Sept. 11, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-match interview with Rob Patrick
ATHENS, Ohio - Playing in its second five-set match of the day, the 14th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team was able to fight off four match-point opportunities to squeak out a tight victory over Ohio, 23-25, 25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 18-16, in front of 2,016 vocal and rowdy fans at the Baymont Inn and Suites Invitational at the Ohio University Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio on Friday night.
"This was an unbelievable win against a very physical Ohio team," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "They gave us all we could handle and I was very proud of how our team stayed strong, emotionally, physically and mentally. That's what allowed us to pull out the win.
"We knew this was going to be a difficult match and we really had to fight for every single point. Not everything went our way, but we just kept fighting and found a way to win, which was something we needed to learn."
The Lady Volunteer offense featured a six-pronged attack against the Bobcats, led by 13 kills from sophomore Leslie Cikra, junior Kayla Jeter and senior Nikki Fowler. With a team-high 13 digs, Fowler also notched her second double-double of the day, fourth of the season and 42nd of her career.
Also making their presence known offensively were senior Leah Hinkey and sophomore DeeDee Harrison with nine kills each, while freshman Kelsey Robinson recorded eight putaways to go along with nine digs, three aces and a block.
Pacing the offense was junior setter Kelsey Mahoney who delivered a 31-assist, 10-dig effort for her second double-double of the 2010 campaign. Ellen Mullins rounded out the statsheet standouts with 11 digs in her first collegiate start at the libero position.
After splitting the first four frames with the Bobcats, the Lady Vols found themselves facing a pair of match-point opportunities in the fifth and final set. Following a timely kill by Cikra, the match quickly turned into the "Kayla Jeter Show."
The Solon, Ohio, native, who had numerous family and friends in attendance, absolutely crushed one to the back-right corner of the court to tie the score at 14-14. Although Ohio got a kill of its own to regain the lead, Jeter came right back with almost the exact same shot to return the set to a deadlock.
Once again, the Bobcats had an answer though, earning yet another chance at winning the match with a 16-15 lead. A long rally ensued on the next play, which was finished off by who else than Jeter who blasted a kill that ricocheted straight down off the arm of Ohio's middle blocker. With the score tied at 16-all, Tennessee called Jeter's number one final time and she delivered, smashing one wide off the block on the outside to give the Lady Vols the victory.
"Normally, we go to Nikki in those situations, so it was great to find that we have another option to go to," Patrick said. "Kayla is playing low-error volleyball, is extremely powerful and has really taken her game to another level. The thing I am most excited about is how consistent she has been, not just in this match, but all season-long. She came up huge at the end of the match today and I think that will give both her and our team confidence that we have multiple options in those late-game situations."
Despite five kills on .667 hitting by Cikra, the Lady Vols dropped a hard-fought opening frame to the Bobcats, 25-23. Fowler added five putaways to the effort and Mullins topped the squad with four digs in the set.
Ohio struck the initial blow of the contest with a 7-2 run that put it up by six at 16-10. The Big Orange immediately responded, however, using kills from Cikra and Jeter and a pair of OU attack errors to move within two.
The squads would then trade the next five points before a Bobcat service error and a blast by Fowler from the right side cut the UT deficit to just one at 19-18. That would be as close as it would get though as Ohio was just able to hold off the surging Lady Vols to claim the two-point, 25-23, victory.
The Big Orange tied the match in the second frame, utilizing a balanced offensive attack and strong effort from the serving line to pick up a 25-19 victory. UT had five players record multiple kills and tallied four aces, including three from Robinson alone.
The set was hotly contested for the first half until the Lady Vols broke open a 13-13 tie with 10-2 run, including six straight to end the spree. That tear was capped off by a sharp block from Jeter and Hinkey and back-to-back aces by Robinson. Although the Bobcats made a late comeback attempt with three straight tallies, kills from Jeter and Hinkey finished off the frame.
Tennessee started to find its groove both offensively and defensively in the third set, outhitting Ohio, .429 to .000 en route to a dominating 25-16 victory in which it never trailed. The Orange and White also had five blocks in the frame, including three of the solo variety as it completely shut down the Bobcats.
The Lady Vols effectively ended the set with a five-point run that gave them a commanding 19-9 advantage. Fowler kicked it off with a shot that hit hands at the net and fell straight to the floor. Robinson followed with a solo putback before an attack error forced Ohio to burn its second and final timeout. The tactic did little to halt UT's momentum though as it tallied two more scores right out of the break thanks to another offensive miscue and a solo block by Harrison.
Shortly thereafter, the Big Orange closed out the frame with three straight scores. Hinkey tallied back-to-back points with a kill and an ace before Cikra finished things off with a kill from the outside.
A tightly-contested affair commenced in the fourth frame, with Ohio holding off a late Tennessee rally to win 25-23 and force a match-deciding fifth set. The Bobcats simply rode the arm of Sue Jacobi to the win, as she pounded out nine kills in the frame. The lady Vols, meanwhile, were led by three putaways from Harrison.
OU seemed to have taken complete control with a three-score spree that put it up 23-17, but the Orange and White had other ideas, staging one final comeback attempt. UT took advantage of a pair of Bobcat errors, sandwiched between a blast by Harrison and a solo block by Jeter, to move within two at 23-21.
A Lady Vol attack error brought that run to an end, however, and gave Ohio three chances at set point. Tennessee almost pulled off the improbable rally following back-to-back Bobcat miscues, but Jacobi finally closed the set out with a kill to set up the dramatic fifth frame.
The Lady Vols will return to the hardwood tomorrow at noon against Pittsburgh in their final tune-up before Southeastern Conference play begins next weekend. The Big Orange will open league action with a 7 p.m. contest against South Carolina on Friday, Sept. 17 before hosting No. 4 Florida at 2 p.m. two days later. The showdown with the Gators will be televised live on Comcast Sports Southeast.