Sept. 7, 2008
DENVER, Colo. - The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer volleyball team (3-3) finished out a rough stay at the Pioneer Classic with a 3-0 loss to tournament champion Denver (5-1), 25-22, 25-16, 25-18, Saturday evening at Hamilton Gymnasium in the Daniel L. Ritchie Center in Denver, Colo. Senior Milan Clarke continued her stellar play, leading all players with 11 kills in the contest.
"This was a tough weekend for us," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "Although we had some weaknesses exposed, we will be a better team down the road because of it. We were not very organized this weekend, partly due to the fact that we played a number of different lineups, but that is something that we need to get squared away.
"Despite the three losses, we will take some positives away from this tournament," Patrick said. "We were able to see a lot of people play in a lot of different positions and we were able to get our freshmen some valuable on-court experience that will only help them to get better quicker. When we get back to Knoxville, we will get back in the gym and use what we learned this weekend to become a better team."
For the tournament, Clarke finished with team highs in both kills and attacks with 38 and 94, respectively. Junior Farren Powe, meanwhile, paced the squad with 12 blocks over the course of the weekend and finished second on the team with 26 kills, including six in the loss to Denver.
"I am very proud of the way Milan has continued to grow as a player," Patrick said. "Her performance this weekend is something that we can build on as we work to become a better team.
"Farren made a huge jump this week after having a bit of a tough time last weekend in Milwaukee," Patrick said. "I am excited to see her continue to improve and feel that she is someone that we will be able to count on to be a consistent force at the net for us the rest of the season."
Starting at libero for the first time since her rookie season, junior Kylie Marshall reached double-digits in digs for the third time this season with 11 against Denver. She was one of the Lady Vols' most effective all-around players this weekend, accumulating totals of 14 kills, four blocks and team highs of 41 digs and four aces.
"Kylie did a tremendous job switching back-and-forth between the outside hitter and libero positions," Patrick said. "She displayed her versatility and was effective all over the court."
Despite one of their more impressive defensive performances of the weekend, the Lady Vols were not able to find enough offensive consistency to overcome the Pioneers, falling 25-22 in the initial set of the contest. As a team, UT recorded 20 digs and eight blocks in the frame. Sophomore Nikki Fowler led the way with seven digs while freshman Alyssa Hilby, Powe and senior Mindy Flynn each had a pair of blocks.
Straight out of the gate, Denver scored on the first three plays to take the early advantage. Tennessee answered right back though, getting kills by Clarke and Hilby and an ace by Powe to tie the set back up at 3-3. The score continued to remain tight with neither team taking more than a two-point lead until it reached a deadlock at 14-all. At that point, the DU offense came alive, scoring on five consecutive plays with four of those points coming by way of a kill.
The Big Orange continued to battle, however, eventually cutting Denver's lead down to just a single point at 23-22 following a three-point run that included a block by freshman Kayla Jeter and Hilby and a beautiful ace by senior Laurén LaFlamme. That would be as close as it would get though as the Pioneers took advantage of a pair of UT errors to close out the frame.
Denver used a pair of six-point runs in the second set to stake claim to a 25-16 victory and two-game lead as the teams took to their respective locker rooms for the intermission. The Lady Vols kept things close through the beginning stages of the frame, fighting their way to a 10-10 tie. A kill by Jacqueline Paul, however, sparked the Pioneers firs six-score spree of the set as they jumped out to a 16-10 lead.
UT did not let the game spiral out of control immediately though, as it answered with three consecutive scores of its own. A cross-court blast by Clarke ended the DU streak and the Big Orange used a pair of Denver attack errors to move back within striking distance at 16-13. Just three plays later, however, the Pioneers effectively ended all hopes of a Lady Vol comeback with their second run of six points in the set to take a commanding 23-14 lead. The two squads each then took a pair of the final four points of the frame to account for the final score of 25-16.
Following a short intermission, Tennessee continued its trend of solid defense and inconsistent offense, dropping the third frame, 25-18, and the match, three sets to none. With runs of three and four scores, separated by just five plays, Denver took a 12-8 lead. The Orange and White did not back down though, riding the strong serving of junior Michaela Hanakova to six consecutive scores. During that streak, UT got kills from Jeter, Clarke and Powe, as well as an ace by Hanakova.
After the two teams traded the next four points, Denver decided it had seen enough and claimed 10 of the next 11 points with runs of six and four scores, separated only by a kill from Clarke, to take an insurmountable, 24-17, lead. Following a service error that gave the ball back to UT, the Pioneers claimed the set, match and tournament championship with a kill by Kerry Porter.
Tennessee will return to the court next week when it christens the home portion of its schedule by hosting the Comcast Lady Vol Classic. UT will welcome Gardner-Webb and Illinois to Thompson-Boling Arena at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, on Fri., Sept. 12, before taking on Dayton at 1 p.m. two days later. Tickets are available for purchase at the northwest corner of the arena on the upper level. Parking will be available for free in the G5/G30 lot above the parking garage adjacent to the arena.