Oct. 14, 2008
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Playing its fourth match in just eight days, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (11-8) used a career-best performance by senior Milan Clarke to pick up a 3-0 sweep over in-state rival East Tennessee State University (7-11), 25-14, 25-16, 25-20, Tuesday night at Brooks Gymnasium in Johnson City, Tenn. The 6-1 senior recorded a personal-high .812 hitting percentage in the victory, pounding out 13 kills on 16 swings with no errors.
"My job is to get kills for our team so I made it my goal to come out really aggressive this match," Clarke said. "Mischa (Hanakova) and I spent a lot of time this week talking about what we needed to do to improve and I felt like we really connected tonight."
"I was very happy with how Milan was able to contact the ball and move it around offensively tonight," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "She was able to hit the ball down the line and cross court all night and was really consistent the entire match."
As a team, the Big Orange smashed its previous season-high with a .420 hitting percentage (43-9-81), as opposed to the .138 percentage that it held ETSU to in the contest. The Lady Vols also bested the Bucs in total kills (43 to 32), assists (36 to 29), digs (34 to 26), aces (4 to 0) and blocks (9 to 7).
"I thought the keys to this match were our hitting efficiency and the fact that we were able to keep our errors to a minimum," Patrick said. "We have been stressing the importance of both of those things in practice and I was very proud that we were able to translate that into our play today."
In addition to Clarke's offensive output, UT also got 10 kills from sophomore Nikki Fowler who hit at a solid .350 clip as well with just three errors in a team-high 20 attacks. Also joining in on the festivities were juniors Kylie Marshall and Farren Powe who recorded hitting percentages of .533 (8-0-15) and .571 (4-0-7), respectively.
"Another good thing about this match was that we were able to play a lot of people who have been working very hard in practice and that we continued to play at a high level with them on the court," Patrick said.
On the defensive side of the court, junior Michaela Hanakova led all UT players with seven digs, while Marshall and Fowler tallied six each. Senior Mindy Flynn paced the Orange and White blocking effort with three putbacks in the match.
In spite of a sluggish start in the opening set, the Lady Vols were able to find their groove about halfway through, using an eight-point run to propel themselves to a convincing 25-14 victory. Fowler and Clarke paced the Orange offense with four kills each in the frame, while Hanakova tallied three aces.
With the Big Orange holding an 11-7 lead following a hard, cross-court blast by Fowler, ETSU recorded three consecutive scores to move within a single point at 11-10. That would be as close as the Bucs would get though, as UT answered with a kill by Powe and took advantage of an East Tennessee State attack error to go up 13-10.
Although the Bucs got one of the points back with a putaway by Amanda Youell, it was at that point that, however, that the Lady Vols had decided they had seen enough, effectively ending the set by scoring on eight straight plays. Flynn opened the streak with a kill before Hanakova tallied her first ace of the frame to make it 15-11. Clarke followed with a smash that landed wide off the Buc block attempt, forcing ETSU Head Coach Lindsey Devine to burn her first timeout of the contest.
The tactic did little to slow down the Big Orange's momentum as an attack by Buc outside hitter Lauren Baufield landed long on the first play out of the break. Hanakova continued to put on a serving display, collecting aces on back-to-back plays by landing short serves in front of the back line of ETSU defenders. Consecutive Buccaneer unforced errors marked the final two scores of the streak before it was ended by a tip by Baufield to the back-left corner of the court. Now leading 21-11, Tennessee just traded the next five scores with its opponent before two more errors by East Tennessee accounted for the final score of the set.
It was the "Milan Clarke Show" in the second set, as the Santa Monica, Calif., native pounded out six kills on six swings, while adding a pair of digs and a block, to lead UT to a 25-16 triumph and two-set lead as the two teams took to their respective locker rooms for the break. The Lady Vols were near perfect offensively in the frame, outhitting the Bucs, .600 (17-2-25) to .250 (11-4-28).
The Big Orange used a pair of three-point streaks, separated by a single ETSU score, to turn a 5-4 deficit into a 10-6 advantage. The first run featured kills by both Powe and Marshall, as well as an ace by Fowler, while the second spree was highlighted by a sharp stuff block by Clarke and Powe.
East Tennessee would not go away quite that easily though, keeping the score close until freshman Kayla Jeter sparked a streak in which UT won points on five of six plays to go up by seven at 20-13. The Bucs had one more run in them, answering with three consecutive scores of their own, but it would prove to be too little, too late as the Big Orange finished off the frame with five straight points of their own, including kills on the last three plays by Clarke.
Although ETSU saved its best effort for the third set, it was still not enough to overcome the hot-hitting Tennessee offense which claimed the match victory with a 25-20 win. It was Fowler's turn to take the reins on offense, hitting .625 with six kills and one error on eight swings, while Clarke and Marshall tallied three putaways each.
Another slow start plagued the Big Orange in the final frame, with East Tennessee State jumping out to an early 11-8 advantage. That lead was short-lived, however, with the Orange and White responding quickly and decisively with runs of three and four points over the course of the next eight plays. Clarke opened the first streak, shooting a laser down the left-side line, before junior Carol Cheade posted a solo block and Marshall followed with a kill.
Although a UT ball-handling error halted that run, Tennessee kept things going its way with a pair of Clarke kills and a Marshall putaway highlighting a four-score spree that put it up 15-12. The two squads then traded the next seven points before a blast by Mallory Kiley put the Bucs within one at 18-17.
With ETSU breathing down their necks, the Lady Vols put together one last rally to put away the threat for good. Jeter started the streak with her fourth kill of the contest and Flynn made sure it continued with blocks on back-to-back plays. The Louisville, Ky., native joined forces with Clarke on the first putback before combining efforts with Marshall on the second. The final point of the spree came on a Buc attack error that landed wide. The last six scores of the match were split between the two teams to account for the final score of 25-20.
UT will now return home for a pair of SEC contests this weekend. The Lady Vols will first welcome Ole Miss to Rocky Top for a 7 p.m. showdown on Oct. 17 before Arkansas makes the trip to Knoxville two days later for a contest slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.