Oct. 26, 2008
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Utilizing an efficient offensive output, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (15-8, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) moved its winning streak to a season-best five matches with a sweep over Mississippi State (6-16, 1-10 SEC), 25-16, 25-16, 25-17, Sunday afternoon at the Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Miss.
"To be successful in the SEC, you have to work very hard to get wins on the road," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "I am very proud of our entire team for their focus and energy this entire weekend. We were able to go on the road against two of the toughest serving teams, not only in our conference but in the nation, and run our offense at a very high level. If you would have told me that we would have had just two reception errors all weekend, I would have been very surprised."
The Lady Vols posted their best team hitting percentage in an SEC match this season with a .384 attack average. They had a total of 38 kills in 86 attacks with a season-low five errors in the victory. Junior Kylie Marshall paced the attack with a team-high 11 kills in the contest while hitting at a season-best .556 average with just a single error in 18 total attacks. Finishing just behind her were sophomore Nikki Fowler, junior Farren Powe and senior Milan Clarke who tallied nine, eight and six kills, respectively.
"We played a very clean match today," Patrick said. "We were able to take care of the ball on serve receive, with our serving and by controlling our digs. I thought that Kylie played a great match. If you just look at the stat sheet, you would think that it was her offense that carried us, but, in reality, it was her defensive play that really sparked us in the second and third sets. She made some tremendous digs from the middle-back position that allowed us to continue and win a number of long rallies."
Defensively, junior libero Chloe Goldman continued her stellar play with a match-high 13 digs, while seven other players tallied at least two digs each. Powe led the blocking effort with five putbacks while seniors Mindy Flynn and Clarke posted three each.
"I was also very pleased with Farren's play at the net, both offensively and defensively," Patrick said. "We have been working on getting her more involved and she came through in a big way. I also thought that she did a tremendous job blocking which forced Mississippi State to play around her and allowed us to set up our defense."
In the opening set, UT rode its hot-hitting offense to a 25-16 triumph and the first lead of the match. As a team, the Lady Vols hit at a .391 clip (11-2-23), led by the efforts of Marshall and Fowler who each posted three kills.
The Big Orange came out of the gates determined to take care of business early, racing out to a quick 11-3 lead behind the strength of a pair of four-point runs. With the scoreboard reading 3-2, a kill by Powe sparked the first spree. Fowler then sandwiched a pair of aces around a kill by Marshall to account for the next three scores. Although the Bulldogs were able to end that streak with a kill by Ioana Demian, the Orange and White picked up right where it left off with another set of four scores in a row.
Once again, Powe opened the spree with a blast down the middle of the court before joining forces with Marshall to send back a State attack. Marshall then proceeded to smash a kill off the right-side block before an MSU attack error landed wide right to give UT an 11-3 advantage.
The two squads then traded the next seven scores before the Lady Vols effectively ended the set with a streak of six consecutive points that put them ahead, 20-7. During that run, Tennessee got a kill from Fowler, a pair of blocks and took advantage of three MSU miscues. The Bulldogs were not done fighting yet, however, going on a five-point run of their own just moments later. It would prove to be too little, too late though, with Marshall smashing out a cross-court kill to the back-right corner to end the frame.
The Tennessee offense continued to roll in the second set, claiming a two-set advantage with another 25-16 victory. The Lady Vols recorded 12 kills on 25 swings without a single error in the frame for an impressive .480 attack average. Marshall led the way with four kills on five attacks (.800), while Powe had three putaways on four swings (.750).
Although Mississippi State turned the tables a bit by taking an early 3-1 lead, UT quickly got back on track with scores on seven of the next eight plays to go up 8-4. The first two points of the run came via kills by Powe and Marshall, which were followed by an attack error by MSU freshman Kellye Jordan. After a Bulldog kill down the right-side line ended the spree, the Big Orange was able to side out on an MSU service error that landed long. Powe and Marshall then collected kills around a State attack error to give Tennessee a four-point advantage.
The Orange and White was able to extend its lead out to five at 13-8 before the Bulldogs came roaring back to move within two scores with a three-point run of their own. Yet again, UT had an almost immediate answer, doubling up MSU's effort with six-straight scores shortly thereafter. Up by two at 14-12, a State service error gave the ball back to the Big Orange which took full advantage of the opportunity.
Back-to-back kills by Marshall were followed with a solo block by Clarke, a putaway by Powe and a Mississippi State attack error to move the score to 20-12. The Bulldogs were unable to formulate any sort of response the rest of the frame before falling by nine for the second straight frame.
Led by four-kill efforts by both Marshall and Fowler and three putaways by Powe, the Big Orange finished off its second sweep of the weekend with a 25-17 triumph in the third set. After racing out to a 7-2 lead, Tennessee stalled a bit, allowing the Bulldogs to return the frame to a deadlock just five points later at 7-7.
The Lady Vols found their rhythm just in time though, using a pair of kills by Marshall and an MSU error to go back up by three. The Bulldogs refused to give in, however, remaining within just a single point until the score reached 13-12 in favor of UT. At that point, the Orange and White was finally able to move out of striking distance with a five-score spree that included kills from both Flynn and Fowler, an ace by freshman Kelsey Mahoney and a block by Hilby and Fowler.
Now up by six at 18-12, the Lady Vols cruised to the victory, winning seven points on the final 12 plays. Fowler put her team at match-point with a blast from the back row off an assist from freshman Amanda Friday, the first of her young career, before Clarke finalized the contest with her sixth kill of the afternoon.
UT will return to the hardwood next weekend when it plays host to Georgia and LSU in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols will welcome UGA to Rocky Top at 7 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 31 before the Tigers make their way to Knoxville for a 1:30 p.m. contest on Sun., Nov. 2.