Sept. 12, 2009
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Strong performances by sophomore Kayla Jeter and freshman Leslie Cikra were not enough for the University of Tennessee volleyball team (5-3) on Saturday, as it dropped a four-set decision to Colorado State (6-3), 26-24, 28-26, 23-25, 25-13, in the Carolina Classic at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Jeter either set or tied career highs in four different categories, including a team-best 14 kills, while Cikra finished one off her personal high with 13 putaways.
"For the first time all season, Leslie and Kayla looked comfortable on the court," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "They are still not as steady as they need to be, but I saw flashes of what they will bring to our team the rest of the year. We had a good game plan for this match, but we didn't do a good job of executing it as consistently as we needed to. Hopefully, we can get back on track tonight against Marshall."
In addition to her 14 kills, Jeter also set a personal best with 46 total attacks and tied career highs with seven digs and an ace. Cikra, meanwhile, added a personal-best 41 swings and added a pair of blocks. Senior Chloe Goldman led the Lady Vols defensively, collecting a season-high 25 digs and passing at a .977 clip with just one reception error in 42 attempts.
Despite taking the lead early on in the initial frame with a pair of three-point runs, the Big Orange was unable to hold on, dropping a tight set, 26-24. Jeter hit .417 to pace the UT attack, knocking out six kills with just one error on 12 swings.
Junior Leah Hinkey got the scoring started with a strong kill off an over pass and joined forces with senior Kylie Marshall to collect back-to-back blocks to give the Lady Vols a quick 3-0 lead right out of the chute. Just five plays later, a cross-court kill by Jeter sparked another spree that also featured a pair of Ram attack errors and put Tennessee up by four at 8-4.
A timeout by CSU Head Coach Tom Hilbert halted the momentum, however, and allowed his team to keep its deficit at a manageable level. The two squads proceeded to battle their way to a 16-16 stalemate before Jeter got things rolling for the Orange and White once again. The sophomore from Solon, Ohio, put her team back in front with a shot off the right-side block before sneaking an ace inside the back line. The Rams answered with a kill of their own, but consecutive putaways from Cikra and Marshall moved the score to 20-17 in favor of UT.
At that point, Colorado State came racing back, stringing together three straight scores to tie it back up. A back-row blast from Fowler put the Lady Vols back on top and the two teams traded the next six points to give UT a chance at set point, up 24-23. It would be unable to take advantage of the opportunity though, as the Rams scored the final three points to win the set, 26-24.
Another extremely tight set ensued in the second frame, but Tennessee fell just short once again, falling by a score of 28-26. Colorado State struck the first blow, putting three consecutive tallies on the scoreboard to take a 14-9 advantage. Cikra then knocked a kill off the left-side block to spark a short run by UT that also included block by Fowler and Hinkey and a putaway by Hinkey.
The Lady Vols remained down by two after trading the next six points, but the Rams moved their lead back up to four with back-to-back scores. Once again, the Big Orange continued to fight, taking its first lead of the set with a 6-1 run. Jeter opened the spree with a kill and Powe followed by winning a joust at the net with CSU's Dana Cranston. The Rams gave UT another point with an attack error, prompting a timeout by Hilbert in an effort to steady his troops.
The tactic worked momentarily, as the Rams got a kill by Tessa Nelson, but a service error by Cranston gave the ball back to Tennessee. Yet another hitting error by CSU tied the set up at 20 and the Orange and White finally moved out in front when Colorado State setter Evan Sanders was called for a ball-handling error.
A timeout by Hilbert stopped the bleeding, but Tennessee was able to extend its lead to a pair of scores just three plays later with a kill by Fowler on a monster blast from the back row and an attack error by the Rams. Now up 24-22 and holding their second set point in as many frames, the Lady Vols were not able to close it out, allowing Colorado State to tie it up at 24-all with back-to-back scores. UT would go on to have two more opportunities to seal the win, but CSU kept fighting back until it finished off the frame with three straight scores, including two kills from Jacque Davisson.
Tennessee finally cracked the scoreboard in the third frame, squeaking out a 25-23 triumph. Jeter continued her offensive onslaught, slamming home five kills on eight swings with just a single error for a .500 hitting percentage.
After falling behind by three at 10-13 following a 6-2 Colorado State spree, the Lady Vols used a pair of Ram errors to rally back into the lead with four consecutive scores. After the two miscues, Jeter bounced one off the left-side block and Fowler picked up a kill down the line to put UT up 14-13. Tennessee continued to slowly increase its lead until it found itself up by three at 24-21. Although CSU fought off the first two attempts at set point, the Orange and White was finally able to close out a set when Audrey Hemmings' serve found the net.
Colorado State quickly dashed any Lady Vol hopes of a comeback, however, winning six of the first seven points of the third set en route to a 25-13 victory to end the match. Tennessee simply never got on track offensively, recording only seven kills in the frame.
The Lady Vols will have a short turnaround, as they are scheduled to play Marshall at 5:30 p.m. tonight. The Thundering Herd dropped its opening contest at the Carolina Classic, 3-0, to Colorado State on Friday before bouncing back with a sweep of North Carolina earlier this morning.