Sept. 29, 2004
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The 20th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team (13-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) kept its best start since the 1973 season alive with a 30-23, 31-29, 30-14 victory over South Carolina (8-4, 1-2 SEC) on Wednesday night. The 3-0 conference start marks the best SEC start in Tennessee volleyball history. The Big Orange have also won 16 consecutive SEC games, dating back to a 30-26, 30-28, 22-30, 30-23 victory at USC on Nov. 9, 2003. The streak smashes the UT school record for consecutive SEC games won, previously set at 10 from Oct. 1-10, 1999.
The Lady Vols took control of game one, garnering a 19-9 advantage before South Carolina called a timeout and then proceeded to go on a 14-8 run to come within four, 27-23. Tennessee replied by tallying the final three rallies of the game to prevail, 30-27. The Big Orange out-hit USC in the game, .429-.194.
In the second game, the teams battled close throughout, with a kill from sophomore middle blocker Sarah Blum (Tulsa, Okla. / Bishop Kelley H.S.), service ace from senior outside hitter Whitney Gifford (York, Pa. / Dallastown H.S.) and USC attack error giving the Lady Vols an 11-8 advantage.
South Carolina came right back with a 10-5 run to take an 18-16 advantage. After USC took a 25-24 lead, the teams traded sideouts and points eight consecutive rallies before the Lady Vols staved off a game point with an Amy Morris blast down the line, tying the game, 29-29. A Gamecock attack error and a service ace from Annie Sadowski finished off the three-point run for UT, giving the Orange and White the game victory, 31-29. Michelle Piantadosi hit a perfect 1.000 (6-0-6) in the middle game, including tying the score at 26, 27 and 28 with putaways.
"I thought the key to the match was fighting really hard in the second game when we weren't playing very well and being able to pull it out," Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "Michelle (Piantadosi) did a great job in pressure situations. Her six kills happened to be at times when we needed the side out, or would have been down by two at the very late stages of the game."
Game three saw Tennessee take immediate control, taking a 6-0 lead before South Carolina called timeout and went on a 6-3 run to come within 9-6. UT immediately responded by going on another 6-0 run for a 15-6 advantage, causing South Carolina to take their second and final timeout. The Lady Vols had the game comfortably in hand from that point forward, prevailing, 30-14. The 14 points allowed ties a season low for UT, who defeated Lipscomb on Sept. 14 by a 30-14, 30-18, 30-18 count.
"I'm very happy with the way we came back and finished the match strong in the third game, cutting down on a lot of the unforced errors we had committed in the second game," Patrick said. "South Carolina is always a hard place to play and it was a really good victory against a good athletic team."
For the match, Piantadosi and junior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif. / Kelseyville H.S.) led the way for UT. Piantadosi hit .393 (14-3-28) and Andre hit at a .450 clip (12-3-20). Junior setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill. / Lyons Township H.S.) had 37 assists. Defensively, Sadowski recorded 15 digs and three players had four blocks each: freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (Sofia, Bulgaria / 81 SOU Victory Hugo H.S.), Andre and Blum. Piantadosi contributed three blocks of her own to the cause. Next up for Tennessee is rival Kentucky at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Stokely Athletics Center on the UT campus.