Oct. 26, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Riding a five-match win streak. the Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team opened Friday night's home contest against Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky by taking the first two sets, but the Wildcats rallied in the third to grab the momentum and win the match in five frame, 21-25, 27-29, 25-14, 25-22, 15-5.
It was the Lady Vols eighth five-set match of the season and the loss drops the Big Orange to 14-6 overall and 7-4 in the league. Kentucky improves to 14-8 overall and 8-4 in conference action with the win. It was the 72nd meeting between the two sides and the seventh five-setter against the Wildcats in the Rob Patrick coaching era.
"We just take it one match at a time," said Patrick. "We wanted to protect our streak and play well at home - which we did for two sets - I was really happy with how he competed, with the choices we were making on the court and with defending. I think we just relaxed a little bit and you can't do that against a really good team."
Sophomore Tiffany Baker led the Lady Vols for the second-straight match with 18 kills and posted a team-high .361 attacking clip on 36 attempts. Junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson added her 41st career double-double with 17 kills and 11 digs, while sophomore setter Mary Pollmiller handed out 41 assists and notched 10 digs for her 11th double-double of the season. Robinson also added three aces.
Defensively, Tennessee got another huge effort from junior libero Ellen Mullins. The Nashville native had 29 digs and is approaching the 1,000-dig plateau with 972 career scoops. Over the last six matches, Mullins has 144 digs for an impressive average of 5.54 digs per set. She's now just 28 digs away from becoming the 13th member of UT's 1,000-dig club.
At the net, the Lady Vols out-blocked the Wildcats by a decisive 15-8 margin. Redshirt senior DeeDee Harrison fell one short of her career high with eight blocks, including two solo, while sophomore Olivia Okoro recorded four. Robinson, Pollmiller and Kayla Jeter combined for 10 blocks.
Kentucky had four players record double-digit kills and four players notch double-digit digs. UK out-killed, out-hit, out-dug and had more assists than the Big Orange.
The Lady Vols got five kills from Baker and five from Robinson in the opening set as well as five massive blocks from Harrison to gain early control of the match with a 25-21 first set win. Tied at 21, Tennessee rallied for four straight points, which included back to back Baker kills to end the game and go up 1-0.
The second frame was one of the most highly-contested games of the season as it consisted of 17 ties and seven lead changes. The two teams were separated by no more than three points throughout the entire set. Kentucky had four chances at set point, but the Big Orange rallied to take the game, 29-27, and go up 2-0 into the break.
Kentucky got things going after the break, leading the entire third game and out-hitting the Lady Vol by a .353-.088 margin to cut the match deficit to 2-1 with a 25-14 win. UK closed the third on an 11-2 run.
Tennessee led by as many as six in the fourth set on four occasions. Down 15-9, Kentucky came out of a timeout and went on an 11-3 rally to take a 20-18 lead and would go on to take the set, 25-22, and force a fifth game.
Kentucky rode a .500 hitting and 83 percent sideout percentage to cruise to a 15-5 fifth-set victory and complete the comeback.
Alabama comes to Knoxville on Sunday afternoon for a match that will be broadcast live on FOX SportSouth. First serve at Thompson-Boling Arena is slated for 1 p.m.