Oct. 17, 2004
The 17th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team continued its hot season on Sunday afternoon, beating Alabama (14-5, 4-4 SEC) in a tight, intense match by 30-26, 30-25, 21-30, 31-29 scores. The Lady Vols improve to 18-1, its best start since the 1973 team began its campaign with a 20-0 mark, and 8-0 in SEC play, its best conference start in school history.
The win sets up a showdown with No. 10 Florida (16-2, 8-0 SEC) at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. The Gators bring an NCAA record 138-match SEC winning streak into the match (including SEC Tournaments, UF holds a 114-match winning streak, also an NCAA record).
"I'm real proud of how the team continued to fight through the match," Head Coach Rob Patrick. "I felt we were out of sync for most of the match and weren't as organized as we normally are on defense. Alabama took advantage of that.
"Just like Friday (in UT's 3-1 victory at Auburn), Yuliya (Stoyanova) kept us in the match until the other hitters started getting more aggressive in attacking the ball.
"I thought it was a good digging and blocking match for us, although we didn't have more blocks than Alabama. That doesn't take into account the number of balls we blocked back onto their side that they kept in play. Amy (Morris) came up big defensively for us as well as Cynthia (Buggs). They steadied our serve receive and backcourt defense tremendously and were keys to us being successful today."
After Alabama took a 6-4 lead in game one of this afternoon's match, UT rallied for seven straight points and an 11-6 advantage. Tennessee would hold the Crimson Tide at bay and withstand a late UA rally to cut the Big Orange's lead to 21-20, before prevailing, 30-26. Freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (Sofia, Bulgaria / 81 SOU Victor Hugo H.S.) led UT in the game with a .500 hitting percentage (8-2-12) and four blocks.
Alabama had control of the second game in the early going until UT went on a 8-2 run for a 23-21 advantage before pulling away, 30-25. Stoyanova hit .444 in the game (5-1-9), while senior outside hitter Michelle Piantadosi (Boca Raton, Fla. / Olympic Heights H.S.) hit .333 (6-2-12).
The Crimson Tide roared back in game three, scoring the first nine points. Even though UT immediately rallied back with the next five points, it could not come closer than that four-point margin the rest of the game as Alabama won, 30-21.
The Lady Vols and Crimson Tide battled in game four from start to finish as Alabama rallied from a 29-26 deficit to tie the game at 29 before Tennessee scored the final two points for the game and match victory.
Two Lady Vol juniors recorded double-doubles in the match. Outside hitter Amy Morris (Michigan City, Ind. / Penn State) tallied 10 kills and led the Big Orange in digs with 19. Setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill. / Lyons Township H.S.) contributed 58 assists and 11 digs to go with a .400 hitting percentage (5-1-10).
Junior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif. / Kelseyville H.S.) led the Lady Vols in the match in hitting percentage at .389 (18-4-36), while Stoyanova was the pace-setter in kills (19), contributing a .293 hitting percentage (19-7-41).
Defensively, Stoyanova and sophomore middle blocker Sarah Blum (Tulsa, Okla. / Bishop Kelley H.S.) each recorded six blocks, while Andre contributed five put-backs. Four Lady Vols had double-figure totals in digs: Morris, Knytch, sophomore defensive specialist Cynthia Buggs (Compton, Calif. / Long Beach Poly H.S.) with 16 and sophomore libero Annie Sadowski (Wheaton, Ill. / Wheaton-Warrenville H.S.) who contributed 13.
The Big Orange's face-off with the Gators on Friday begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on SEC-TV (Fox Sports Net South in the Knoxville area). The Lady Vols wrap up the weekend with a 3:30 p.m. home match on Sunday with Georgia, which will be telecast live on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).