Oct. 28, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson powered the Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team past Southeastern Conference foe Alabama in straight sets (25-18, 25-16, 25-19) on Sunday afternoon to complete the season sweep and extend the Big Orange's winning streak to 10 straight against the Crimson Tide.
The win improves the Lady Vols to 15-6 overall and 8-4 in conference action, while the loss drops Alabama to 14-11 overall and 3-10 in league play. As a team, Tennessee posted its second highest hitting percentage of the conference season (.380) and out-performed 'Bama in every major statistical category.
"I thought the focus was really good," Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick said. "The focus on what we needed to do on that rotation or that point was really good. It wasn't like we were louder than Friday or anything like that. I just thought we were more focused. The people that were in the front row were doing a great job of seeing who that hitter was and knowing what the gameplan was going to be for that hitter. Then it just seemed that from then on, we were able to defend fairly easily."
Robinson led the Big Orange attack with 13 kills on 27 swings and committed just one error for a .444 attacking clip. She also added 12 digs to notch her 42nd career double-double. Robinson's performance moved her into 15th place on UT's career kills list with 1,069.
Redshirt senior DeeDee Harrison followed with a nine-kill, five-block performance and led the Lady Vols with a .615 hitting percentage. Sophomore Tiffany Baker notched eight spikes and hit exactly .350 from the outside. The Carrollton, Texas, native has now hit .350 or better in three consecutive matches.
"I'm very proud of them for taking what Alabama would give us and not trying to get greedy on some things," said Patrick. "We just did a nice job on that. We were very organized on the block. I was really happy with our pin blockers, whether it was Kelsey, Tiffany, Mary or Leslie Cikra, they all got set and blocked really well. That just set the tone for our defense."
Defensively, Ellen Mullins was consistent once again in the back row and continued her stellar junior campaign with 13 digs. The libero is now 15 digs shy of becoming Tennessee's 13th player in the 1,000-dig club with 985 career scoops.
Alabama's Pricilla Duke-Ezeji led the match with 15 kills and hit .314 for the Tide.
The Orange and White never trailed in the opening set, as the squad combined to hit .355 and hold UA to a .154 attacking percentage. Harrison started the match with a bang with five emphatic kills, while Baker and outside hitter Kayla Jeter combined for six spikes in the opening set. Mary Pollmiller handed out 10 first-set assists as Tennessee claimed the 25-18 opening game win. Pollmiller finished the match with 33 helpers.
With the second set level at six, UT rattled off five straight points behind Olivia Okoro's serve to go up 11-6 on the Tide and never looked back. Tennessee also ended the game on a 6-2 rally, which included a set-ending service ace from Nikki Brice to win the set, 25-16, and go up 2-0 into the break.
Behind Robinson, the Lady Vols jumped out to an 8-3 lead to start the third set. Tennessee posted 19 kills in the frame, including seven from Robinson, and hit .432 as a unit. The Bartlett, Ill., native hit .778 in the final set to complete the sweep with a 25-19 victory.
The Big Orange out-performed the Crimson Tide in kills (46-34), hitting percentage (.380-.155), assists (43-33), digs (53-40) and team blocks (9-2).
Defensively, Jeter added nine digs for UT, while Brice, Okoro and freshman Bianca Arellano combined for 11 scoops. Arellano also added six assists.
The Lady Vols continue SEC play on Friday, Nov. 2, when they travel to Starkville, Miss., to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs. That match is slated for a 7 p.m. CT start. UT will then travel to Gainesville, Fla., for a Sunday matinee against the Gators at 2 p.m. ET. That match will be broadcast live on CSS or CST depending on your area.