Aug. 30, 2008
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Although it was put to the test, the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer volleyball team (2-0) outlasted a tough Houston (1-1) squad to claim its second win at the Marquette Kickoff Tournament, 25-12, 25-19, 20-25, 19-25, 15-10, Saturday morning at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee, Wis. Sophomore Nikki Fowler and senior Milan Clarke paced the team offensively with 13 and 11 kills, respectively, while senior Mindy Flynn tallied a team-high .600 hitting percentage with seven kills and just one error on 10 swings.
"This was a match that we probably would not have won last season," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "I am very proud of how we fought back to win the fifth set after not playing very well in the third and fourth games. When we were in system, we were extremely effective today. The thing that we need to learn from this match is how to sustain that level of play for an entire match without letting down."
In addition to her solid offensive output, Clarke also set a personal best with eight total blocks in the contest, tying her with junior Leah Hinkey for the match high. Junior libero Chloe Goldman, meanwhile, collected a match best 16 digs with fellow classmate Kylie Marshall tallying nine of her own.
The Lady Vols took control early in the first frame and never let the Cougars gain any sort of momentum, claiming the initial set, 25-12. Tennessee had six runs of three or more points, while UH was unable to score more than twice in a row at any point. The reason for that success was primarily due to the fact that UT outhit Houston, .375 to .036, in the set.
UT wasted no time at all racing out to a quick 4-0 lead, taking advantage of three unforced errors by Houston. After the Cougars got on the board on a kill by Justine Farmer, the Big Orange went on a pair of three-point sprees, separated by a single UH score, to jump out to a commanding 10-2 advantage. Four plays later, Tennessee continued to expand its lead, scoring three consecutive points yet again, highlighted by a smash down the left-side of the court by Marshall.
From that point on, Houston would not get any closer than seven scores as UT finished strong. With the score set at 21-12, the Lady Vols decided they had seen enough and ended the frame with kills by Clarke and Hinkey, sandwiched around aces from Fowler and freshman Kelsey Mahoney.
In the second set, UT put on a blocking display, sending back 11 Cougar attacks en route to a 25-19 triumph. Despite the final outcome, it was Houston which held the advantage early, moving ahead by two, 5-3, after a three-point run. It would continue to hold its lead until a trio of scores by the Lady Vols gave them a lead that they would not relinquish at 14-12. Although an attack error ended the streak, UT put its foot right back on the gas pedal, getting kills by Fowler and Clarke to force UH Head Coach Bill Walton to call a timeout.
The pause in play stopped the Orange and White's momentum momentarily, but it quickly got back on track, winning five of the next seven points to compel Walton to use his final timeout. Once again, the tactic worked for a moment, as Farmer got a kill out of the break, but Tennessee was not deterred and closed out the frame with a pair of blocks by Hinkey and Clarke.
Despite being down two sets coming out of the locker room, Houston was not about to go away without a fight. Both teams held their own through the beginning stages of the set, eventually emerging at a 10-10 tie. At that time, however, Houston went on a tear, using a pair of kills, an ace and a block on four consecutive plays to take a 14-10 lead. After a Patrick timeout, the Lady Vols got two of the points back with a block by junior Farren Powe and Fowler and a kill by Hinkey. Although Houston answered right back with a trio of scores, the Big Orange continued to battle, posting three in a row as well to move the score to 17-15 in favor of UH. The two teams proceeded to trade the next four scores before Houston effectively ended the set with a kill, back-to-back aces and a UT attack error.
Now back in the match, Houston continued to put the pressure on in game four, keeping Tennessee on its heels and using a balanced offensive attack to pick up a 25-19 victory and send the match to a fifth and deciding set. In the frame, three different Cougars tallied four or more kills, as the team hit at a .452 clip with 18 total kills and just four errors on 31 attacks.
After a three-point run within the first six plays of the set, the Big Orange was able to string together back-to-back scores on just two other occasions. Although Tennessee also hit at a high percentage (.360) the difference was in its ability to put kills away, as it only knocked out 11 kills on 25 swings.
Neither team was able to gain an edge early in the fifth set and the two squads traded the first 14 points before a blast by Flynn down the right side gave Tennessee an 8-7 lead and the momentum as the squads switched benches. Immediately following the short break, Fowler smashed out a putaway of her own, prompting Walton to burn his first timeout. It had little effect, however, with junior Michaela Hanakova serving an ace to make it 10-7 UT. Although her next serve found the net, the Cougars were unable to take advantage as they also committed a service error on the following play.
Shortly thereafter, Fowler shot a laser down the right-side line to push the Orange and White lead to four at 12-8. Following another Walton timeout and a kill by Farmer, UT ended the contest with scores on the final three plays, including a triple block by Hinkey, Clarke and Marshall and a kill by Hinkey.
Tennessee will be back in action at 7 p.m. CT this evening when it returns to the Al McGuire Center to close out its stay in Milwaukee against host-team Marquette.