UT senior Kylie Marshall
Sept. 19, 2009
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
BATON ROUGE, La. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (6-4, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) dropped an extremely hard-fought, five-set contest to LSU (7-3, 1-0) in its SEC opener, 31-29, 23-25, 22-25, 25-12, 15-11, on Friday evening at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. Senior Kylie Marshall and sophomore Kelsey Mahoney both notched double-doubles in the loss.
"While this is a tough loss to take, I was very proud of how hard the team played tonight," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "For the most part, we did a good job of executing our game plan, but we were just too inconsistent and couldn't find our rhythm in the fourth and fifth sets. We put a lot of pressure on LSU in the first three sets, but just could not sustain that effort. One of our strengths this season has been our serving and we made a few more errors than we normally do, which took pressure off LSU and added it to us.
"Our middles did a wonderful job of slowing down, and for the most part stopping, LSU's all-region middle-blocker Brittnee Cooper tonight," Patrick said. "I was also impressed by Kayla Jeter, who continues to provide our team with some much-needed offensive firepower."
For the first time this season and sixth time in her career, Marshall recorded a double-double with 10 kills and 14 digs. Mahoney also accomplished the feat, tallying 16 assists and 10 digs, marking her third this year and seventh of her career. Sophomore Kayla Jeter, meanwhile, paced the squad offensively, finishing just one off her career high with 13 kills. She also added five digs and seven blocks to round out a solid effort.
Seniors Chloe Goldman and Farren Powe topped the UT effort defensively with season-high totals of 28 digs and 10 blocks, respectively, while junior Nikki Fowler posted a seven-kill, 18-dig, five-block performance. As a team, the Big Orange totaled a season-best 91 digs as it went to five against the Tigers for the fourth time in four years.
The opening frame was hotly contested affair with a total of 17 tie scores and five lead changes before LSU converted on its fifth set-point opportunity to take the initial lead of the contest with a 31-29 victory. Powe and Goldman were terrific during the frame, leading the team with five kills and 11 digs, respectively.
A pair of three-point runs, separated by a single UT score, gave LSU the early advantage at 8-6, but Marshall blasted a kill through the right-side block to get the Big Orange back within one. Just three plays later, the Lady Vols regained the lead with a trio of scores of their own, spurred by a Michele Williams service error. Fowler followed with a laser down the right-side line and an attack error by Lauren DeGirolamo put Tennessee up 11-10.
The score would remain extremely close the rest of the way, until a 3-1 UT run, capped by a block by Jeter and freshman Leslie Cikra, deadlocked the score at 22-all and forced LSU Head Coach Fran Flory to burn her first timeout of the match. The Tigers came out of the short break swinging and regained the lead on a cross-court putaway by Marina Skender.
Marshall answered with a kill down the right-side of the court, but another Skender blast gave LSU its first chance at set-point. They would be unsuccessful, as Marshall took another big swing for the Orange and White, this time smashing one to the back-right corner. Twice more, the Tigers would have opportunities to put the frame away, but they were kept at bay both times as Fowler and junior Leah Hinkey joined forces on a sharp block and a service error by Samantha Dabbs returned the score to a tie at 26-26.
A ball-handling error immediately after her service error then put the ball in UT's court with a chance to serve out the set. Although Madie Jones blasted one through the left-side block to thwart that attempt, Jeter smashed home an over pass to give the Big Orange its second opportunity. Once again, Tennessee was not able to finish it off, as a serve and attack found the net on back-to-back plays. Jeter would sneak a kill just inside the right line, but that would be the final UT score of the frame, as consecutive kills by DeGirolamo and Williams finished it off.
It was a game of runs at the beginning of the second frame, as UT rattled off five straight, getting a pair of kills from Fowler and another from Jeter, to race ahead 5-2. That lead would be short-lived, however, as LSU proceeded to tally the next eight scores to go up by five at 10-5. In a testament to their will, the Lady Vols refused to go down without a fight though.
Tennessee finally got the break it needed when the Tigers mishandled an attack by Jeter to snap the streak. Fowler followed with a kill that landed mere inches inside the right line on a swing from the back row and Powe then joined up with Jeter to send back an attack by DeGirolamo. Now trailing by just a pair of scores, the two teams were able to side out on each of the next nine plays.
The Lady Vols were the first to string together a run, tallying six straight points to take an 18-16 advantage. A sharp block by Hinkey and Jeter sparked the spree which also included kills from Fowler and Jeter, an ace by junior Emily Steinbeck and was finished off with another block by Fowler and Powe. Although LSU tied it back up at 19-19 shortly thereafter, the Big Orange was undeterred, holding off the Tigers until a service error put it up 23-22. Marshall then took a swing from the back row that nicked off the block and down to put UT within one of tying the match at one set each. Following a Flory timeout and a kill by Brittnee Cooper, Hinkey finished off the frame with a blast to the middle of the court.
The two squads continued their battle in the third set, with Tennessee using a late run to propel itself to a 25-22 victory. Cikra hit at a .500 clip in the frame with a team-high five kills and just a single error on eight swings. Jeter also played well, recording four putaways, two digs and a pair of blocks.
With LSU leading 11-8, the Big Orange took advantage of a pair of Tiger errors and got a kill from Jeter to notch things back up. The score remained within one until a 4-1 spree put UT back out in front. Cikra and Jeter pounded out back-to-back kills and Hinkey followed a service error with an absolute blast down the right-side line. A block by Powe and Fowler then prompted Flory to call a timeout to get her team back on track. The tactic worked momentarily, as the Tigers retook the lead at 20-19, but the Lady Vols finished strong, rattling off four straight scores just moments later to go up 24-21.
Cikra opened the run with a kill, which was immediately followed by an LSU attack error. Hinkey and Cikra then picked up a sharp block on an attack by Williams and a putaway by Hinkey gave the Big Orange three chances to earn the victory. Although Fowler just missed a kill from the back row on the next play, Cikra closed out the frame with a kill from the outside.
Tennessee was never able to find its rhythm in the fourth set, dropping a 25-12 decision. The Tigers grabbed control early with a 9-2 run that put them ahead 12-5 and never looked back. Although the Lady Vols cut their deficit to just four at 15-11 following a block by Powe and Jeter and a cross-court kill by Marshall, LSU proceeded to close things out by winning 10 of the final 11 points.
Much like the fourth set, LSU jumped out to an early lead in the fifth and was able to hold off Tennessee for the 15-11 match-deciding victory. The Tigers wasted little time grabbing the momentum, taking an 8-4 advantage behind the strength of a pair of three-point runs in the span of seven plays.
The Lady Vols refused to go down easily though, slowly inching their way back to a two-point deficit at 9-11, following back-to-back kills by Jeter. That would be as close as they would get, however, with LSU taking advantage of a pair of unforced errors to win the match.
Tennessee will 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.