Oct. 10, 2008
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (10-7, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) was unable to overcome a hard-hitting South Carolina (14-2, 6-1 SEC) attack on Friday night, falling in three sets, 25-22, 25-14, 25-23, at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, S.C.
"To be successful on the road in this conference you really have to bring your most consistent `A' game every night," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "Although we put ourselves in positions to win games one and three, unfortunately we fell just short because of some inconsistent play at the very end of those two sets.
"I thought our ball control was pretty good for the most part and our offense played pretty well," Patrick said. "However, we needed to defend their pin hitters more consistently for us to have a better chance of being successful. We'll put this one behind us and place our focus on our match against Florida on Sunday. If we want to have an opportunity to be more successful in that match, we are going to have to be more consistent defensively."
For the 13th time this season, sophomore Nikki Fowler paced the Lady Vol offense with eight kills, while senior Milan Clarke and junior Kylie Marshall each tallied seven putaways. Defensively, junior Chloe Goldman reached double-digits in digs for the 11th consecutive contest with 10, tying her for 10th on the UT career digs chart with Lynn Lovingier with a total of 946. Fellow classmate Farren Powe, meanwhile, led the UT blocking effort with five putbacks in the loss.
Despite hitting at a stellar .371 clip in the opening frame, it was not enough for Tennessee to overcome a Gamecock attack which hit an impressive .368 itself en route to a 25-22 victory. Six different Lady Vols recorded multiple kills in the set, led by a four putaway performance by Marshall.
South Carolina came out of the gates on fire, scoring on the first four plays of the match before a blast by senior Mindy Flynn finally got the Big Orange on the scoreboard. The two teams then traded the next four points to give the Gamecocks a 6-2 advantage. At that point, Tennessee took advantage of a pair of USC attack errors and a block by Powe and Marshall to move within a single score at 6-5.
Although a Lady Vol attack error landed just long to end the spree, they were able to get back on track shortly thereafter with another three-point rally that featured kills by freshman Alyssa Hilby and Fowler and a sharp solo block by Hilby and gave the Orange and White its first lead of the match at 10-9.
Both offenses were on full display in the middle of the frame, pounding away kill after kill. Despite the offensive fireworks, neither squad could keep the momentum on their side of the net long enough to string together more than a pair of points with UT eventually emerging with an 18-17 lead after a Flynn blast from the left side that prompted a timeout by USC Head Coach Ben Somera.
Unfortunately for fans of the Orange and White, the short break proved to be just what the Gamecocks needed as they proceeded to immediately rattle off a trio of scores. This time it was Patrick's turn to burn a timeout to calm his troops down.
Just like it had done moments before for USC, the tactic worked to perfection, with the Big Orange using kills by Hilby and Marshall and a pair of putaways by Fowler over the course of the next five plays to regain the advantage at 22-21. That would be all Tennessee would have in the tank though, with South Carolina taking the final four points to score the 25-22 first-set victory.
Much like the first set, UT found itself trailing early on once again after a four-score spree gave USC a quick 5-1 advantage. A game of runs ensued with the Gamecocks sandwiching streaks of four and six points around a four-score rally by UT to go ahead 11-4.
South Carolina continued to exert control throughout the remainder of the set, eventually extending its lead to 22-10 before UT could mount any sort of comeback. Although Fowler tallied a trio of kills in the span of just five plays, it would prove too little, too late for the Lady Vols who dropped the set, 25-14, when Ivana Kujundzic split the Tennessee block for a kill down the middle of the court.
A hard-fought battle ensued in the third and final frame, with South Carolina earning the sweep with a 25-23 triumph. Neither squad could gain much of an advantage through the early goings, eventually emerging at a 17-17 deadlock following a cross-court blast by Clarke. Hilby then tallied her fifth putaway of the contest to give UT a one-point lead before the Gamecocks answered with a kill and a solo block on back-to-back plays to regain their advantage.
Fowler answered with kill that landed wide off the left-side block to tie the set for the 14th time, but USC responded with a four-score spree that spelled the end for the Big Orange. Now trailing 23-19, UT attempted to put together one last comeback, getting a kill by freshman Kayla Jeter and a block by Powe and Jeter after a South Carolina attack error to move within one at 23-22. That would be as close as the Lady Vols would get, unfortunately, as the Gamecocks closed out the set with a pair of scores, separated by another kill by Jeter, to finish off the match.
Tennessee will return to action this Sunday when it heads south to Gainesville, Fla., for a 1:30 p.m. showdown against No. 9 Florida at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. The match will be televised live on Sun Sports. Following that contest, UT will close out its three-match road trip by making the short drive to Johnson City, Tenn., to take on East Tennessee State at 7 p.m. on Tues., Oct. 14.