Oct. 24, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (14-8, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) opened the second half of its SEC schedule with its fourth consecutive victory, downing Alabama (10-9, 3-7 SEC) on the road, 25-22, 25-22, 25-22, Friday evening at the Coleman Auxiliary Volleyball Extension. The win marked the Lady Vols' first in Tuscaloosa since the 2004 campaign.
"This was a big win for our team," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "I was very proud of how we finished each set. Alabama was serving tough and not making any errors which forced us to play at a high level and earn each point. We had a number of people come up big tonight, whether it was a kill by Milan (Clarke) or Mindy (Flynn), a tough serve by Farren (Powe) or a great set by Kelsey (Mahoney) or Mischa (Hanakova).
"Chloe (Goldman), Kylie (Marshall) and Nikki (Fowler) also had their best passing match of the year against a very strong serving Alabama team. That allowed us to side out at a very high percentage, which really helped to carry our team, especially in the first set."
Senior Mindy Flynn paced the Big Orange offensive attack with 12 kills in the contest, while hitting at a team-high .391 clip with just three errors in 23 attacks. Sophomore Nikki Fowler and senior Milan Clarke tied for second on the squad with eight putaways each. Junior libero Chloe Goldman topped UT with a match-high 17 digs, while fellow classmate Kylie Marshall finished just behind her with 11 of her own. Freshman Alyssa Hilby and junior Farren Powe, meanwhile, led the Lady Vol blocking effort with three putbacks each.
"This was a good win to start the second half of the SEC season on the road," Flynn said. "Alabama was focusing a lot of their attention on Nikki and I made it my goal to go out and take the pressure off of her. I just went out and tried to take good, quality swings and I thought I was able to do that."
With her 17 digs, Goldman moved her career total to 1,013, making her the ninth player in UT history to cross the 1,000-dig threshold. She also moved into eighth on UT's all-time digs chart, edging past Sonja Thomas' career mark of 1,012.
Tennessee was able to stave off a furious Alabama comeback attempt in the opening set, claiming the first lead of the night with a 25-22 victory. Goldman paced a solid UT defensive effort with eight digs, while Flynn topped the team with four kills in the frame.
The Big Orange came out of the gates on fire, quickly taking the first three points of the match and jumping out to an early 10-3 advantage. After Alabama junior outside hitter Elizabeth Salstrand smashed an attack straight into the UT block to give the Lady Vols the first point of the contest, Fowler and Hilby joined forces to send back another Tide swing for the second. A kill from the left side by Flynn then made it 3-0 in favor of the Orange and White.
Although Alabama finally got on the board on the next play, Tennessee continued to apply the pressure, claiming back-to-back scores on consecutive kills by Flynn. Shortly thereafter, the Big Orange went on a four-point run, taking advantage of three Tide errors and getting a solo block from Marshall to go ahead 10-3.
After a UT attack fell just wide to end the streak, neither team could get a good grasp on the momentum of the match as they battled hard until the scoreboard read 18-12 in favor of the Orange and White. At that point, the Crimson Tide came roaring back, putting together four consecutive scores to move within just two points. Tennessee finally ended the spree with a blast down the middle of the court by Hilby, but Alabama just refused to go away.
After the two squads traded points for eight plays, a block by Bama's Brooks Webster and Lindsey Buteyn put the Tide just a single score away from tying the set. UT Head Coach Rob Patrick had other ideas, however, using his second timeout of the frame to get his troops refocused. Straight out of the break, Powe slammed home a kill off an over pass to make it 23-21. Although Alyssa Meuth got Alabama on the board once more, that was her team's final point as UT got a kill by Clarke and an attack error by Meuth to end the set.
A game of runs ensued in the second frame, with the Lady Vols emerging victorious once again by an identical 25-22 score. Tennessee was able to string together six streaks of three or more scores, while the Tide was able to accomplish the feat just three times. After not being able to notch a kill in the opening frame, sophomore Nikki Fowler got back on track with five putaways in the second. Flynn and Goldman continued their solid play as well, with three kills and six digs, respectively.
This time, it was Alabama's turn to take an early lead, using a three-score spree to go up 4-1. Tennessee quickly recovered, however, tripling up the Tide's effort with a trio of three-point runs, separated by just a pair of UA scores, to take a 10-6 advantage. During that 9-2 run, the Big Orange got kills from four different players, including a pair of putaways from Flynn, in addition to two blocks, one of which marked the end of the run and prompted a timeout from Alabama Head Coach Judy Green.
Following the short break, the Tide claimed a trio of scores, led by kills from Meuth and Buteyn, to move within one at 10-9, but the Lady Vols had an answer once again, using three more sprees of three points during a 10-3 run to jump ahead by a commanding 20-12 score. Alabama simply would not give up, however, cutting its deficit to five at 23-18 on yet another kill by Meuth.
Although Tennessee moved to set point on a kill by Hilby on the next play, the Tide proved its resiliency by winning four straight points, getting an ace by Stephanie Riley and back-to-back solo blocks by Ashley Frazier. It would prove to be too little, too late though, as Fowler connected on a blast that landed wide off the UA block for the final score of the set to give UT a 2-0 lead as the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms for the intermission.
The UT offense finally got things going at full blast in the third and final frame, connecting on seven of its first eight swings of the frame and hitting at a .387 clip with a total of 17 kills and just five errors on 31 attacks, en route to its third consecutive 25-22 triumph.
The Lady Vols led wire-to-wire in the set, racing out to a 7-2 advantage and never looking back. Alabama was able to cut its deficit to one at 14-13 following a three-score spree, but UT had an immediate answer, scoring on four of the next five plays, highlighted by kills by Powe and Fowler.
Shortly thereafter, the Tide moved within a single score once more at 21-20. Fowler, however, blasted an absolute laser, cross-court to the back-left corner, to end the threat. Despite two more UA tallies, sandwiched around a Flynn kill, Clarke and Powe gave UT the match victory with a blast down the left-side line and an ace, respectively.
UT will take its four-match winning streak to Starkville on Sunday, when they will square off with Mississippi State at 1:30 p.m. CT at the Newell-Grissom Building. The Lady Vols will then return home next weekend to host Georgia and LSU on Fri., Oct. 31 and Sun., Nov. 2, respectively.