UT senior Kylie Marshall
Sept. 4, 2009
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
CINCINNATI, Ohio - In its first road match of the 2009 season, the University of Tennessee volleyball team dropped a four-set contest to No. 7 Michigan, 25-20, 20-25, 25-16, 25-14, in the opening match of the Xavier Invitational Friday afternoon at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. The loss is the first of the season for the Lady Volunteers who are now 3-1 on the year, while the Wolverines improved to 3-0 with the win.
"We simply were not as organized as we needed to be in order to compete against a team as talented and experienced as Michigan," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We are still getting organized on the court and that is my fault. We've been trying out a variety of lineup combinations in practice and haven't had a chance to get comfortable with a set rotation.
"I thought we served very well and was really happy with how we handled Michigan's tough serving up until the end of the match," Patrick said. "We were just not able to sustain a high enough level of play offensively for long stretches like we needed to, although a lot of that had to do with Michigan's play as well."
Three members of the Big Orange squad reached double-digits in digs for the match, with senior libero Chloe Goldman leading the way with 15, her best effort of the year. Fellow classmate Kylie Marshall and junior Nikki Fowler also accomplished the feat, recording dig totals of 14 and 13, respectively, while also tying for the squad high with seven kills each. Junior Leah Hinkey paced UT in the blocking category with three putbacks.
The Big Orange kept the opening set close early, taking a 5-4 lead on a blast by Fowler from the back row, but the Wolverines quickly seized control with an 8-2 run featuring sprees of three and five points separated only by back-to-back kills by UT freshman Leslie Cikra. Michigan continued to extend its lead until it reached its peak at a nine-point differential, 22-13.
At that point, however, the Lady Vols came roaring back, using six straight scores of their own to cut the deficit to just three at 22-19. A service error by UM setter Lexi Zimmerman got the ball rolling for UT, which followed up with consecutive putaways from Fowler and Marshall. A cross-court shot by Alex Hunt landed wide to give the Big Orange another point on the next play, prompting Michigan Head Coach Mark Rosen to burn his first timeout of the match in an attempt to settle his troops.
The tactic did not work though, as Marshall brought the heat out of the break, catching Hunt off balance with a powerful jump serve for her fourth ace of the season. An attack by Megan Bower landed long on the next play to move the score to within three but that would be close at UT would get as the Wolverines closed out the frame by winning three of the final four points.
Tennessee was undeterred by the first set loss, evening the match up at one frame each with a decisive 25-20 victory in the second game. The Orange and White hit at an impressive .303 clip in the set, with 12 kills and just two errors on 33 swings, while holding UM to a .216 attack average and forcing seven errors. In addition to recording a pair of blocks, senior Farren Powe collected three of her five kills for the match in the second set.
The score remained tight throughout the early portions of the set, with the two squads emerging deadlocked at 7-7. From there on out, however, the Lady Vols were able to keep Michigan from stringing together multiple scores, which proved to be the difference in the end. The key stretch of the frame came with UT leading 10-9. A cross-court kill by Cikra and back-to-back errors by Wolverine attackers put the Orange and White up by four before UM got one back with a tip by Juliana Paz over the left-side block. Tennessee went right back on the offensive though, as Fowler, Hinkey and Marshall responded with kills on the next three plays. Now leading 16-10, the Lady Vols simply held on until the end, never allowing Michigan to get closer than four the rest of the way.
Following a short intermission, Michigan returned to the form it showed in the opening frame, tallying a 25-16 victory behind the strength of four kills by Courtney Fletcher, three from Zimmerman and two each by Bower, Hunt and Paz. Meanwhile, the only Tennessee player to have more than one putaway in the set was Marshall with two.
Although UT took an early 6-5 advantage, the Wolverines were able to put together a five-score spree that took away any momentum that the Lady Vols had gained from their second-set win. After the two squads traded the next three points, Michigan effectively ended the set for all intents and purposes with a 7-2 run that moved the spread on the scoreboard to eight at 19-11. The final blow came shortly thereafter when a Tennessee attack error and consecutive kills by Fletcher moved UM to within a single score of winning the set. Hunt finished it off just two plays later with a blast off an assist from Zimmerman.
Once again, the Big Orange was unable to find any sort of offensive rhythm in the fourth and final frame, while Michigan had little trouble doing so, hitting .467 en route to a 25-14 triumph. Much like the first three sets, neither team was able to take any sort of early lead coming to a stalemate at seven-all. Michigan was nearly unstoppable from that point on though, scoring on nine of the next 10 plays to take an insurmountable 16-7 lead. UT would be able to muster just six more points the rest of the way as the Wolverines won remained perfect on the season with their third consecutive victory.
Tennessee will look to return to the win column on Saturday when it continues its stay at the Xavier Invitational with a 2:30 p.m. contest against Notre Dame at the Cintas Center. The Lady Vols will close out the tournament at 3 p.m. on Sunday against host Xavier.