Whitney Gifford serves for Tennessee.
Oct. 6, 2002
The University of Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team survived its first five-game test of season Sunday afternoon, upending Georgia, 3-2 (30-25, 20-30, 30-25, 21-30, 15-11), for its first conference win of the year. The Lady Vols are now 1-3 in SEC play and 11-5 overall. Georgia dropped to 12-7 and 2-2 in the SEC with the loss. Comcast Sports Southeast will air UT's match with the Bulldogs on Monday, Oct. 7, at 4:30 p.m.
In the first game, the lead seesawed back and forth, with neither team building more than a three-point advantage. After Georgia's setter, sophomore Margot Wallace, was called for a ball handling error to even the score at 22-22, the Lady Vols seized the opportunity. A kill by senior outside hitter Janelle Hester followed by consecutive hitting errors by the Bulldogs gave UT a 25-22 lead. Tennessee put the first game in the books, 30-25, with a kill by freshman outside hitter Jasmine Fullove, who tied a career-high with seven kills on the afternoon and established a new mark of 20 attacks.
The second game was a different story for the Orange and White. Georgia took a 10-9 advantage and never looked back after UT sophomore middle blocker Michelle Piantadosi hit a ball just beyond the baseline. The Bulldogs slowly increased their lead with their consistent play and took advantage of every mistake by the Lady Vols for a 30-20 game two win.
Tennessee regrouped in the third fame, building up a four-point lead, 16-12, when Piantadosi smashed a ball by the Georgia defenders for one of her career-high 18 kills for the match. The Bulldogs nipped away at the UT lead, cutting the Lady Vols' advantage to just one at 22-21 with a kill by sophomore outside hitter Jennie Metz. Tennessee kept its cool, though, and ran off three straight for a 25-21 margin and eventually took the game, 30-25, after a kill by Hester.
Game four looked eerily familiar to the second frame with the Lady Vols falling behind early and often. The Bulldogs led 20-12 after freshman outside hitter Julia Petruschke nailed one of her game-high 28 kills. The Big Orange managed to creep back into the game, cutting the Georgia advantage to 24-18 after a few erratic hits by the Bulldogs, but it was not enough. UGA pushed the Lady Vols to their first five-game match of the year by winning game four, 30-21.
Georgia, who had played in five five-game matches this season entering today's contest, came out strong and led 8-6 after an attack by Tennessee freshman middle blocker Kristen Andre sailed out. Andre, however, redeemed herself by recording a solo block on rookie middle blocker Alexandra Oquendo to knot the game at 8-8. After the match, UT Head Coach Rob Patrick dubbed Andre's block the "turning point" in the game.
After the teams swapped the next four to deadlock the decisive game at 10-10, the Lady Vols rose to the occasion and claimed five of the next six points for the 15-11 win in game five. Tennessee won their five points thanks to two kills by Hester and three hitting errors by the Bulldogs.
"We did a good job of leaving a bad game behind us and moving on to the next one," said Patrick after the win. "Georgia took advantage of our mistakes, but we kept our composure. I think everyone is starting to get comfortable with our new lineup and that's important in order for us to continue improving."
Freshman setter Julie Knytych tossed in a career-high 58 assists for Tennessee and added three kills, seven digs and two blocks. Andre also recorded a pair of career marks with 15 kills and 34 attacks. The Kelseyville, Calif., native also rejected four attacks for UT. Hester tallied 26 kills on the afternoon, an individual season-best for the Lady Vols.
Tennessee will hit the road next weekend for two SEC matches with Kentucky and South Carolina. UT squares off with the Wildcats at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 11, and then heads to Columbia, S.C., to face the Gamecocks at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13.