Nikki Fowler posted her ninth double-double of the season with 18 kills and 17 digs
Oct. 10, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
BATON ROUGE, La. - The No. 22 University of Tennessee volleyball team dropped a hard-fought slugfest to 15th-ranked LSU on the road Sunday afternoon, falling 25-23, 30-28, 23-25, 25-20, at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. The two teams traded blows all afternoon as the contest was a back-and-forth affair featuring a total of 43 tie scores and 17 lead changes.
"This was a disappointing loss," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We just had way too many unforced errors on our side of the net. This was the first match all year I thought we played poorly, which is unfortunate when you have an opportunity to play a ranked team and make a statement. I thought we took a step back today in execution, effort and aggressiveness. We had a lot of opportunities to score real points and we broke down technically far too often to be successful in such a high level match.
"Fortunately, we are coming home again this weekend and, hopefully, we will be a little more comfortable in our own arena. I know that our players will bounce back and work extremely hard in practice to clean up some of the issues that came up this weekend and play a much more refined game against Mississippi State and Alabama next week."
Once again, senior Nikki Fowler led the Lady Vol effort with her ninth double-double of the season, recording a match-high 18 kills to go along with 17 digs. She also took 60 swings to make her the first player in Tennessee history to accumulate more than 4,000 attacks during her career. Her four-year total currently stands at 4,049.
Junior Kelsey Mahoney also notched a double-double, leading the team with 31 assists and tallying 12 digs. It is her third of the season and 16th of her career. Her assist total also ties the high by any UT player this season, as she also notched 31 helpers at Ohio on Sept. 10.
Junior Kayla Jeter and senior Leah Hinkey each recorded double-digit kill totals with 13 and 12, respectively. Hinkey did so on .348 hitting in addition to posting a team-best four blocks. At the libero position, freshman Kelsey Robinson added another sterling effort with a match-high 24 digs, giving her 51 scoops in the two matches this weekend.
Five Tennessee blocking errors and three missed serves were the difference in the opening frame, which LSU narrowly claimed, 25-23. Fowler and Hinkey paced the Lady Vols offensively, combining for nine kills while hitting .417 and .667, respectively. Robinson, meanwhile, was stellar defensively, leading all players with eight digs.
It was a hard-fought set throughout and neither team had more than a two-point advantage until LSU rattled off three straight scores to take a 19-15 lead. Although sophomore Leslie Cikra ended that run by powering a kill through the right-side block, the Tigers quickly tacked on two more points to extend their lead to five at 21-16 and force Tennessee to burn its first timeout.
The break in play proved to be just what the Lady Vols needed as they immediately responded with a 5-2 tear that featured kills by Fowler and Hinkey, a block by freshman Carly Sahagian and Hinkey and two LSU miscues. It was then LSU's turn to call a timeout as UT had cut its deficit to just two at 23-21.
Although a kill by LSU's Madie Jones put the Tigers at set point, Tennessee did not stop fighting and forced back-to-back errors to move within a single score at 24-23. The comeback was not meant to be, however, as UT was called for its fifth blocking error of the set to give LSU the initial lead in the contest.
The Lady Vols couldn't take advantage of three set-point opportunities in the second stanza before LSU squeaked out a 30-28 win to carry a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the break. Once again, Fowler led the way with six putaways, while the UT block started to come alive with six putbacks, topped by two from Harrison.
The Tigers used a 7-1 run early in the frame to grab a quick lead, but Tennessee refused to give in and tallied five straight scores of its own to go ahead at the 13-11 mark. The Big Orange took advantage of two LSU errors to trigger the run which also included a pair of kills by Fowler, sandwiched around a block by Fowler and sophomore DeeDee Harrison.
The Lady Vols would slowly extend their lead to four at 18-14 before the Tigers came roaring back with scores on seven of the next nine plays to move back ahead, 21-20. The two teams would trade the next four points before the Orange and White used back-to-back kills by Fowler to earn its first chance at winning the set, up 24-23.
LSU would thwart that chance with a kill by Angela Bensend, however, and earn a set point of its own following a putaway by Williams. It was then Tennessee's turn to fight off the Tigers as it forced a swing by Bensend wide. Although a block would put LSU back up by one, Jeter came up big on consecutive plays, getting kills on a left-handed tip and a blast from the outside to give UT a 27-26 advantage.
Brittney Johnson would even things back up with a putaway, but she immediately gave the point back to the Big Orange with an attack error. At set point for the third time, Tennessee couldn't capitalize as its next serve found the net. LSU then finished out the frame with a kill and an ace.
Down by three late in the third set and facing the possibility of being swept, the Big Orange dug down deep and found just enough to mount a furious comeback that ended in a 25-23 triumph. It was UT's most effective set offensively, by far, as it hit at a .302 clip paced by six kills from Jeter and five each from Fowler and Hinkey.
With the Orange and White holding a slim 16-15 lead, LSU rattled off four consecutive scores to regain the advantage and prompt Patrick to call his first timeout. After the two squads traded the first four scores out of the break, Tennessee turned to Fowler for a little firepower and she delivered with back-to-back cross-court kills from the right side. An error by Johnson followed and UT suddenly found itself tied at 21-21.
Although an attack error gave the lead back to the Tigers, it would be their last as Hinkey simply took over the set from that point on. The senior from Glenwood Springs, Colo., torched LSU for kills on four of the next five plays as the Big Orange went on to win the frame, 25-23.
The Lady Vols were plagued by unforced errors and a huge LSU block in the fourth set, which they dropped 25-20 to bring the match to a close. The combo of sophomores Cikra and Harrison took over offensively, blasting out four kills each. Harrison hit .600 for the frame with just one miscue in five swings, while Cikra tallied a .444 hitting percentage on nine errorless swings.
As had been the case all match, neither team was able to build much of a lead in the fourth frame as they battled tooth-and-nail to a 17-17 deadlock. LSU was the first to strike a major blow, however, scoring three straight to go ahead by three at 20-17, forcing the Lady Vols to stop play with a timeout.
The tactic worked to perfection as UT instantly stole the momentum back with kills of the hands of Cikra, Harrison and Fowler, to tie the stanza back up. Cikra started the rally by crushing one over the right-side block and Harrison kept it going by pushing an over pass straight down. Fowler then finished it off with a sharp, cross-court shot from the right side of the net.
With the scoreboard reading 20-20, LSU Head Coach Fran Flory took her first timeout. Once again, the short stoppage in play was quite effective in halting the opposing team's momentum as the Tigers finished off the match on a five-point run.
Tennessee will return home to the friendly confines of Thompson-Boling Arena next weekend, when it hosts Mississippi State and Alabama. The Lady Vols will welcome the Bulldogs to Rocky Top for a 7 p.m. contest on Friday, Oct. 15 before taking on the Crimson Tide two days later at 1:30 p.m.