively, tallying seven digs.
Michigan State built an advantage quickly for the third game in a row, grabbing an 8-2 lead in game five. The Lady Vols, however, were not about to go away quietly and put together an inspired run capped by a Piantadosi kill to tie the game at 14. After a point by the Spartans made the score 15-14, Piantadosi and Blum combined on a block to even the count at 15 apiece. Unfortunately, MSU scored the final two points of the match to win game five, 17-15.
After a few hours of rest, Tennessee will wrap up its weekend at the Maryland Invitational by taking on the Villanova Wildcats at 5 p.m. Maryland, which the Lady Vols defeated by a count of 3-1 on Friday night, beat 'Nova by a 3-0 margin in the tournament's first match on Saturday morning. The Wildcats also dropped their first of the Invitational to Michigan State, 3-0, on Friday.