Sept. 13, 2009
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Led by a career performance from junior Leah Hinkey, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (6-3) closed out the Carolina Classic on a high note with a hard-fought sweep of Marshall (10-2), 37-35, 25-15, 25-12, Saturday night at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Hinkey recorded the second-best single-match hitting percentage in school history, hitting at a .923 clip with 12 kills and no errors on 13 swings.
"This was a great way to finish off a tough weekend," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We have been preaching offensive consistency throughout our preseason and we were able to finally see the fruits of that labor today by the even distribution of sets to our hitters, which allowed us to keep Marshall off balance defensively."
The team total of 87 points (37-25-25) stands as the second highest three-set total by an NCAA Division I team in the 25-point rally scoring era, behind only Michigan's total of 88 (25-25-38) in a sweep of Indiana on Oct. 18, 2008.
In addition to her stellar offensive output, Hinkey also led the Big Orange with eight blocks against the Thundering Herd. For the weekend, she finished with a .383 hitting percentage, knocked out 25 kills and led the squad with a total of 19 blocks en route to all-tournament team honors. She passed up three different players on the UT career blocks chart this weekend, moving up to No. 7 on the list with a career mark of 345.
"Leah has taken her game to another level mentally after her injury," Patrick said. "Because of that, she is blocking much more efficiently than she did in the past. She has also become a more consistent hitter because she is taking what the defense gives her rather than going for kills on every single swing like she did early in her career. I was very excited to see her have a breakout match so quickly after returning from her injury."
While Hinkey was collecting kills left and right, junior Nikki Fowler was doing much of the same, topping the Lady Vols with 13 putaways against the Herd. The Dallas, Texas, native also had nine digs and five blocks in the contest.
Defensively, it was Chloe Goldman putting on a display, tallying 18 digs and handling all 18 serves that came her way. During the three-match competition, Goldman averaged 4.67 digs per set with a total of 56 scoops while joining Hinkey on the all-tournament team. She also passed at a remarkable .990 clip with just a single reception error in a team-high 101 attempts. With 140 digs this season, the 5-6 libero has moved her career total to 1,327, passing Stephanie Ehlers (1,312) for third all time in the UT record book. She needs just 11 more to tie Amy Morris for second and 148 to surpass Kristy Dobson for the top position.
"Chloe has always had a great affinity for playing defense and digging balls, as her 25-digs in three sets today can attest to," Patrick said. "But the thing that I am most excited about is that she has taken more responsibility for her serve receive and graded out as our best passer this weekend. A lot of the credit for our play this season has to go to our three main passers, Kylie (Marshall), Nikki and Chloe, as their serve receive has allowed us to run a varied offense. Even in the matches we lost this weekend, they kept us in the game for long periods of time."
The opening set was hard-fought throughout, but the Lady Vols were able to hold off Marshall in a marathon, 37-35. That stands as the third-highest score for a single-set during an NCAA Division I contest in the 25-point rally scoring era and the highest in Tennessee history since it dropped a 37-35 set to LSU in Knoxville on Sept. 15, 2006.
Hinkey and sophomore Kayla Jeter provided the offensive highlights for the Big Orange during the frame, recording six kills each. Hinkey hit at a near-perfect .857 clip with no errors on seven swings, while Jeter notched a .429 hitting percentage with no errors on 14 attacks. Defensively, Goldman was the standout with 10 digs.
The Lady Vols looked to have control near the middle of the frame, using a four-score spree that featured kills from both senior Farren Powe and Hinkey to go up 12-10. A timeout by Marshall Head Coach Mitch Jacobs halted UT's momentum, however, and allowed his team to regain the lead with three straight points of its own. The Herd would quickly extend its advantage to four with a 5-1 run that moved the tally on the scoreboard to 18-14 just moments later.
The Orange and White continued to fight, but soon found itself down set point at 24-22 following a kill by Katy Schad. The Lady Vols were undeterred, however, scoring three huge points in a row to earn a chance at their own set point. Marshall sparked the run with a kill on a tip to the middle of the court and Hinkey and Powe followed with a sharp block. Fowler then added a cross-court putaway from right-side to close it out.
Marshall refused to go away as well, as Kristin Marcum tied things back up with a kill off the left-side block. After a Hinkey putaway, the Herd fought off another set point by claiming back-to-back scores, getting kills from Elizabeth Herman and Marcum. It was a battle of attrition from that point on as the two squads were able to side out for the next 16 plays.
With Marshall leading 35-34, Jeter then decided that she had seen enough. The Solon, Ohio, native blasted a cross-court kill to tie it up and then put Tennessee ahead with an ace, setting up Fowler to finish off the set with a laser from the back row.
With all the momentum on its side after the first set victory, Tennessee took an early lead in the second and never looked back, en route to winning 25-16. The Big Orange allowed Marshall to score consecutive points just twice during the entire set, while recording streaks of four and five points on its own.
Hinkey continued to pound away on the Thundering Herd, smashing out three more kills on as many swings to move her attack average to an incredible .900 (9-0-10) through the first two frames.
UT's first run came just eight plays into the set, with Hinkey smashing home an over pass to kick it off. Fowler then followed with back-to-back kills and a Herd attack error closed it out and gave the Orange and White a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way. Leading 17-13 shortly thereafter, the Lady Vols put the set out of reach with five straight scores, bookended by a kill by Cikra and a block by Marshall and Hinkey. Marshall delayed the inevitable with a pair of points, but Cikra and Fowler both ricocheted kills off the block to finish off the frame.
Tennessee saved its best performance of the weekend for last, as it dominated the third frame to the tune of a 25-12 triumph. After a Herman kill gave Marshall the first point, the Lady Vols kept the Herd off the board for the next 15 plays. With Kylie Marshall serving, the Big Orange went on the longest run in school history, surpassing the streak of 13 points that it scored with Julie Knytych serving against Lipscomb on Aug. 27, 2005. The 15-point spree also ties Marshall for the fifth-longest consecutive points served streak in NCAA Division I history.
"One of our main focuses since last year has been to toughen up our serving and put more pressure on the opposing teams," Patrick said. "We are starting to see the results of that work with our aces-error ratio being almost one-to-one this season. Although Kylie didn't have too many aces in her record run, she put a tremendous amount of pressure with her tough topspin jump serve."
The Orange and White would eventually go up 20-3 on a triple block by Fowler, Hinkey and freshman DeeDee Harrison before the Thundering Herd could mount any sort of sustained rally. Harrison would later add her second career block and fellow classmate Natalie Guerra notched her first collegiate assist as UT cruised to the 25-12 victory.
Tennessee will next be in action Friday, Sept. 18 when it opens the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule at 7 p.m. CT against LSU in Baton Rouge, La. The Lady Vols will then have a week off from competition before returning home for contests against Arkansas and Ole Miss on Sept. 25 and 27, respectively. The showdown with the Rebels will be televised live on ESPNU at 5 p.m.
|Carolina Classic All-Tournament Team|
|Leah Hinkey - Tennessee|
|Chloe Goldman - Tennessee|
|Emily Sullivan - Marshalle|
|Ingrid Hanson-Tuntland - North Carolina|
|Jacque Davisson - Colorado State|
|Katelin Batten - Colorado State|
|Danielle Minch (MVP) - Colorado State|