Sept. 26, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-Match Interview with Rob Patrick
"I was really pleased with the focus our team had today," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We came out with a lot of energy which is always a little bit tougher to do on the road. We knew Auburn was a good team and was going to play tough defense and it was great to see us come out and match their energy."
As a team, the Lady Vols hit at a season-high .421 clip, surpassing the .400 mark for the first time since it hit .420 against East Tennessee State on Oct. 14, 2008. UT had a total of 59 kills and just 11 errors in 114 attack attempts. With the win, the Orange and White improves to 10-3 overall and 2-2 in Southeastern Conference play, while Auburn falls to 10-5, 2-2.
Senior Nikki Fowler led the way for the Big Orange with 18 kills on .389 hitting. Just behind her was junior Kayla Jeter who pounded out 15 putaways with just a single miscue on 27 attempts for a squad-best .519 attack average. Also reaching double-digits in kills was sophomore DeeDee Harrison with 12, while senior Leah Hinkey tallied nine with a .471 hitting percentage.
With her 36 attack attempts against the Tigers, Fowler also became Tennessee's all-time attacks leader, increasing her career total to 3,887 to surpass Ariana Wilson's four-year total of 3,881.
Much of the reason UT was able to be as efficient offensively as it was on Sunday was due to the play of its two setters, senior Emily Steinbeck and freshman Kylann Scheidt. The two assisted on 58 of the team's 59 kills, with both players recording 27 helpers in the contest.
"First of all, I thought our passing was very good and we kept the ball right on our setter's hands. Our setters also did a great job of distributing the ball consistently to all of our hitters. We really got the middles involved early and they were able to come through with some kills. That helped open up the outside for our other hitters and allowed them to hit at a very high percentage. I was really proud of how both Emily and Kylann distributed the ball and how they were able to get the ball to the right players at the right times."
Defensively, freshman Ellen Mullins was the lone Lady Vol to reach double-figures in digs with 10, but Steinbeck, Fowler and Jeter all scooped up eight Tiger attacks as Tennessee out-dug Auburn, 45 to 38. The Big Orange won the battle in the blocking category as well, topping AU, 15 to seven. Hinkey paced the squad with four putbacks while Harrison and Fowler added three each.
"Our serving kind of kept them off-balance. I thought we really upped our serve after the second set. We were just trying to keep the ball in and not make errors so we talked to our team about serving a little more aggressively. That then led to putting Auburn in one or two hitter situations, which allowed our block to form a little bit better, and we have a pretty big block. Our players did a great job of setting the block in the right spots and tagging balls even when we didn't get the stuff block, so that our defense had an easy ball to get back to the setter and transition for an easy point."
After dropping the first two sets at Georgia on Friday, the Lady Vols came out a determined squad in the first set against the Tigers, hitting at an amazing .708 as a team en route to claiming the frame, 25-15. UT had a total of 18 kills and just one error on 24 swings, led by a perfect five-for-five performance by Harrison and a three-for-three effort by Jeter.
With a slim 9-8 lead early on, freshman Carly Sahagian sparked a 10-3 Tennessee run with a cross-court blast from the outside that ricocheted off an Auburn defender in her team's bench. Fowler then followed with a putaway from the right side and, after a Tiger ball-handling error, Hinkey crushed a ball down the center of the court to force AU Head Coach Wade Benson to burn his first timeout.
Although Auburn came out of the break with two straight scores, Hinkey answered immediately with another kill and a sharp solo block. After a Tiger putaway by Sarah Bullock, Auburn gave the ball right back to UT as a Morgan Johns serve found the net.
That miscue kicked off a four-point spree for the Big Orange as Hinkey, Jeter and sophomore Leslie Cikra had kills on the next three plays to put the Lady Vols up 19-11. From there, Tennessee would cruise to victory, out-scoring Auburn, 6-4, down the stretch.
After hitting on all cylinders in the initial frame, UT cooled off a bit in the second as the Tigers tied the match up with a 25-21 triumph. The Lady Vols fell behind early and couldn't quite catch up despite a valiant comeback attempt.
With Auburn leading by eight at 17-11, Tennessee rattled off four consecutive scores to move within two points of tying the frame. It was all Fowler during the spree, as the Dallas, Texas, native collected three kills in the four plays. The other point came via a block by Harrison and Sahagian.
After the run, the two teams traded the next seven points to put the tally on the scoreboard at 21-18 in favor of AU. Tennessee would not give up though, as Jeter blasted one off the block on the outside for a kill and Harrison and Cikra teamed up on a mammoth block to move the Big Orange within a single score at 21-20. Auburn would not relent, however, scoring four of the final five points to take the frame, 25-21, and tie the match as the teams took to their respective locker rooms for intermission.
Fowler and Jeter combined for 10 kills on just 22 swings in the third set, as Tennessee took the lead back with a tight, 25-22, victory. The UT block finally came to life as well, as it tallied eight putbacks in the frame.
Trailing 12-8 early in the stanza, the Orange and White's first big run started with a kill by Fowler from the right side that hit off hands at the net and sailed over the top of AU's back-row defenders. Mullins served an ace on the next play before Tennessee finished off the 4-0 tear with another kill by Fowler and a block by Hinkey and Sahagian that tied the score at 12-12.
The Big Orange would take the lead at 15-14 just moments later, thanks to a blast by Jeter and an Auburn attack error. After the Tigers tied things back up at 16-all, the Lady Vols moved ahead by two on back-to-back blocks. Harrison first teamed up with Jeter on the first before moving alongside Fowler for the second. Tennessee would hold on to that lead the rest of the way with Jeter accounting for the team's final three scores with a trio of kills, including a cross-court, off-balance laser that caught the back-right corner to end the set.
Using an 8-2 run early in the frame, Tennessee quickly took control of the fourth set and never looked back en route to a match-clinching, 25-19, victory. Once again, Jeter and Fowler were nearly unstoppable offensively, crushing out a combined 10 kills, as the Lady Vols recorded a stellar .480 hitting percentage as a team.
With Auburn holding a 3-2 advantage, a Tiger attack error evened the score and gave the ball back to the Orange and White. Scheidt then gave UT a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the day as she snuck a serve just inside the back line for an ace. Cikra and Hinkey then proceeded to stuff a swing by Jonelle Wallace before Cikra got a lucky bounce off the tape for a kill to put the Lady Vols up 6-3.
After a pair of points brought AU back within one, Tennessee immediately answered with another four-point run, during which Jeter recorded a trio of kills, forcing Benson to burn a timeout with his squad down 10-5.
Auburn would not get closer than three points for the rest of the match as UT slowly pulled away with a pair of 3-1 runs and another 4-1 spree, before Fowler smashed a laser down the right side of the line to end the contest.
The Lady Vols will now return home for an 8 p.m. showdown against No. 24 Kentucky in Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 29. That match will be televised live on ESPNU with Anne Marie Anderson and Elizabeth Moreau on the call. Following that contest, Tennessee will host Ole Miss at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1.