Sept. 20, 2003
The University of Tennessee volleyball team took home the Blue Demon Invitational championship with an unblemished 3-0 record after downing host DePaul University 3-0 (30-25, 30-28, 30-24) on Saturday night. The Lady Vols continued to play consistent offense, out-hitting DePaul .352 to .248, as well as solid defense, out-digging the Blue Demons 42 to 31. With its third win in a row, UT improves to 10-2 this season, while DU drops to 6-7. Earlier in the tournament, Tennessee defeated IUPUI on Friday, 3-1, and Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, 3-0.
Sophomore setter Julie Knytych made a stellar return to her home town, claiming Tournament MVP honors with averages of 13.30 assists per game, 2.80 digs per game, 1.40 kills per game and a .394 hitting percentage during the event. Knytych's precise setting also helped UT amass a team hitting percentage of .370 at the tournament, one of the highest in program history. Against DePaul, Knytych tallied 40 assists and 11 digs.
"I was really proud of Julie Knytych this weekend for leading us to one of our highest team hitting percentages ever," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "The importance of a setter to a team's offense and defense is often overlooked, so I'm proud she was recognized with the MVP award."
Also earning an All-Tournament nod for the Lady Vols was sophomore MB Kristen Andre, who posted averages of 4.50 kills per game, a .447 hitting percentage and 0.9 blocks per game during the three matches. Sophomore OH Amy Morris rounded out UT's All-Tournament Team honorees, averaging 4.30 KPG, a .385 hitting percentage and 3.80 DPG during the weekend.
"Kristen Andre brought a lot of energy on to the court, which showed up in her consistent, high level of play," Patrick said. "Amy Morris, meanwhile, has really picked up her game and may have played some of her best matches this weekend."
In game one against DePaul, the Blue Demons got off to a quick start to build a 14-9 lead. The Lady Vols, however, did not seem intimidated, coming back to knot the score at 14 after a five-point run that featured three aces from Blum. UT only elevated its play from there, going on to claim game one by a score of 30-25. Tennessee defense paid dividends in the first game, as it out-dug DU 17 to7, led by eight digs from Fullove. Andre and Morris provided the bulk of UT's offense, recording five and four kills, respectively, thanks to the strong setting of Knytych, who tallied 13 assists.
Game two was about as close as it gets, with neither squad holding a lead of more than three points throughout the game. That three point lead, in fact, was held by DePaul when the score was 26-23. The Lady Vols demonstrated their resiliency one again though, winning seven of the game's final nine points to capture a 30-28 victory. Andre continued hitting at a blistering rate, recording five kills on just six attempts for a .833 percentage, while freshman Sarah Blum added seven kills at a .455 clip. Knytych, meanwhile, notched 15 assists to go along with a team-leading five digs.
Tennessee didn't waste much time building a lead in game three, as the Lady Vols used a three-point run to take a 15-9 advantage, before eventually winning by a count of 30-24. The Lady Vol offense continued to heat up, registering a .438 hitting percentage. Morris led the way for UT in the final stanza with six kills and four digs.
"We played our best match of the tournament tonight," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "In turn, DePaul played their best match of the tournament against us. I was happy that we played so consistently in a match being played at such a high level. DePaul presents a big block, but our passing allowed us to negate that blocking presence because Julie Knytych was able to distribute the ball evenly to our hitters."
After returning from the Windy City, the Orange and White will open Southeastern Conference play in Knoxville against Ole Miss at 7 p.m. on Fri., Sept. 26 and Mississippi State at 2 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 28.