Oct. 5, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team got a little revenge on Friday night, defeating Missouri in five sets (25-12, 23-25, 27-25, 22-25, 15-11) in front of 1,102 fans on the annual "Dig for the Cure" Night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Donned in pink uniforms, Tennessee, which was beaten in five on Missouri's home court earlier this season, improves to 10-5 overall and evens its league record to 3-3. Mizzou falls to 12-5 on the season and 4-3 in Southeastern Conference play.
The fifth annual "Dig for the Cure" night resulted in over $1,600 being donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation of Knoxville, which is devoted to breast cancer research.
"It was a good win for us," said head coach Rob Patrick. "We haven't been playing as well as we need to against really good teams. Missouri is a very good team with very talented players. I felt really happy about how we grinded through that match. Even though we lost a couple of sets, we just grinded through and it paid off at the end."
Junior libero Ellen Mullins recorded a career-high 34 digs, which stands as the seventh-highest total in school history and second-most in the 25-point rally scoring era. Sophomore Tiffany Baker also posted career-high numbers, finishing with 23 kills to go along with 16 digs and three blocks for her first double-double of the season. The outside hitter swung 53 times and committed just three errors for a .377 attacking clip.
The Lady Vols finished with a season-high 98 digs, the most since notching 103 in a five set win over South Carolina on Nov. 11, 2007.
"I was really happy with Tiffany," said Patrick. "She played a really low-error hitting game, which I thought was fantastic. That's what we've been talking about. We still made too many hitting errors, but she did a fantastic job. Give credit to Ellen, who had 34 digs. She was scooping everything and gave us a lot of opportunities in transition."
Seniors Leslie Cikra and Kayla Jeter added 13 and 12 kills, respectively, while DeeDee Harrison, Mercedes Vaughn and Shealyn Kolosky combined for 15 in the middle. Sophomore setter Mary Pollmiller dished out a match-high 54 assists and scooped 14 balls for her sixth double-double of the season.
The Big Orange took a 4-1 lead to start the match and never looked back in the opening set, cruising to a 25-12 victory over the Tigers. The Lady Vols posted a blazing .355 attacking clip and held the Tigers to a -.114 percentage in the first. Harrison and Cikra both had three kills, while Baker and Jeter each added two. Led by Mullins, UT outdug Mizzou, 20-13, and held the best blocking team in the conference to zero blocks in the frame. Tennessee ended the set on a 15-3 run.
The Tigers rebounded in the second - leading the entire frame - to level the match at one set apiece with a narrow 25-23 victory. Cikra put down six kills for the Lady Vols and Mullins had 12 digs, but it was not enough as Mizzou claimed the set.
The third was a back and forth affair as there were eight ties and four lead changes. Missouri took a 12-11 lead with six consecutive points, but a 7-2 run later in the frame gave UT a 21-18 advantage. A Whitney Little and Lisa Henning block gave the Tigers a set point chance at 24-23, but a Cikra kill following a timeout leveled it at 24. Mizzou again had set point at 25-24, but Tennessee scored three straight, including kills from Baker and Vaughn, to win the set 27-25 and take a 2-1 lead.
The fourth was another tightly contested set as it consisted of 12 ties and six lead changes until Mizzou finished out the frame on a 4-0 run to force a fifth set with a 25-22 victory. Henning, the All-American, finished the set with eight kills and hit .533 for the Tigers. She led the match with 25 kills on 74 attempts.
The Lady Vols hit .375 in the fifth set and were able to sideout 90 percent of the time to take the final game, 15-11, and avenge their heartbreaking loss in Columbia. Baker had three kills on four swings in the final game.
In addition to Henning's 25, Mizzou got 10 kills from sophomore Emily Wilson. The Lady Vols bested the Tigers in kills (69-55), hitting percentage (.230-.140), assists (67-51) and digs (98-82). The league's top-blocking team held the advantage in team rejections, 14-11. Little had 11 blocks, including three solo, to lead the Tigers.
"We need to make a surge in the SEC," Patrick said. "I'm really happy with our progression. Missouri is a great team. This was a very big win for our team and hopefully we can build on what we did tonight."
The Lady Vols return to action on Sunday at 1 p.m. when they welcome longtime rival Georgia to Knoxville. The Big Orange has won 10 straight matches against the Bulldogs at home.