Oct. 16, 2011
By Todd Mounce, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The No. 18 University of Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team got back to its winning ways, defeating Mississippi State in straight sets, 25-19, 25-18, 28-26, on Sunday afternoon in front of 383 fans at Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Miss.
"We are real road warriors and I give all the credit to the team for them being able to be on the road for 12 of 16 matches since the beginning of September," Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. "We played at a very, very high level today and I was excited about how our team was on task with the game plan and what they needed to do as individuals out on the court."
Now with half of the Southeastern Conference slate in the books, Tennessee improves to 16-3 overall and 9-1 against the conference. The Lady Vol defense was a vital part of the win, limiting Mississippi State to hitting percentage of just .025 for the match. The highest MSU hit in any set was at .056, which came in the second frame.
"To hold an SEC team to a .025 hitting percentage is really hard to do," Patrick said. "You have great athletes up and down our conference and Mississippi State has been playing at a very high level. I was excited, especially starting in the second set about how hard our players played defense. It really set the tone for the match."
Sophomore Kelsey Robinson notched her 14th overall and fourth consecutive double-double, as the Bartlett, Ill., registered a team-high 13 kills and dug up 12 balls. Junior DeeDee Harrison and freshman Tiffany Baker were also a force, as each blasted seven kills.
Harrison ranked second on the team in hitting percentage, at .353, while Baker also recorded season-highs in blocks, with one solo, four block assists and five overall blocks. Fellow freshman Stephanie Stoll also tallied five blocks, in addition to having a pair of kills.
Libero Ellen Mullins has now recorded double digits in digs in every conference match this season, as the sophomore had a team-high 15 against the Bulldogs. Freshman setter Mary Pollmiller had a hand in 33 of UT's 39 assists, while adding for kills of her own, as she hit a team-best .444, connecting on four of her nine swings.
The Lady Vols came out hot in the opening set, scoring four of the first five points to grab a 4-1 lead behind kills from Robinson, Harrison and sophomore Carly Sahagian. Tennessee would never trail in the set, with the score in UT's favor, 4-3, the Lady Vols went on a 6-0 rally to extend their lead to seven, 10-3.
The Bulldogs would go onto score four of the next five, making the score 11-7 in UT's favor. Tennessee would go on two 3-0 runs, scoring six of the ensuing seven to push the lead to nine, 17-8. Freshman Shealyn Kolosky played a huge part in both runs, as she had two kills and an ace, to go along with three Bulldog errors.
The nine point advantage would be the Lady Vols largest lead of the set, as Mississippi State cut the deficit to four points on six occasions. Up four, 18-14, the two team traded points until the score was 23-19. Robinson and Harrison put an end to the set, as the duo recorded back-to-back kills, giving UT the first set, 25-19.
Robinson and Baker combined for seven of UT's last eight points, as Robinson registered four kills, while Baker had three blasts and a solo block. For the set, the Lady Vols outhit MSU, .343-.054. Robinson had a set-high six kills, as she hit at a clip of .556, successfully connecting on six of nine swings.
Tennessee would quickly go up two over Mississippi State in the second set, 2-0 and 4-2, before the Bulldogs would even things up at six apiece. At 6-6, a kill by Stoll started a 4-0 run by the Lady Vols, as an ace by freshman Nikki Brice and two kills from Robinson ensued, making the score 10-6.
Up 11-7 off a Pollmiller kill, MSU rallied to score the next three, but a kill from Harrison stopped the Bulldog run and sparked a 4-0 run for the Lady Vols. After Harrison's kill put UT up by two, a Pollmiller ace, a kill from Sahagian and a miscue on the part of MSU gave the Big Orange a 15-10 lead.
Mississippi State responded, getting as close as two, 18-16, which forced a Tennessee timeout. After the pause in the action, the Orange and White rattled off the next six to get within one point of the set, 24-16. During that flurry, Robinson and Sahagian each had a kill, Stoll and Baker combined for a block, and Mississippi State had two errors.
After two straight points from MSU, Baker ended the set with a kill, giving the Lady Vols the set, 25-18, and a 2-0 advantage in the match heading into the 10 minute break. The second frame saw 13 kills from the Lady Vols, three serving aces, two of which came from Pollmiller, and three blocks.
The Bulldogs got their first lead of the match in the third frame, 1-0, in the most competitive set in the match. The squads traded the first eight points of the set, which made the score even at four. From there, kills from Baker and Pollmiller, a block assists by Robinson and Stoll and a MSU attack error gave the Orange and White an 8-4 lead.
On its home court, MSU rallied, scoring three straight to get within one, 8-7, but UT pushed its lead to three, 10-7. Up one, 10-9, Tennessee scored four of the next five to grab a 14-10 lead, by way of two Harrison kills and a pair of MSU attack errors. Mississippi State would score the next six, regaining the lead at 16-14. An attack error by the Bulldogs ended the run, as Tennessee would rally by going a 4-0 run of their own, making the score 19-17.
The set would be tied at 19 and 22 before the teams would fight to reach 25 first. MSU put itself in position to earn the set win, as after trailing 22-20, the Bulldogs scored the next three to take a 23-20 lead. An attack error by Mississippi State and a kill from Robinson gave UT a chance for the win, up 24-23.
Tennessee could not convert, as MSU scored the next two, as it served for the set up 25-24. Sahagian wouldn't allow the Bulldogs the point, as she blasted a kill to even the set, and a Bulldog attack error again gave UT the lead, 26-25. Mississippi State knotted the match up at 26, but a block by Harrison and Baker and a Sahagian kill ended the set and the match.
Tennessee is again on the road next week, as the team ventures to Auburn, Ala., to face off against the Tigers on Friday at 7 p.m. CT. The squad closes out its four-match road trip on Sunday in Athens, Ga., when takes on Georgia.