Sept. 23, 2011
By Todd Mounce, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Despite dropping a hard-fought first set to South Carolina, the Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team responded and overcame the challenge by winning the next three sets to defeat the Gamecocks, 28-30, 25-12, 25-15, 28-26, in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 1,086 fans at the Volleyball Competition Facility on Friday evening.
"One of the things I told the team was that playing in the SEC on the road is much more difficult than they can ever imagine," Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. "Until you have to deal with the crowds and the environment on the road, you really don't understand it."
"It was really loud, they had a great crowd, the band was blaring and we could hardly hear each other because it was so loud in there, which is a great atmosphere," Patrick explained. "I think that affected us a little bit and I don't think we carried out our game plan very well in the first set. Because of that, we kept South Carolina in the game and in the SEC you can't do that."
Sophomore Kelsey Robinson continues to be a nightmare for the opposition, recording her eighth double-double and eighth 20-plus kill performance of the season by tallying 22 kills and 12 digs against USC. For the match she had a hitting percentage of .319.
Freshman setter Mary Pollmiller accounted for 53 of Tennessee's (10-2, 3-0) 59 assists on the night, along with adding three kills of her own. Both junior DeeDee Harrison and sophomore Carly Sahagian hit over .300 on the night, as Harrison had 11 kills and eight blocks, while Sahagian tallied 12 kills and 13 digs to register her fourth double-double of the season.
The opening set of the match was a back-and-forth battle between the two squads. With the match tied up at four apiece, South Carolina scored the next three points to grab a 7-4 lead. The Big Orange rallied and scored the next five points off of two Robinson kills and three South Carolina miscues to take a 9-7 advantage. UT would extend its lead to three, 12-9 and 15-12 before the Gamecocks made a push.
South Carolina tied the match up at 15 all, followed by both teams trading points all the way up to 20. Tied at 23, South Carolina scored the next point on a UT blocking error for a chance to win the set. Tennessee fought off the match point, something it would do on four occasions, two of which came by way of kills from Sahagian.
Deadlocked at 26-26, a Gamecock error gave the Lady Vols a chance to win the first set, but the ensuing UT serve sailed long to knot the match back up at 27. The score would be tied once more at 28 before South Carolina would win the set, 30-28. In all, the set had 16 ties and six lead changes.
The second frame of the match was dominated by the Orange and White. Following a Robinson kill, USC scored the next three points to take a 3-1 lead, which was their largest lead of the set. UT quickly tied the set back up at three and again at four, before going on a 6-2 run behind two kills from Cikra, a Robinson kill and a serving ace by Mullins to give itself a 10-6 advantage.
The Lady Vols extended the lead to 14-8 after kills by Kolosky, Pollmiller and Robinson, along with a South Carolina attack error. At the 17-12 mark, Tennessee would close the match out by scoring the last eight points to take the second set victory, 25-12. Robinson had three kills and Cikra and Harrison combined for a pair of blocks during that late run.
Set three had the same feel as set two did, as the Lady Vols quickly jumped out to a 3-0 lead off of three blocks. Up by three at 7-4, UT rattled off seven straight points with the help of three Robinson kills, a put back, a Sahagian serving ace and a Kolosky kill to go up 14-4. UT pushed its lead to nine at 19-10 off an attack error by the Gamecocks and went on to score the next two to make the score 21-10. A serving error by South Carolina gave the Orange and White the third set, 25-15.
Tennessee had to fight hard to leave South Carolina with a 3-1 victory. In a highly contested set that saw 13 ties, UT jumped out early and held off multiple South Carolina rallies. The Lady Vols and Gamecocks battled back-and-forth until Tennessee took a 6-4 advantage off of a USC attack error.
The Lady Vols would keep a two-point advantage until South Carolina cut the UT lead to 9-8 and eventually tied the match at 11. Robinson, Sahagian and Kolosky all had kills to get UT back up by two, 15-13. The Gamecocks would respond however, tying the match up at 16 and again at 21. The two squads countered one another until the score was all even at 25.
An error on the part of USC gave Tennessee a 26-25 advantage, and the opportunity to win the set and the match. South Carolina didn't go down without a fight, tying the match up at 26 before Sahagian blasted two kills in a row to conclude the fourth set and the match, 28-26.
"We were able to settle down in the second and third sets and cut down on our errors," Patrick said. "In the fourth set, with their great crowd, South Carolina was not going to roll over and give us the match. I was very proud that we played fearless on some very, very big points. To have a young team play that fearless in a lot of big points, I couldn't be more proud of how they pulled that out."
Up next, Tennessee is slated to face off against Florida in Gainesville, which will be televised nationally on ESPNU at 5 p.m.