Julie Knytych (right) and Heather Harrington reach to keep the play alive during today's 3-1 win over Mississippi State.
Sept. 28, 2003
The University of Tennessee volleyball team extended its win streak to five matches with a 3-1 (30-19, 27-30, 30-19, 30-28) win over Mississippi State on Sunday at Stokely Athletics Center. The Lady Vols used a combination of efficient offense and strong defense to upend the Lady Bulldogs. Tennessee out-hit MSU .342 to .219, out-dug State 69 to 55 and tallied 15 team blocks compared to 8.5 by the Lady Bulldogs. The win improves UT's record to 12-2 this season (2-0 SEC), while Mississippi State falls to 1-11 (0-2 SEC).
"Our hitters did a great job of improving upon their consistency," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "After making a lot of unforced errors against Mississippi on Friday, we were significantly better in that area today."
Sophomore setter Julie Knytych had another solid day for the Big Orange, divvying out 51 assists to go along with 12 digs, six kills and six blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Amy Morris and freshman middle blocker Sarah Blum were the prime beneficiaries of many of those assists, tying for the team lead with 18 kills apiece. Additionally, Morris led the team with 16 digs and two aces. Blum, meanwhile, had a match-high .536 hitting percentage and seven blocks.
"Julie again did a great job of distributing the ball and getting a lot of hitters involved in our offense," Patrick said. "That variety helped keep Mississippi State off-balance."
The Lady Vols' 15 team blocks was their second-highest total of the season, behind the 16.5 they registered in a five-game match against Arizona State on Sept. 6. In addition to Blum's seven blocks and Knytych's six denials against MSU, sophomore Heather Harrington added seven stuffs of her own. On the season, UT is out-blocking its opponents by an average of 2.68 to 1.64 per game.
"I'm really proud of the way we're setting up and closing the block this season," Patrick said. "Blocking has never been a strong suit of a team here at Tennessee, but our personnel, dedicated training and a high volleyball IQ are helping to make it one of our strengths this year."
Against Mississippi State, Tennessee hit at better than a .300 rate for the seventh time in its last nine matches. UT is now hitting at a .289 clip for the season, which, if it were to be maintained for the rest of the year, would surpass the team's all-time record of .286 from the 1980 season.
"The reason we're hitting so well is because of great passing," Patrick explained. "We have been very consistent at getting the ball to our setter, which has allowed her to spread the ball around and take advantage of mismatches that are occurring. We have some great hitters, and Julie Knytych has done a great job setting, but the real key has been solid passing."
The Lady Vols compete next when they take to the road for a pair of tough matches against Georgia at 7 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 3 and against No. 3 Florida at 1:30 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 5.