Sept. 19, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - In its opening Southeastern Conference action of the 2008 campaign, the Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team (6-4, 1-0 SEC) registered a dominating 25-20, 25-13, 25-14 decision over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-7, 0-1 SEC) on Friday night in front of 422 Orange-clad fans at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"Anytime that you can open SEC play with a win, you are happy," Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "Mississippi State is a great serving team, but Nikki (Fowler), Chloe (Goldman) and Kylie (Marshall) did a terrific job in the passing game which really helped us to get our offense going."
Sophomore outside hitter Nikki Fowler led the Tennessee offense with 10 kills as the Big Orange hit .255 overall and controlled play at the net with 11.5 blocks. Senior outside hitter Milan Clarke contributed a squad-high eight kills, while junior outside hitter Kylie Marshall, junior middle blocker Farren Powe and junior middle blocker Mindy Flynn contributed seven kills apiece. Junior libero Chloe Goldman contributed 18 digs from her defensive specialist position, while freshman setter Kelsey Mahoney delivered a team-high 19 assists in addition to 11 digs to account for her second double-double of her career.
"I was really impressed with Farren today," Patrick said. "She continues to get better each and every day. We need to work on getting her the ball more often. If we can do that and she continues to play like she has as of late, it will really help to diversity our offense and make us even harder to defend."
The Lady Vols took a quick 3-1 lead in the opening set with the assistance of a pair of Bulldog hitting errors. MSU responded, however, with kills by Kellye Jordan and Mandy Mellencamp to grab a 4-3 advantage. Kills from Marshall and freshman middle blocker Alyssa Hilby seemed to ignite the Big Orange attack christening a 7-2 run that pushed Tennessee out in front, 10-6. A total of 13 hitting miscues in the frame from the Maroon & White helped UT take control of the first set as a pair of blasts from Fowler lifted coach Rob Patrick's home-standing squad to a nine-point advantage at 24-15. A MSU rally guided by kills from Ioana Demian and Ashley Newsome cut the Bulldog deficit to five scores as UT was forced to burn a timeout. A Tennessee miscue out of the break made it 24-20, but Fowler would let Mississippi State get no closer, hammering a ball cross court to finish off the initial set. The Lady Vol defense contributed 5.5 blocks to the squad's effort during the five-tally win.
UT hit a blistering .382 overall to dominate the second set 25-13 as senior middle blocker Mindy Flynn recorded five kills, Fowler delivered four kills and Powe and Clarke both added three kills. After falling behind early 2-0 and 5-3, Clarke responded with a pair of successful swings for the Orange & White, bringing the squad even at 5-5. A blast by MSU's Caitlin Rance tied the set at 6-6, marking the last time the contest would be deadlocked as an immediate kill by Flynn granted UT a lead it wouldn't relinquish. A successful swing from Fowler ended a 7-0 spurt that granted the Lady Vols a commanding 13-6 lead. The advantage grew to as many as eight points at 15-8 before the Bulldogs managed to cut into the deficit, eventually clawing within five tallies at 18-13. That was as close as Mississippi State would climb, however, as kills from Clarke, Hilby, Fowler and Flynn highlighted another 7-0 run to seal the set in favor of the Orange & White.
With a quick three-game match a viable possibility, the Lady Vols sought to extend control of the action into the next set. UT did just that by hitting .333 with 15 total kills, led by Clarke's five, to take a 25-14 victory. Tied at 4-4 early in the third set, Clarke successfully hammered two in the court and got a service ace from freshman setter Kelsey Mahoney to nab a three-point advantage. Marshall continued the run for the Big Orange with consecutive kills as the lead grew to 14-7, forcing a MSU timeout. Consecutive kill swings from freshman outside hitter Kayla Jeter and Fowler and an attack error by State's Faith Steinwedell brought UT to match point at 24-11. A brief 3-0 spurt from the Bulldogs, with the benefit of a pair of Big Orange miscues, closed the deficit to 10 before MSU's Demian served long, concluding the match in favor of the Lady Vols.
Tennessee returns to SEC action at the Thompson-Boling Arena court on Sunday afternoon versus the Alabama Crimson Tide at 1:30 p.m.
"Alabama is a very athletic team with two very good outside hitters," Patrick said. "If we want to be successful, we will need to defend the entire court and win the serve-pass game. It should be a very entertaining match between two good teams."