Oct. 10, 2012
BATON ROUGE, La. - The Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team won its third consecutive five-set match on Wednesday, defeating Southeastern Conference rival LSU, 15-25, 26-24, 24-26, 25-21, 15-7, at the Pete Maravich Center in a nationally-televised match on ESPNU.
The Big Orange, which achieved the back to back to back five-set feat for just the second time in program history, improves to 12-5 overall and 5-3 in conference action. LSU falls to 7-11 on the season and 3-6 in the SEC. Tennessee won consecutive five-setters against South Carolina, Auburn and Kentucky during the 2008 campaign. The win also improves UT to 6-1 in five-set matches in 2012.
"It wasn't one of our best performances, but I was proud of how we competed throughout the match," said head coach Rob Patrick. "Once we were able to cut down on our hitting errors, we extended rallies and earned our chances to score points. The team showed grit once again tonight. I like their attitude of being willing to be out there on the court for two and a half hours to get the job done. Having blue collar players that work hard like Ellen, Kayla and Mary allows our team to extend matches and find success."
With her first kill of the third set, junior Kelsey Robinson became the 18th Lady Vol to join the 1,000-kill club. The outside hitter finished the match with 18 kills and 17 digs, notching her 12th double-double of the season and the 39th of her career. The Bartlett, Ill, native also added a career-high nine blocks, including two solo. With 15 more digs, Robinson will join an even more exclusive club, becoming one of just five Lady Vols in school history with both 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in their career.
"I'm excited for Kelsey," said Patrick. "She was persistent and steady on the right side and with her usual back row play tonight. It's exciting for her and I look forward to seeing her build upon that milestone."
Sophomore Tiffany Baker led the way for the Orange & White, compiling a career-best 24 kills. Baker added 10 digs for her double-double. Just five days after posting a career-best 34 digs against Mizzou, junior libero Ellen Mullins scooped 32 balls vs. LSU. That mark ranks third in the rally scoring era in the UT record books.
"Ellen is turning into one of the elite liberos in the SEC," Patrick said. "She was all over the back row and helped extend the match and provided us with many opportunities to score points."
Sophomore setter Mary Pollmiller dished out 64 assists and had 16 digs, while redshirt senior Kayla Jeter compiled 13 kills and 10 scoops for the squad's fourth double-double. It was the first time this season the Big Orange had four players with double-doubles.
The Lady Vols, which also got a career-best 14 digs out of senior Jasmine Brown, finished with 106 total digs, tying a rally scoring record that was set on Nov. 26, 2005 in a five-set win at No. 7 Notre Dame.
After the opening set went back and forth to start, LSU used a 6-0 run to break it open and forced 15 Lady Vol hitting errors to take the opening game by a 25-15 margin. Tennessee hit .024 in the frame as LSU had five team blocks and got six kills from Desiree Elliott.
The Lady Vols went down as many as five in the second game, but battled back behind Baker and Robinson to tie that match at one set apiece with a 26-24 win. The Big Orange was down 23-20, but scored four consecutive points to go up 24-23 and force a set point. After LSU tied things up at 24, the Lady Vols responded once again as Robinson put an end to the set with her 998th and 999th career kills. She had seven spikes in the set, while Baker added six. Mullins was all over the back row early, compiling 18 digs through the opening two frames.
The third set was a game of runs as the Tigers used an early 6-0 stretch to go up 7-2. Robinson snapped the LSU rally with her 1,000th-career kill. UT built off Robinson's spike with a 4-0 stretch to make it 7-6, but again LSU took off, scoring six of the next seven points to take a 13-7 advantage. Tennessee fought off two LSU set points in the frame, but lost the game 26-24 as the Tigers closed it out with a kill from Madie Jones and a combo block.
Down 20-19 late in the fourth set, the Lady Vols rattled off five straight points behind Mullins' serve to take a 24-20 lead and force set point. After LSU blocked the next Baker swing, sophomore transfer Olivia Okoro and Pollmiller combined for the block to give UT the 25-21 victory and force a fifth game. Okoro came up big late in the match, compiling five blocks and two kills in the final three sets.
"Olivia came in and provided us with very steady and consistent play tonight," Patrick said. "She was a big reason we were able to hang on in this match."
Holding the momentum, the fifth set belonged to the Lady Vols. The Big Orange never trailed and went on a blazing run of seven straight points, which consisted of three combo blocks from Okoro and Robinson, to pull within two points of winning the match at 13-5. The squads traded kills over the next four points as Baker put down the final two for UT to give her team the 15-7 fifth-set win.
Despite hitting just .193, Tennessee bested the Tigers in almost every statistical category. UT held the advantage in hitting percentage (.193-.161), kills (70-66), assists (70-60) and digs (106-105). The Lady Vols have out-killed their opponents in 16 of 17 matches this season.
The Big Orange is back in action on Sunday afternoon when it travels to Fayetteville, Ark., to take on Arkansas at 2 p.m. ET. The Hogs, which currently sit in second in the SEC Western Division with a 14-4, 5-2 mark, beat the Lady Vols at home in four sets on Sept. 21.