Oct. 27, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-Match Interview and Highlights
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Senior Nikki Fowler was one of three Lady Volunteers to post a double-double on Wednesday night, accomplishing the feat for the 50th time in her career, as the 22nd-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team (17-5) snapped Louisville's (14-6) eight-match winning streak in its final non-conference match of the 2010 regular season, 17-25, 25-23, 25-22, 28-26, at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"This was a really high-level, physical match between two very athletic teams," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick. "We didn't do a very good job of defending the net in the first set, but I was proud of how our team made an adjustment and challenged their hitters. Even though we didn't get a lot of blocks, we played better defense around our block and were able to dig a lot of balls which gave us opportunities to score points."
Fowler's milestone double-double consisted of a team-best 20 kills and 15 digs, while she hit at a stellar .341 clip with just five errors in a squad-high 44 attacks. With her effort, she increased her career kills total to 1,553, moving her into fourth place all-time at Tennessee, passing Dianne Shoemaker DeNecochea, who tallied 1,544 during her Lady Vol career from 1985-88.
"Nikki does her job day-in and day-out, against good teams and in a lot of different ways. It's not always with kills, digs and passing, but most of the time it is. Today we needed every bit of what she gave us with her great passing, her defense, taking nice swings without many errors and setting the block. She didn't get a lot of blocks, but she was able to channel the ball to our defenders, which doesn't show up on the stat sheet. We are really going to miss her after this season, but I am going to enjoy these last few matches we have with her. Not only is she one of the best all-around players in Tennessee history, but in SEC history as well."
Joining Fowler in the double-double parade were freshmen Kelsey Robinson and Kylann Scheidt. Back at her normal outside hitter position, Robinson tied her career high with 11 kills and added a team-high 17 digs for her third double-double, while Scheidt did so for the first time in her young career with 29 assists and a personal-best 16 digs. She also recorded the first block of her career at a huge point in the contest with the fourth set tied at 26-all.
Senior Leah Hinkey and sophomore Leslie Cikra notched double-digit kill totals as well, to give the Big Orange four players with 10 or more kills in a single match for the second time this season. The first came against Northwestern on Sept. 10 in Athens, Ohio.
Rounding out the Lady Vol offensive effort were junior Kayla Jeter and sophomore DeeDee Harrison who tallied eight and six kills, respectively. In all, those six players accounted for all 68 of Tennessee's kills on the evening.
Such a balanced attack would not have been possible if not for some terrific play by the team's setters as senior Emily Steinbeck and Scheidt combined for 61 of the squad's 66 helpers in the contest. In addition to Scheidt's 29 assists, Steinbeck tallied 32, the most by a UT player in a single match this season.
"Our passing was great tonight and our setting, once again, was fantastic. Both Emily and Kylann did a nice job of setting the right people at the right times, which allowed us to hit for a pretty high percentage. Emily has just been a solid senior leader for us all year and tonight was no different. She is quietly consistent and has really helped to solidify our offense this season.
"Kylann is just getting more and more comfortable every night. She's played in some big matches and is not afraid to set the ball in tight situations. She is really growing up quick this season and we are very excited about that. One of the areas we have been working on improving has been our right-back defense and for her to have 16 digs played a huge role in us winning this match."
Despite the best efforts of Fowler who had seven kills and five digs, the Lady Vols couldn't find an answer for Louisville's offense which hit .455 and did not make an error en route to claiming the opening frame of the contest, 25-17.
The Cardinals jumped ahead early, grabbing a 10-7 lead, but the Orange and White kept its deficit manageable behind a barrage of Fowler bombs. The teams would trade the next 14 points, with Fowler accounting for five of UT's seven points during the run with blasts from either the outside or back row. The other two scores came on kills by Cikra and Robinson.
It wouldn't be enough, however, as UofL used a dump by setter Gwen Rucker to sneak ahead by four at the 18-14 mark. Although Hinkey would answer with a kill for the Lady Vols, Louisville followed with three straight scores to move ahead by a commanding six-point margin at 21-15. Fowler would end the run with her seventh kill of the frame but that would be as close as Tennessee would get as the Cardinals finished off the set with a 4-1 spree.
The Big Orange absolutely dominated the stat sheet in the second set, but still needed a late rally to squeak out a 25-23 victory that tied the match at one frame each at the intermission. During the stanza, Tennessee logged an amazing 22 kills and 29 digs, while holding Louisville to just nine putaways on 42 swings. The Cardinals had seven blocks and took advantage of six unforced errors by UT to keep the set close, however.
