UT junior Nikki Fowler
Oct. 18, 2009
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Junior Nikki Fowler recorded her team-high sixth double-double of the season as the University of Tennessee volleyball team (14-5, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) notched its fourth-consecutive league victory with a sweep over Mississippi State (5-16, 1-9), 25-18, 25-21, 25-22, Sunday afternoon at the Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Miss.
"I was happy with our focus at the beginning of the match," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "That is something the team has been working on and improved on since our match on Friday. For the most part, we played a low-error game, which is always good to see. This weekend provided us with some momentum and confidence going into our last match of the first half of the SEC schedule at Kentucky next Wednesday."
Just two days after becoming the Lady Volunteers' 17th member of the 1,000 kills club, Fowler added 16 to her career total, in addition to collecting 10 digs for her 24th-career double-double. Senior Farren Powe, meanwhile, was the team's most efficient hitter, blasting out 11 kills on 16 swings without a single error for a stellar .688 hitting percentage.
Defensively, it was senior Chloe Goldman pacing the squad once again, tallying a match-high 17, while senior Kylie Marshall finished in double-digits as well, with 10 scoops to go along with seven kills.
Tennessee took control of the match early, pounding out 17 kills with just three errors in the opening frame en route to a 25-18 victory. Fowler paced the squad with six putaways, while Marshall and Goldman led the team defensively with seven digs each.
With the score tied at 5-5, the Big Orange took advantage of a pair of Bulldog attack errors following a kill by Powe to open up its first significant lead of the afternoon. UT continued to slowly add to its advantage, eventually moving up by five after another three-point run, bookended by kills from Fowler and freshman Leslie Cikra, that put the tally on the scoreboard at 16-11.
The MSU deficit remained five until Ioana Demian strung together back-to-back scores with a kill and an ace to put her team down three at 21-18. That would be the last State score of the set, however, as the Orange and White rattled off four consecutive points to finish things off. Marshall kicked off the spree with a kill on a roll shot from the back row to the back-left corner. Following a Bulldog attack error, Fowler blasted one down the right-side line before another MSU miscue ended the frame.
Tennessee raced out of the gates in the second set, scoring six of the first eight points with a pair of three-score runs separated by just a single MSU score. After a kill by the Bulldogs' Ashley Newsome opened the frame, junior Leah Hinkey powered one through the right-side block before joining forces with sophomore Kayla Jeter to block an attack by Demian. Fowler followed with a kill before a setting error gave a point back to State.
The Lady Vols got right back on track though, sandwiching kills by Hinkey and Fowler around an MSU attack error. The Bulldogs would not back down, however, responding with three straight scores of their own to move within one at 6-5. The two squads would continue to battle until they reached a deadlock at 13-all.
At that point, UT grabbed the momentum with a trio of scores, including kills from Fowler and Powe and an ace by Goldman. A timeout by MSU Head Coach Jenny Hazelwood brought a brief halt to the run, as Demian smashed one wide off the block on the first play out of the break, but Tennessee continued to add to its lead with another putaway by Fowler and a sharp block by Cikra and Powe.
Despite spotting Mississippi State to a 7-2 lead and having to hold off a furious rally late in the third frame, the Big Orange recovered to post a solid 25-22 triumph. After allowing the Bulldogs to go on a four-point tear early on, the Lady Vols got three scores back on consecutive kills from Marshall, Powe and Cikra.
Just three plays later, Tennessee proceeded to embark on an impressive 13-2 spree to take a commanding 19-11 advantage. The first six scores all came at once, with Jeter accounting for three of them with a trio of kills. Powe also added a putaway and Goldman notched another ace during the run. After a Demian kill ended that tear, UT notched four more on another Jeter kill, back-to-back blasts by Marshall and a solo block by Hinkey, before a service error gave the ball back to MSU.
The Big Orange continued to put the set out of reach, however, collecting three more scores on a kill by Marshall and a pair of State attack errors. The Bulldogs refused to go away though, keeping within striking distance until they tallied a 4-0 run to move within two at 22-20. That would be as close as they would get, however, with the two teams trading the last five points to account for the final score.
Tennessee will make a brief return to Knoxville before getting back on the court Wednesday, Oct. 21, when it makes the short trek up I-75 for a 7 p.m. showdown against No. 8 Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. The match will be televised live on ESPNU as part of its "Campus Connection" initiative.