Aug. 30, 2008
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - With a four-set victory over Marquette (1-2), the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer volleyball team (3-0) claimed the Marquette Kickoff Tournament title Saturday evening at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee, Wis. The Big Orange took out the Golden Eagles, 25-14, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, for its third win in two days. Sophomore Nikki Fowler will return home to Rocky Top with tournament Most Valuable Player honors, while senior Milan Clarke and juniors Chloe Goldman and Kylie Marshall were named to the all-tournament team.
"This wasn't just a good start for our team, it really was a great start," Patrick said. "The ability level of the teams in the tournament really tested many facets of our team and I thought that we passed the test on this first weekend with flying colors. I was as impressed with our resiliency and ability to push through rough spots in matches as I was with our execution throughout the tournament."
Fowler continued to pace the UT offense against Marquette, leading the team in kills for the third consecutive match with 15 putaways, while Clarke and Marshall added 13 each in the contest. Over the span of the tournament, Fowler averaged 3.41 kills per game for a team-high total of 41 putaways.
"I would not have been able to do this without the terrific play by the rest of our team," Fowler said. "We were able to spread our offense over a number of players which created seams in the blocks and made it easier for me to get kills."
"As I told Nikki on a couple of occasions during timeouts and between games, I was more impressed with her defensive intensity and aggressiveness than I was with her stats that show up in the box score," Patrick said. "I continue to be astounded with her ability to be a go-to player for us at such a young age.
"Milan has really done a great job of becoming a terminator for us," Patrick said. "She came up with might have been the biggest kill of the match late in the fourth game when Marquette was trying very hard to turn the momentum in their favor. She played at a consistently high level all weekend and I am happy that she was awarded for her accomplishments on the court."
Marshall's kill total marked a career-high, surpassing her previous best of 11 which she had accomplished on three different occasions. The Puyallup, Wash., native also added an impressive .407 hitting percentage with just two kills on 27 swings.
"I am so proud that Kylie was recognized for her blue-collar approach to the game," Patrick said. "She consistently plays at a high-level in all aspects of the game; hitting, passing and defensively. She has become an anchor and steadying force for our team.
"I have to give 100 percent of the credit to the setters," Marshall said. "Their sets were incredibly consistent throughout the entire match and they provided me with the opportunity to have success today.
"Getting three wins this weekend was a great confidence booster," Marshall said. "We were here to make a statement after last season, come out on fire and show everybody that we are back to playing at the level that we want to play at."
Defensively, Goldman and junior Leah Hinkey stood out for the Big Orange with team-best totals of 12 digs and five blocks, respectively.
"Chloe has worked very hard in the offseason to improve her passing and it really showed up this weekend. She has always been a great defensive player and someone who has a great feel for reading plays. She is playing more under control and has become a defensive pillar that we can rely on every game."
In spite of a slow start out of the gates, the Lady Vols were able to recover quickly and finish strong en route to a dominating 25-14 victory in the initial frame. They received solid efforts from Hinkey, Fowler and senior Mindy Flynn who combined to post nine total kills with just one error on 15 swings in the frame.
After spotting the Golden Eagles a 3-0 lead right off the bat, a blast down the middle of the court by junior Farren Powe got the Orange and White on the scoreboard. Following another MU score, UT tied it up at 4-4 with a kill by Hinkey, a Marquette attack error and an ace by Fowler. Although that advantage disappeared when it lost the next two points, Tennessee retook the lead for good with a four-point spree that featured a putaway by Clarke, an ace by freshman Kelsey Mahoney and a block by Hinkey and Flynn.
The Big Orange continued to apply the pressure, winning seven of the next 11 points before back-to-back Marquette errors forced MU Head Coach Pati Rolf to call a timeout with the score at 15-10 UT. Although the break produced a kill from Rabekka Gonyo, the Golden Eagles could not sustain that success as the Lady Vols got two kills, a block and an ace over the span of the next five plays to force Rolf to burn her second timeout.
Once again, the tactic did little for Marquette's chances with UT immediately scoring five consecutive times. The Golden Eagles did answer with a kill by Ashlee Fisher off an over pass, but Fowler and Flynn got back-to-back kills to put Tennessee at set point. Following a putaway by Leslie Bielski, Fowler smashed out her fourth kill of the frame, wide off the right-side block, to give the Lady Vols the victory.
The second set was a tight battle, but Marquette was able to pull away late to claim a 25-22 win and tie the match up at one frame apiece. With the scoreboard reading 11-all, the Golden Eagles embarked on a four-point run to take the first significant lead of the game. UT did not waste any time retuning the frame to a deadlock, however, scoring a four-point spree of its own, bookended by a pair of Clarke kills. Following a blast by Gonyo, Tennessee earned just its second lead of the set with another kill by Clarke and a putaway by Fowler that prompted a timeout by Rolf to rally her troops.
Unfortunately for fans of the Orange and White, the tactic worked as the momentum swung back to the Marquette side of the court and stayed there for the remainder of the set. With the score at 20-19 in favor of UT, the Golden Eagles ended the frame on an impressive run as they took six of the final eight points to tie the match at one-game each as the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms.
Another hard-fought battle ensued in the third game, but it was Tennessee's turn to finish strong, emerging victorious, 25-22. With Flynn carrying the load offensively, the Big Orange took a one-point advantage at 11-10 and quickly pushed it to five at 20-15 forcing Rolf to use her first timeout. Immediately out of the break, Hinkey smashed home a beautiful set from junior Michaela Hanakova, which led to another timeout by Rolf who was obviously unhappy with her team's execution on the play.
The second break proved to be a smart move though, with Marquette getting three kills and a block in the four plays following the timeout to cut the UT lead to three at 22-19. That would be as close as it would get, however, as the two squads traded the final seven points of the frame to account for the final score of 25-22.
In a tightly contested fourth set, the Lady Vols used a late run and a number of crucial kills by Clarke to squeak out a 25-21 triumph to take the match and tournament title. Trailing by three at 14-11, Tennessee got back-to-back kills by Clarke and Marshall to move within a single score. Following a putaway by Gonyo, the Lady Vols picked up right where they left off with four consecutive points, including two more kills by Marshall and an ace by Hinkey, which led to a Marquette timeout.
Doing her best to keep her team in the match, Gonyo blasted her 11th kill of the contest to make it 17-16, but UT would score on three of the next four plays to extend its lead even further. Shortly thereafter, a sharp cross-court smash by Marshall moved the score to 24-21 and gave UT three chances at match point. A strong serve by senior Laurén LaFlamme set up the tournament-clinching score with a Golden Eagle attack finding the net to end the competition.
Tennessee will next return to the hardwood when it travels to the Centennial State to compete in the Denver Pioneer Classic next weekend. First up for the Lady Vols will be Iowa at 5 p.m. MT on Sept. 5. The following day, they will take on Virginia at 10:30 a.m. MT before squaring off with host-team Denver at 7:30 p.m. MT.