With UofL leading 7-6, the Orange and White embarked on a 4-0 spurt to grab the lead and force Louisville into a timeout. The run started with consecutive kills from Robinson, Harrison and Cikra, before Louisville's first attack error of the entire match closed it out and put UT up 10-7.
That lead would not last long though, as the Cardinals quickly fought back to tie the frame up at the midway point, 15-15. Robinson would respond with a laser from the back row to keep Tennessee ahead by one, but Anastasia Artemeva followed with an overpower kill to tie the set again. Fowler would put the Lady Vols in the lead once more with a blast from the right side, but the see-saw battle was broken by a 3-0 Louisville run that put it up 20-18.
At that point, Patrick would burn his first timeout of the stanza. Although it netted a point on the first play after the break on a kill by Jeter, Louisville scored the next two points to move within inches of victory, up 22-20.
The Lady Vols found their stride in the nick of time, however, as a Hinkey smash sparked a four-point surge that also included two more putaways by Fowler to give UT two chances at set point. The Cardinals would fight off the first chance with their seventh and final block of the set, but Robinson won the frame with a ferocious blast that the Louisville defenders were unable to control. Another tight battle ensued in the third set, but another late flurry by the Big Orange allowed it to grab the lead in the match with a 25-22 triumph. The Lady Vol offense was on full display once again as it out-hit the Cardinals, .314 to .243 in the frame.
After the two teams traded three-point swings to put the tally on the scoreboard at 18-16 in favor of Tennessee, Louisville quickly scored the next two points to bring the frame to a deadlock at 18-18.
The Orange and White would immediately grab the momentum back though, going on a 5-0 tear to take a comfortable 23-18 advantage. A back-row blast by Robinson got it started and an attack error by the Cardinals prompted UofL head coach Leonid Yelin to burn a timeout. The tactic did little to slow UT, however, as Jeter notched a kill on a deft tip right out of the break. Cikra would continue to pour it on with a solo block and an absolute hammer on back-to-back plays to cap off the run.
Louisville refused to concede though, as a setter dump, a kill by Lola Arslanbekova and a UT attack error brought it back within two at 23-21. This time it was Tennessee's turn to call a timeout and it proved to be just the trick as it needed just three more plays to wrap up the set. A service error on the first point out of the break put the Big Orange at set point and, following Arslanbekova's 20th kill of the match, Jeter ended the stanza with an unblockable blast from the outside.
The match came to a close with the best set of the night as Tennessee needed a few extra points to edge past the Cardinals, 28-26. The two teams combined for 17 tie scores and five lead changes before the Lady Vols finally won out thanks to five kills on .833 hitting by Cikra and six digs and a pair of blocks from Jeter.
Once again, neither team held much of an advantage early on and they emerged in a deadlock at the 19-19 mark. As she did earlier in the match, Hinkey led another Lady Vol charge that put her team ahead 22-19. The senior started a 3-0 spree by teaming with Jeter on a block before scoring with a kill on the next play. Following a Louisville timeout, UT extended its lead to three when a Cardinal attack sailed long.
Louisville was not going to go away without a fight, however, returning the set to a stalemate at 23-all by winning four of the next five points. Tennessee would then earn its first chance at match point thanks to a soaring shot by Fowler from the right side that moved the score to 24-23 and forced the Cardinals to call their final timeout of the match.
This time Yelin's move came through for him as his team responded with back-to-back scores to snag a 25-24 lead. Cikra would carry UT for a few moments, thwarting two Louisville set-point attempts with a pair of kills that tied the score back up at 26-26.
Cikra would then join forces with Scheidt to give the lead back to Tennessee with a monster block on an attack by Arslanbekova. Out of subs, the Big Orange sent Harrison to the service line for the first time this season and she came through with a tremendous serve, almost ending the match with an ace, but the Cardinals were just able to send it harmlessly back over the net to set up a big swing by Jeter who came through with a cross-court blast to give the Orange and White the victory.
The Lady Vols will next be in action this Friday when they host Auburn at 7 p.m. The match is UT's designated "Dig Pink" contest for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, so all fans wearing pink will be allowed into the match for free. There will also be a silent auction and a Victory Walk prior to the match.
Following that contest, the Big Orange will welcome Georgia to Rocky Top for a 2 p.m. showdown on Sunday. The Halloween match will be televised live on CSS with Bernie Guenther and Maria Taylor on the call.
For the most up-to-date information on the Lady Vol volleyball team, make sure you follow @UTLadyVols and @UTVolleyball on Twitter.