Sept. 4, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-match interview with Rob Patrick
HOUSTON, Texas - The 17th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team set a school record with its fifth-straight sweep to open a season on Saturday morning as it made quick work of No. 13 Florida State, 25-20, 25-23, 25-20, in its second match of the Houston Invitational being held at the Athletics/Alumni Center.
"Our team has worked really hard and this is a great win for our players," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "They put themselves in a position to have success against a team as good as Florida State, which has a tremendous amount of experience out on the court. Our team rose to the challenge.
"It wasn't just one person that helped secure this victory. We had a lot of players contribute and that is what I am most happy about. We had a very balanced offensive attack today, which is something that we have been emphasizing all season. When we can go to any of our hitters for a kill, it makes it really difficult for other teams to defend us."
With seven digs, to go along with nine kills, senior Nikki Fowler increased her four-year digs to total to 1,003, making her the fourth player in Tennessee volleyball history to record over 1,000 kills and digs during her career. She joins Sonja Thomas (1991-94), Kristy Dobson (1988-91) and Stephanie Ehlers (1985-88) in the exclusive club.
"From the moment she stepped into our gym, she has done things in all facets of the game that have helped us to be successful as a program. With her experience and being a senior, she is helping the younger players along in addition to everything she does out on the court. I'm extremely proud of her and very happy to see her getting the recognition that she deserves."
Once again, the Lady Vols simply shut down their opponent's offense, holding the Seminoles to a .158 hitting percentage. The UT attack, meanwhile, crushed out 49 kills while hitting at a sparkling .330 clip.
As it has done all season, the Big Orange utilized a varied offensive attack with six players smashing out five or more kills. Sophomore Leslie Cikra was the only player on either team to record double-digit kills with 10, including four in the third set alone. The Chagrin Falls, Ohio, native also topped the Tennessee squad with a .450 hitting percentage, tallying just one error on 20 swings.
Defensively, junior libero Amanda Friday notched a match-high 10 digs with Robinson nipping closely on her heels with eight. Hinkey, meanwhile, led all players with six blocks in the contest as the Lady Vols sent a total of 17 Seminole attacks right back at them.
The Orange and White wasted little time taking control of the match, leading wire-to-wire in a 25-20 opening-set victory. The UT offense was on full display, hitting .471 during the frame with 20 kills on just 34 attempts. On the other side of the court, FSU had nine less kills and one more error in only 31 swings for a .194 attack average.
Tennessee came out of the corner swinging, setting the tone by scoring the first three points of the match on a kill by Hinkey, a block by Jeter and Harrison and a Seminole attack error. Just moments later, that lead expanded to six when the Lady Vols embarked on a four-point run kicked off by smashes from both Hinkey and Harrison and closed out by a kill by Fowler that ricocheted wide off the right-side block. The UT lead would remain at least three the rest of the set as the Lady Vols cruised to the initial lead of the match, 25-20.
Florida State made it a little more difficult in the second set, but the Orange and White was up to the challenge and fought back from its first deficit of the day to post a 25-23 triumph and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
With the Lady Vols leading 14-12, the Seminoles took their first lead of the morning with three straight scores. That lead would be short lived, however, as Fowler tied things back up on the next play with a kill from the right side. The Dallas, Texas, native then joined forces with Jeter on a block and Harrison sent an over pass crashing to the court to put UT back up 17-15.
Although Florida State would be able to return the frame to a deadlock twice more, the Big Orange never relinquished its lead the rest of the way. With the scoreboard reading 20-20, Tennessee decided it had seen enough and scored five of the final eight points to take a commanding two-set advantage.
In the third set, the Lady Vols actually trailed for most of the set before using a pair of late runs to finish off the contest with a 25-20 victory. Although Jeter started the frame with a powerful solo block, the Seminoles controlled play for the remainder of the first half of the set until Patrick was forced to call a timeout with his team trailing 16-13.
That short break proved to be just what was needed to break Florida State's momentum as the Orange and White scored the next four points to move back into the lead. The Seminoles weren't going to go down that easily, however, taking the lead right back with consecutive kills to put the score at 18-17 in their favor.
That would be their last advantage of the day though as Tennessee scored eight of the final 10 points to claim another 25-20 triumph and the match, 3-0. Hinkey got the ball rolling in UT's favor with a kill that landed wide off the block and tied the score up at 18-all. Cikra then followed with a blast from the outside that landed just inside the back line. An ace by Robinson seconds later then prompted FSU Head Coach Chris Poole to burn his final timeout.
His timeout wouldn't have quite the impact Patrick's had though and the Big Orange just continued to roll with another kill by Cikra and a block by Fowler and Hinkey that put the score at 22-18 for UT. Just five plays later, Robinson ended the match with a laser from the back row.
The Lady Vols will close out their stay at the Houston Invitational this evening at 8:30 p.m. ET when they take on the host Houston Cougars. Live stats are available online at UTLadyVols.com.