Sept. 14, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer volleyball team (5-4) closed out its home tournament in style Sunday afternoon, scoring a come-from-behind, five-set victory over Dayton (6-3), 18-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 15-13, in the final match of the sixth annual Comcast Lady Vol Classic held in Thompson-Boling Arena. Sophomore Nikki Fowler was named to the all-tournament team after posting double-doubles in kills and digs in two of the three matches.
Despite the UT win, Dayton still came away with the tournament championship due to tiebreaker rules. Because Dayton, Illinois and Tennessee all finished with a 2-1 record, no team had a better head-to-head record (all 1-1) and all three teams played the same amount of games (13), the championship was determined by total points against. The Flyers had 236 total points scored against them, while Illinois had 241 and Tennessee had 246, to account for the final team standings.
"Overall, I thought we performed really well in this tournament," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "The level of competition was very high and the experience that we gained will serve us well down the road as we head into SEC play. Because we had to fight extremely hard for every one of our points in our last two matches, we are starting to learn how to remain focused for long stretches of play. That can be very difficult, especially for young players, and is an important lesson to learn if we want to continue to be successful this season. Hopefully, we can use the momentum we gained this weekend as a springboard into our SEC schedule."
Fowler was dominant over the weekend, recording a team-high 49 kills and 131 total attacks. The Dallas, Texas, native also finished second on the squad with 36 digs and third with nine blocks. She hit at an impressive .275 clip with just 13 errors in three matches.
"We knew coming into this weekend that Nikki would have to be a major force for us offensively if we wanted to be successful," Patrick said. "To her credit, she did not back down from that challenge and was tremendous both offensively and in serve receive. I am very proud of how she accepted the responsibility of playing such a large role for our team and glad that she was rewarded for her efforts with a much-deserved spot on the all-tournament team."
Another statistical standout for Tennessee over the weekend was junior libero Chloe Goldman who averaged a tournament-high 5.46 digs per set and led all players with 71 total digs. The Monterey, Calif., product was equally impressive in the serve receive game where she had just one reception error in 74 attempts.
"I could not be more proud of how Chloe performed this weekend," Patrick said. "Even she would admit that she was a little off her game last week and to bounce back the way she did was very impressive. She came into practice all week determined to work on being more consistent in every phase of her game and that hard work directly translated into positive results on the court this week."
In Sunday afternoon's match against Dayton, Fowler paced the Big Orange offense with her second double-double in as many contests, while Goldman tallied the fourth-highest single-match dig total in school history with 36, just six off the standard of 42 set by former Lady Vol Amy Morris at Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005.
After posting 18 kills and 19 digs against Illinois on Friday night, Fowler continued her terrific play with a season-high 22 kills and 13 digs in the triumph over Dayton. Senior Milan Clarke also reached double-digits in kills with 13 of her own, while freshman Alyssa Hilby paced the Orange and White with six blocks in the contest. Junior Michaela Hanakova also put together a solid effort with career highs in both assists and digs with 31 and 13, respectively.
Dayton jumped out the early advantage, utilizing a strong offensive attack and solid defensive showing to win the first set, 25-18. The Flyers, who outhit UT, .359 to .132 in the frame, had seven different players record kills and six others tally at least a pair of digs. Dayton also took advantage of the fact that it was able to string together runs of three points on six occasions while keeping the Big Orange from accomplishing the feat even once.
Tennessee kept the score close for most of the frame, but the Flyers were able to pull away late for the victory. With the scoreboard reading 16-16 following a kill by Clarke over the UD block, Dayton regained the lead with smash by Becky Novacek. After back-to-back errors by UT put the Flyers up, 19-16, a service error gave the ball back to the Lady Vols and a chance make a comeback. They were unable to take advantage of the opportunity, however, as Dayton finished the frame by winning six of the final seven points to claim the 25-18 win.
The Lady Vols came roaring back in the second set, taking an 11-0 lead before withstanding a furious Dayton comeback to claim the frame, 25-23. Following a cross-court kill by junior Kylie Marshall to open the set, fellow classmate Farren Powe took to the service line for UT. The Mobile, Ala., native would stay there for 11 straight plays before Mandy Robbe ended the streak with a kill of her own for the Flyers. During the streak, Tennessee had three players record kills, had a pair of blocks, two aces by Powe and took advantage of four unforced errors by Dayton.
After Robbe's kill got UD on the board, the Big Orange kept its foot on the gas, scoring on the next three plays to go up 14-1. UT remained up by a significant margin until Dayton answered with sprees of six and three points, sandwiched around a single Tennessee score, to cut its deficit to just five at 22-17. Shortly thereafter, a kill by Fowler put the score at 24-19 and gave the Big Orange five chances at set point. It would need all five, however, as the Flyers put together a four-point run to move within a single score before a service error by Bethany Akerhielm ended the game.
Although Fowler and Goldman continued to impress in the third set with six kills and 11 digs, respectively, Dayton took the hard-fought frame by the score of 25-22. Much like the first set, neither team could get much of an advantage early. With Tennessee holding a slim 10-9 lead, Dayton struck the first serious blow, scoring on six consecutive plays to go up 15-10. UT wasted no time responding, however, moving back to within one at 15-14 with a four-score run of its own, highlighted by a kill by senior Mindy Flynn and a block by Powe and Clarke.
Much like two heavyweight fighters trading blows, Dayton immediately answered back with four more scores, bookended by kills from Tiffany Gaerke, to move the score to 19-14. Just three plays later, the Big Orange made one last attempt to get back within striking distance with a kill by Fowler, an ace by freshman Kayla Jeter and a UD attack error putting it three down at 21-18. Unfortunately for Lady Vol fans, the Flyers would withstanding the surge and take the frame 25-22.
Another close battle ensued in the fourth set, with the Orange and White taking a narrow 25-21 victory to force the match into a fifth and final frame. With the score at 11-10 in favor of Dayton, and both teams struggling to find consistency on offense, a Fowler blast sparked a four-point UT run that also featured a kill by Clarke and a triple block by Clark, Fowler and Hilby. Although it did not provide much breathing room, the spree proved to be just enough of an advantage for the Big Orange which was able to hold on to at least a share of the lead until three consecutive attack errors by the Flyers finished off the set.
A key stretch of three points in the middle of the fifth and deciding set gave the Big Orange enough of an advantage over Dayton to stake claim to a tight 15-13 win in the frame and a 3-2 match victory to close out the Comcast Lady Vol Classic. After a kill by Novacek gave the Flyers a 7-6 lead, a blast by Fowler tied it up before back-to-back by Marshall, her only two of the set, put UT up 9-7. Although DU would tie it back up at both 9-9 and 10-10, Tennessee refused to relinquish the lead and Fowler finished off the match with a sharp blast straight down the middle of the court to give the Orange and White it's second win of the weekend and fifth of the season.
Tennessee will begin the league portion of its slate next weekend when it welcomes a pair of Southeastern Conference Western Division foes to Rocky Top in Mississippi State and Alabama. The Lady Vols will square off with the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. on Fri., Sept. 19 in Thompson-Boling Arena before taking on the Crimson Tide at 1:30 p.m. two days later.
Comcast Lady Vol Classic All-Tournament Team
Bethany Akerhielm - Dayton (MVP)
Nicole Bateman - Dayton
Valerie Akerhielm - Dayton
Ashley Edinger - Illinois
Laura DeBruler - Illinois
Nikki Fowler - Tennessee
Regina Feagin - Gardner-Webb