Oct. 24, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-Match Interview with Rob Patrick
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The 21st-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team posted one of its best all-around efforts of the season on Sunday, taking care of business on the road against South Carolina with a 25-16, 25-15, 25-14, sweep at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, S.C.
The Lady Volunteers utilized an efficient and balanced offensive attack, and played shut-down defense as they had just nine total attack errors on the day en route to out-hitting the Gamecocks, .387 to .045. With the win, the Big Orange improved to 16-5 on the season and 8-4 in Southeastern Conference play, while SC dropped to 5-16 overall, including a 2-9 mark in league action.
"We put forth a great team effort today," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "I was excited about how we bounced back after a disappointing loss to Florida on Wednesday. I was happy to see our team come out with a lot of energy. We were excited about playing this volleyball match and getting on the court again and it really showed in how we performed. Any road win in the SEC is extremely hard to get, so we were glad to pick up a win today."
Individually, UT had six different players record four or more kills, led by nine from junior Kayla Jeter who hit at a .533 clip with just a single error in 15 swings. Sophomore DeeDee Harrison was right on her heels with eight putaways and a .429 attack average to go along with three blocks.
Senior Leah Hinkey topped the squad with eight putbacks, in addition to hitting .556 with six kills on nine attacks, and sophomore Leslie Cikra notched six kills on .545 hitting and had a pair of blocks.
Senior Nikki Fowler and Kelsey Robinson also had solid all-around contests, while senior Emily Steinbeck and freshman Kylann Scheidt teamed up to pace the Lady Vol offense from the setter position. Fowler finished with five kills, six blocks, five digs, three assists and an ace, while Robinson tallied four putaways, two aces, a match-high 14 digs, a block and an assist. Steinbeck and Scheidt combined to post 32 helpers with totals of 17 and 15, respectively.
"We had some people we needed to get back into our offense and I thought our setters did a wonderful job of getting the ball to a lot of different hitters in hittable positions," Patrick said. "They made great choices. We had a lot of one-on-one situations and split blocks because of the setters doing such a nice job of placing the ball in spots where our hitters could take good swings."
Paced by three kills each from Jeter, Cikra and Hinkey, the Lady Vols cruised to a 25-16 opening-set victory. That trio combined to hit a ridiculous .818 with nine kills and no errors on just 11 swings. The Big Orange also blocked five Gamecock attacks in the frame, led by a pair by Hinkey.
Tennessee put its history of slow starts behind it on Sunday, using a 9-1 scoring spree to race out to a commanding 11-3 advantage. With the score tied at 2-2, a Hinkey kill and three straight SC attack errors started to break it open. Following a Gamecock putaway, the Lady Vols immediately rattled off five more points to claim a comfortable cushion.
Robinson started the tear off by powering a kill through the left-side block. Scheidt followed with an ace before Fowler came through with a kill and teamed up with Harrison on a block. Scheidt then capped off the run with another ace, her fifth of the season.
From there, the Lady Vols continued to slowly extend their lead until a 3-0 spurt, which included a kill and a solo block by Hinkey, put them up by 12 at the 22-10 mark. Although the Gamecocks would respond with three straight scores of their own, an attack error, as service error and a kill by Cikra brought the frame to close just moments later.
The second set brought more of the same for UT as it continued its torrid offensive pace with a .400 team hitting percentage in a 25-15 triumph. Jeter and Harrison continued to bomb away for UT, combining for nine of the team's 16 kills in the stanza.
Once again, the Orange and White got the ball rolling early on, scoring four straight times to turn a 0-2 deficit into a two-point lead. After two quick SC tallies, Jeter got the Big Orange on the board with back-to-back kills from the outside. She then teamed up with Hinkey on a big block on the right side before Hinkey moved to the other side of the net to post a block with Fowler.
Hinkey's first attack error in four matches would cut the UT lead back down to one, but another Jeter blast and an SC miscue moved the score to 6-3. Just minutes later, Tennessee padded its advantage with a three-point run that featured kills from Harrison and Jeter and a huge solo stuff by Jeter that made it 13-7 in favor of the Big Orange.
Following a short South Carolina flurry, the Orange and White closed out the frame by winning 11 of the final 16 points. Holding a 20-13 lead, Tennessee struck the knock-out blow with a four-score spree, bookended by Harrison kills. Freshman Carly Sahagian would then close things out three plays with a shot down the left side of the court.
Although its team hitting percentage would drop to .296 in the third set, the Tennessee defense picked up the slack, holding South Carolina to an attack average of .000 and forcing the Gamecocks to commit eight hitting errors for the third straight frame. UT also totaled 14 digs, including eight by Robinson, and eight blocks, including three each by Hinkey and Fowler.
Although South Carolina kept it close in the early goings, the Big Orange started to break things open after a service error put the score at 6-5. Robinson would answer by powering a kill through the left-side block and Harrison followed suit by slamming home an over pass to kick start a 7-0 run. Back-to-back SC errors would follow before Robinson scored consecutive points with a pair of laser-beam serves that fell for aces. Another Gamecock attack miscue would mark the end of the spree that put UT up 13-5.
Following a timeout by SC Head Coach Ben Somera and four quick Gamecock points that cut Tennessee's lead to four, the Lady Vols put the hammer down with a 6-0 response run which Cikra started with a bruising blow from the right side. Steinbeck followed with an ace, UT's sixth of the day, and a South Carolina attack error added another point on to the Lady Vols' tally. A block by Hinkey and Cikra and an off-speed off the right-side block by Cikra forced Somera to burn his second timeout.
The short stoppage in play would do little to halt Tennessee's momentum, however, as Jeter hit one off the block on the outside that crashed off the SC defender and bounced over press row for a kill to put UT up 19-9. The final six points were merely a formality until Harrison brought the match to a close with a tip over the right-side block that fell for a kill and gave the Lady Vols the victory.
Tennessee will now return home for a season-long three-match homestand next week as it hosts Louisville on Wednesday, Auburn on Friday and Georgia on Sunday. First serve against both the Cardinals and Tigers will be 7 p.m., while the match against the Bulldogs will be televised live on CSS at 1:30 p.m.
For the most up-to-date information on the Lady Vol volleyball team, make sure you follow @UTLadyVols and @UTVolleyball on Twitter.