COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The No. 16 Lady Vol volleyball team swept tournament host Maryland, 3-0 (25-19, 25-12, 36-34), to complete a perfect 3-0 weekend and claim the SpringHill Suites at Arundel Mills Invitational Title on Saturday night at the Comcast Center Pavilion.
"It was a very good tournament for us," said head coach Rob Patrick. "We played three very well-coached teams and three teams that really play different styles of volleyball. I thought we did a pretty good job of being organized, keeping our hitters in front of us and we were able to take advantage of that in the first two sets. The third thing I really liked from our team was the way we fought in the third set. Maryland picked up their game to a really high level and we weren't playing as well - which Maryland had a little bit to do with - but we were still able to take it one point at a time and pull that third set out. I was very proud of how they did that."
Senior right side hitter Leslie Cikra led the Lady Vols (7-2) and was named tournament MVP after posting 19 kills and hitting .692 against the Terps (5-4). For the tournament, Cikra committed just two errors on 56 attempts and put down 42 kills for a blazing .714 attacking percentage.
"We wanted Leslie to become a more efficient hitter," said Patrick. "Not so much that she needed to get more kills, but just take care of the balls she used to make errors on. Incredibly, she made some changes from our practices and was able to bring that into the match. I think she had two hitting errors the entire tournament. My hat's off to her because she really put in the time to do that. She played a complete game and I was very proud and happy for her."
As a team, UT hit .422 over the three matches.
Junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson and Mary Pollmiller were both named to the all-tournament team. Robinson had 18 kills and 11 digs, marking her seventh-consecutive double-double, while Pollmiller dished out an even 50 assists against the Terrapins. Robinson had 36 kills in six sets for an even 6.0 kills per set average and hit .384 for the event with 23 digs. Pollmiller finished the event with 121 assists for a 13.4 assist per set average.
"Mary and Kelsey have been two mainstays of our team," Patrick said. "They have a huge impact on how are team is going to go. Kelsey - in all phases of the game - really is the engine that drives us. From her serving to her passing and to her defense, you can see her digs and kills on the stat sheet and just how much of an impact she really has. Mary has been doing a wonderful job of running the offense. Keeping everyone involved and spreading the ball around. Not only doing that, but giving each hitter the type of set that each individual likes is something that just comes from experience. She's really put her time in. I'm happy for all of them to be recognized at this tournament."
Sophomore Tiffany Baker added 15 kills and hit .414 against the Terps. The outside hitter hit .426 on the tournament and had 30 kills. Junior libero Ellen Mullins led the tournament field with 38 digs and 4.22 scoops per set average. She had 22 against Maryland.
The opening set went back and forth to start, but the Lady Vols broke it open with a 5-0 run to go up 9-6 on the Terps. Later in the frame, UT went on a quick 3-0 run to force a Maryland timeout and extended the streak to four-straight points with a Robinson kill to go ahead 18-14. Shortly after, she followed with a block and kill in quick succession to put the Big Orange up 22-17. Tennessee went on to win the game by a 25-19 margin. Robinson had five kills in the first set, while Cikra added six for the Orange & White.
Tennessee opened the second set on a 7-1 run and never looked back as it cruised to a 25-12 victory. Cikra added six more kills in the second set and continued her efficient hitting, committing no errors to bring her match hitting percentage to .923. Mullins was all over the court in the opening two sets, heading into the break with a match-high 15 scoops.
The third set was an absolute battle as the Terps would not go down without a fight. The set consisted of 22 ties and 10 lead changes and the Lady Vols fought off an impressive seven Maryland set-point opportunities in the game. Level at 34-34, Robinson placed one kill down the line and slammed another cross-court to clinch the 36-34 victory for the Orange & White.
Tennessee begins its Southeastern Conference title defense on Wednesday night, when it travels to Columbia, Mo., for an 8 p.m. ET matchup against one of the SEC's newest teams, the Missouri Tigers. The match will be broadcast live on ESPNU.