Oct. 22, 2004
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The 17th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team (18-2, 8-1 SEC) dropped a hard-fought 26-30, 34-32, 30-19, 30-21 decision to No. 8 Florida (17-2, 9-0 SEC) on Friday night in front of 1,337 raucous fans, setting a Stokely Athletics Center record. The number fell just short of the 1,571 that watched Florida play Tennessee last season (on Oct. 31) at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"The crowd was absolutely great," Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "It really helped us throughout the match. To be in Stokely with that type of energy really made a difference for us. The team fed off that the entire match."
Senior outside hitter Whitney Gifford (York, Pa. / Dallastown H.S.) led the Lady Vols in hitting percentage with a .364 average (5-1-11). Freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (Sofia, Bulgaria / 81 SOU Victor Hugo H.S.) led UT in kills with 16, while junior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif. / Kelseyville H.S.) tallied 14 and senior outside hitter Michelle Piantadosi (Boca Raton, Fla. / Olympic Heights H.S.) had 12. Junior setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill. / Lyons Township H.S.) recorded 54 assists.
On the defensive side of the ledger, sophomore libero Cynthia Buggs (Compton, Calif. / Long Beach Poly H.S.) led the squad in digs with 16. Junior outside hitter Amy Morris (Michigan City, Ind. / Penn State) contributed 10 as did Stoyanova.
"(In the match), we played hard, took big swings, but made way too many unforced hitting errors (44 compared to 17 by Florida) and that really cost us the match," Patrick said. "Our defense and digging kept us in the match.
"In games one and two, we were getting more kills and total attacks than Florida and that's what you want to do, but unfortunately the error column was way too high."
In game one, Florida held the lead early on before a Stoyanova service ace gave UT a 17-16 advantage. A late 7-1 run resulted in a 26-21 Lady Vol lead and UT would hold off the Gators, 30-26, with the winning point coming on a Piantadosi kill. The last time the Big Orange had won a game against Florida came on Oct. 12, 1998, in a 14-16, 15-4, 15-5, 15-5 setback, ending a 42-game losing streak to the Gators.
Game two saw numerous dramatics toward the end causing the Lady Vol fans to roar with each UT point. With Florida holding a 29-27 lead, UT scored the next two points to tie the game at 29. Following another Gator point, Piantadosi tied the game at 30 and gave UT a 31-30 advantage with a pair of kills. After UF tied the game, 31-31, Stoyanova recorded a kill for a 32-31 lead. A Gator kill down the line, a Lady Vol block error and attack error gave Florida a 34-32 win to tie the match at one game apiece.
Florida took control of game three from the start, taking a 7-3 lead. UT rallied to tie the game, 9-9, but the Gators responded with an 8-2 run for a 17-11 lead. Florida would then complete the game with a 6-0 run for a 30-19 result.
The Lady Vols fought tough with the Gators in game four, taking control early with a 10-6 lead. UF battled back, tying the game at 15. With the game tied, 20-20, Florida put the game and match away with a 10-1 run, scoring the final seven points, winning, 30-21.
Tennessee fell short in its attempt to snap Florida's NCAA-record SEC regular-season winning streak, now at 139 and dating back to 1994.
Tonight's match was only the second UT has played in involving two ranked teams since the 1985 season. On Sept. 22 of this season, Tennessee topped then-No. 15 Louisville, 28-30, 30-27, 30-26, 30-27.
The Lady Vols look to bounce back against Georgia (13-5, 6-3 SEC), playing host to the Bulldogs at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be telecast live on Comcast Sports Southeast (CSS).