Sept. 9, 2006
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The No. 12 University of Tennessee volleyball team (8-1) claimed its second tournament title in three weeks, sweeping Lehigh (0-10), 30-27, 30-15, 30-11, Saturday night at Fitzgerald Field House to win the Pitt Invitational.
"This was a great tournament for us as we were trying to solidify the roles our player would be in at the beginning of our conference season," UT head coach Rob Patrick said. "We were able to accomplish this goal while also playing a number of quality teams. Both Pitt and Marshall have a good chance to win their conference championships and it helped us immensely to play this level of team in preparation for our SEC schedule."
"The other item we wanted to work on was the timing in our offensive system," Patrick said. "Throughout the tournament, we continued to improve in this area."
Junior Yuliya Stoyanova claimed tournament MVP honors after a number of spectacular performances this weekend. The Sofia, Bulgaria, native posted consecutive double-doubles in the team's first two matches and collected team-high totals of 41 kills (5.86 per game) and 26 digs (3.71 per game) in the tournament. She also finished tied for third on the team with 10 blocks.
"Yuliya affects the match more than what you see in the box score," Patrick said. "Although she played a great overall game, in terms of blocking, digging and hitting, it was her consistency in passing that was the most impressive part of her game this weekend."
Senior Sarah Blum and sophomore Chelsea Noble were also honored, being named to the Pitt Invitational All-Tournament Team. A middle blocker from Tulsa, Okla., Blum tallied 31 kills (4.43 per game) over the weekend, including a career-high 22 on Friday night against host-team Pittsburgh. She also recorded a team-best 15 blocks (2.14 per game). Noble was phenomenal at the setter position, posting 117 assists (14.62 per game) in addition to her 22 digs and nine blocks.
"Sarah continues to play at a very high level, both offensively and defensively," Patrick said. "Her hard work over the last two years in the weight room and with her conditioning has allowed her to become one of the elite middles in the country."
"Chelsea is becoming more comfortable in running both our team and offense," Patrick said. "She did a wonderful job of providing each hitter with the set that was needed for them to be successful."
Against Lehigh, sophomore Milan Clarke led Tennessee with a season-high 13 kills, while fellow classmate Mindy Flynn sent back five Mountain Hawk attacks to pace the team's defensive efforts. For the third time in the last four games, freshman Kylie Marshall led the squad with 11 digs.
"Milan has been working very hard in our practices which earned her a starting nod tonight," Patrick said. "She has been significantly improved her hitting consistency and I was glad to see her take many different swings and get as many kills as she did."
In her collegiate debut, freshman middle blocker Farren Powe collected nine kills in 17 attempts with just a single attack error for a .471 hitting percentage. The Mobile, Ala., product also had four blocks on the night. Fellow freshman Carol Cheade put up a terrific offensive performance as well, hitting a team-high .615 with eight kills and no errors in 13 attempts.
"Farren and Carol have just started to get integrated into our offensive and defensive schemes," Patrick said. "This match allowed them to get more comfortable in a live situation and I was very happy with their offensive output. Although their effort on defense was very good, they are still getting acclimated to our system."
As a team, Tennessee out hit Lehigh .280 to .010 in addition to collecting more kills (40 to 27), blocks (16 to four), aces (11 to four) and digs (38 to 37).
With five freshmen in the lineup, the Big Orange took out a feisty Lehigh squad, 30-27 in the opening frame. The Lady Vols quickly jumped out to a 6-2 advantage but the Mountain Hawks fought back and took the lead at 9-8 on a kill by Brittany Thurston. UT, however, was able to weather the storm and gain momentum, winning nine of the next 12 points to go up by five. Later in the set, with Tennessee up 27-21, Lehigh crawled back into the game with three consecutive kills. Five points later the Mountain Hawks had trimmed the lead to just two, but Cheade and Marshall combined to send back a Maxie McCoy attack to end the frame and give the Lady Vols a one-game advantage.
Excellent serving from Annie Sadowski led UT to a 30-15 win in the second game. The Orange and White came out on fire, bounding out to a 16-2 lead. The Mountain Hawks would continue to put forth a strong effort, but they were unable to get any closer than eight. Cheade knocked out seven of her eight total kills in the frame, hitting an amazing .778 (7-0-9), while Sadowski sparked two Tennessee runs, nine and five points, respectively, with solid serving. She tallied four aces, including three consecutive at one point in the set.
The third game was more of the same, as the Lady Vols cruised to a 30-11 win. For the second set in a row, Tennessee extended its lead early on, going up 12-2 before the Mountain Hawks could catch their breath. UT closed out the game and match by winning 10 of the final 11 points to earn the sweep and move their overall record to 8-1.
The Lady Vols will be back in action Sept. 5 when they return home to open Southeastern Conference play with a 7 p.m. contest versus No. 22 LSU at Stokely Athletics Center. Tennessee will be looking to avenge a 2005 loss to the Tigers as well as extend its 22-match home winning streak. Patrick will also attempt to become only the second coach in Tennessee volleyball history to earn 200 wins. His record currently sits at 199-96.