Sept. 29, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Tennessee-Kentucky Post-Match Interview and Highlights
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Playing in front of a national television audience on ESPNU and the eighth-largest crowd in school history, the 23rd-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team (11-3, 3-2 SEC) made quick work of a Kentucky squad (8-7, 2-3) that had been ranked in the national polls until this week, downing the Wildcats, 25-22, 25-15, 25-22, in front of 1,126 rowdy fans at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night.
"For ESPN to come in and broadcast matches like this is fantastic for our sport, fantastic for the University of Tennessee and fantastic for our players," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "They put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice time during their summers in order to play at a high level. It is great for them to get national attention like this and provides an opportunity for them to showcase the great game that we play.
"I say this all of the time, but I honestly believe that we have the best fans in the country right here at Tennessee. They really helped us get back in the first set and we rode that wave of emotion for the rest of the match as we were able to finish off a very talented Kentucky team."
Junior Kayla Jeter led a three-pronged attack for the Lady Vols on Wednesday, recording a match-high 13 kills and a career-best 13 digs for the first double-double of her career. The Solon, Ohio, product's previous high was seven before her performance this evening. She also notched a pair of blocks and hit a solid .303 clip with just three errors on 33 swings.
"We haven't given Kayla many opportunities to showcase her defensive abilities in the back row, but I wasn't surprised by the numbers she put up today. Obviously, she can hit and block at a very high level, but as she showed tonight, she can also pass and play back row. She just needs to continue to work on becoming more consistent. Kentucky came after her very hard at the beginning of the match and tried to break her passing down, but she was able to withstand their barrage and that really helped to steady our offense."
Also recording a double-double, the 44th of her career, was senior Nikki Fowler who tallied 10 digs and a match-high 15 digs in the victory. Sophomore DeeDee Harrison reached double-digits in kills as well, hitting a stellar .444 with 10 putaways, in addition to blocking a match-high four Wildcat attacks. Junior Amanda Friday, meanwhile, finished third on the squad with 10 digs.
As a team, Tennessee bested the Wildcats in nearly every imaginable statistical category, out-hitting them .267 to .157, out-digging them 59 to 49 and out-blocking them 13 to seven. The Big Orange also recorded nine more kills (46 to 37), hit 110 points higher (.267 to .157) and dished out eight more assists (42 to 34).
Wednesday's sweep is UT's first over the Wildcats since it defeated them in straight sets in Lexington on Nov. 6, 2005.
Led by a five-kill, 10-dig effort by Fowler, Tennessee was able to fight back from a late deficit to claim the opening frame, 25-22. Jeter also added four kills and five digs in the set.
Trailing by as many as five at the 15-10 mark, the Orange and White slowly inched its way back into striking distance until a Kentucky service error and a sharp block by Jeter and senior Leah Hinkey knotted the frame up at 19-all.
Although the Wildcats would take the lead back three more times, Tennessee was undeterred and closed out the initial set with a four-point run. Down by one at 21-20, Fowler took over, blasting out back-to-back kills to give the Big Orange the lead and force UK Head Coach Craig Skinner to burn his second timeout.
The short break in play did little to halt UT's momentum, however, as an attack off the hand of Ann Armes sailed wide to give the Lady Vols two chances at set point. They would need just one though, as freshman Carly Sahagian did the honors by smashing home an over pass to give her team the victory.
"One of the things I thought we did really well was we played consistent volleyball after the first half of the first set," Rob Patrick said. "We've been talking about coming out with a lot of energy early and although we didn't really do that, I was proud of our team for how they picked up their energy as the match went on."
The second set wasn't nearly as close as Tennessee used a pair of four-point runs and a five-score spree to cruise past the Wildcats, 25-15, and take a two-set advantage into the locker room at the break.
With the score at 10-8 in its favor, the Big Orange embarked on a long run, scoring five straight points to take a commanding 15-8 lead. Back-to-back kills from Fowler and Harrison triggered the run before the duo joined forces for a monster block on a swing by Blaire Hiler. UT then took advantage of consecutive miscues by Armes before she finally connected on one to end the streak.
Just moments later, the Lady Vols effectively ended the set with a 7-1 spurt that put them ahead 23-12. During the run, Tennessee got a pair of putaways from both Sahagian and Jeter. After Christine Hartmann moved UK within 10 with a kill on a setter dump, she gave the ball right back to UT with a service error. Just two plays later, the Orange and White claimed the set when Harrison won a battle at the net and angled a laser down the right sideline for the 25th and final point.
Jeter, Fowler and Harrison combined for 14 of the team's 16 kills in the third and final set, as the Big Orange dug itself out of an early hole en route to a match-clinching 25-22 triumph.
Kentucky jumped out to a quick 4-1 advantage but couldn't hold on as Tennessee came roaring back to life by scoring 13 of the next 18 available points to take a five-score lead at 14-9. Much of the damage to the Wildcats during that stretch was self-inflicted as the first three UT points that sparked the spree all came on UK unforced errors.
Later in the run, Jeter put away three kills in four plays before Harrison scored a trio of points in a row with a pair of kills and a bruising block. Following an attack error, the Lady Vols gave the ball right back to Harrison and got similar results as she crushed a ball down the center of the court to put UT up 12-9. Fowler followed with a kill of her own, bouncing a cross-court shot in front of the Kentucky libero, before a block by Sahagian and Harrison ended the spree.
The Wildcats would close the gap to two points at 20-18, but a kill by Cikra and an attack error by Gretchen Geisler would put those dreams on hold momentarily. Kentucky would not give up that easily though, fighting off a pair of match-point opportunities to move back within two once again at the 24-22 mark. A timeout by Patrick was all that was needed though, as the match came to an end on the first play out of the break when a serve by Geisler sailed long.
Tennessee will return to the hardwood this Friday when Ole Miss makes the trek to Rocky Top for a 7 p.m. tilt at Thompson-Boling Arena. Following that contest, the Lady Vols will have a week off before hitting the road again, as they will travel to square off with Arkansas at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 8, in Fayetteville, Ark., and No. 16 LSU at 2:30 p.m. ET two days later in Baton Rouge, La.