Sept. 28, 2008
ATHENS, Ga. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (8-5, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) got back to its winning ways, scoring its first Sunday conference road win in over two years with a three-set sweep, 25-19, 25-19, 25-19, over Georgia (7-8, 0-4 SEC) at the Ramsey Student Center in Athens, Ga. With the win, Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick recorded his 229th career victory, tying Bob Bertucci as the winningest coach in UT history.
Tennessee's last road victory on a Sunday during conference play came against Mississippi State on Sept. 24, 2006. UT had dropped its last seven such decisions.
"The team did a very good job of following the game plan today," Patrick said. "One thing that our team has done very well defensively is defending the outside hitters. We were able to do that again today. The other thing that I was very pleased with was our serve-and-pass game. We did a great job of putting pressure on Georgia with our tough serving and our pass-reception efficiency was outstanding. We challenged our players after a sub-par serving effort at LSU by asking them to be more aggressive and they did a terrific job of responding to that challenge."
In the triumph over Georgia, the Big Orange offense was paced by sophomore Nikki Fowler and senior Milan Clarke who each tallied 13 kills in the contest. Junior libero Chloe Goldman, meanwhile, led the squad in digs for the 11th time this season with 20, her highest three-set output this year. Junior Kylie Marshall and Fowler also reached double digits in digs with 10 each. For Fowler, her 13 kills and 10 digs marked her team-high third double-double of the season and 14th of her career. As a team, Tennessee had success at the service line, recording a season-high nine aces in the match.
"Milan set the tone for our team today," Patrick said. "She provided us with many point-scoring swings without making very many errors. Nikki was also outstanding. Everyone sees the amount of kills that she gets, but I was more impressed with the rest of her game. She really filled up the stat sheet tonight with 10 digs, four aces and two blocks."
The Big Orange wasted little time getting things going in the opening frame, quickly jumping out to an 8-2 advantage. Freshman Kelsey Mahoney got the scoring started with an ace on the first play. Senior Mindy Flynn followed with a smash that landed wide off the left-side block before a cross-court attack by Georgia landed wide left to put UT up 3-0. A kill by UGA setter Kathleen Gates put the Bulldogs on the board, but freshman Alyssa Hilby tipped one over the block on the next play for another Tennessee score.
Following a blast down the right-side line by Lindsay Gehan that made it 4-2, the Lady Vols got a pair of blocks sandwiched between kills by Juniors Farren Powe and Marshall to go up by six. Georgia was not deterred, however, immediately moving back to within a single score with a five-point rally of its own. A service error ended the run, which proved to be the last serious threat posed to the Orange and White during the set.
Up by two at 14-12, a kill by Flynn, followed by an ace by Fowler and an unforced error by UGA, gave UT a commanding five-score advantage. Georgia was able to shrink its deficit to three on a couple of occasions, but the Big Orange closed strong, winning four of the final five points, capped off by blasts by Fowler and Flynn.
Tennessee continued its offensive onslaught in the second set, outhitting Georgia, .414 to .189. Fowler led the way with six kills in the set, while Clarke posted four of her own. This time it was the Bulldogs' turn to start fast, as they pounded out five kills in a six-play span to take a 9-5 lead after trailing 5-3. A timeout by Patrick, however, stopped UGA in its tracks. Attack errors by Bulldog players on the first two plays out of the break put UT back within two and gave it all the momentum it needed.
After the two squads traded the next three scores, the Lady Vols went on a five-point run that featured kills from Clarke and Fowler and a sharp block by Hilby and Clarke to go ahead 13-11. Just three plays later, the Big Orange put together another spree, scoring a trio of points on a blast by Fowler that landed wide off the right-side block and back-to-back aces by Goldman to take a 17-13 advantage. From that point on, Georgia was unable to mount any sort of rally before another Fowler smash down the right side ended the frame at 25-19.
Tennessee continued to pour it on in the third set, with Fowler and Clarke combining for 10 of its 11 kills is the frame, which the Lady Vols won 25-19. After allowing Georgia to score four straight points and take a 5-2 lead, the Orange and White buckled down and returned the favor with a five-point run of its own that included a kill and a pair of aces by Fowler.
Shortly thereafter, with the score tied at 11-all after three-point sprees by each team, Tennessee took control, scoring on six of the next seven plays to put the set away. Clarke opened the run with an absolute blast from the left side which was followed by a kill by Fowler and a block by Fowler and Hilby. UGA's Maria Taylor briefly halted the streak with a laser from the back row, but UT went right back at it, getting another block by Fowler and Hilby and a Fowler kill to the back-right corner of the court.
A timeout by Georgia Head Coach Joel McCartney ended the run, but it was too little too late for the Bulldogs which never got closer than two scores the rest of the way. Leading 21-19, Tennessee finished off the match with yet another spree, scoring on the final four plays, including a pair of kills by Clarke.
The Big Orange will return to the hardwood this Wednesday when it welcomes border-rival Kentucky to Rocky Top for a 7 p.m. showdown at Thompson-Boling Arena. Following that contest, Auburn will make the trip to Knoxville for a 7 p.m. match on Fri., Oct. 3.