Nov. 3, 2002
The University of Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball squad dropped its second 3-0 (30-15, 30-15, 30-18) SEC contest in three days, falling to the No. 3-ranked Florida Gators in front of 2,013 spectators at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville. UT fell to 17-8 on the year and 6-6 in the SEC with the loss while Florida moved to 22-1 and remained perfect in conference play at 12-0. The win also preserved the Gators' NCAA record for consecutive regular season conference victories, moving their streak to 110 in a row.
After trailing early on, 5-4, the Lady Vols fell behind by seven after the Gators ran off six straight points, capped by senior middle blocker Nicole McCray's fourth kill of the frame. Florida doubled up Tennessee, 16-8, after junior outside hitter Aury Cruz hit her third kill of the match. The Gators would win the frame by doubling UT's score as well, 30-15, when McCray tallied her sixth kill of the game. UF finished the first round hitting .472 while the Lady Vols managed to hit only -.033. UT senior outside hitter Kelli Scott led the Orange and White's offense with two kills during game one. Lady Vol defensive specialist Alex Compeau had five digs, tops for the Big Orange defense, in the first game as well.
The two teams split the first 10 points of the second game before Florida scored five unanswered points. After sophomore right side hitter Whitney Gifford stopping the bleeding by ripping her second kill of the match, the Gators went on another scoring tear with four straight before sophomore middle blocker Michelle Piantadosi silenced the crowd with a kill. The Gators, however, were too much for the Lady Vols as they grew their advantage to double digits, 17-7, after consecutive kills by junior middle blocker Benavia Jenkins. Florida took game two, 30-15, hitting at a .424 clip compared to the Orange and White's .083. Gifford, Hester and Piantadosi each had two kills during the second game for UT.
Tennessee found itself with a 3-0 lead early in the third frame of action, but the Gators claimed eight of the next 10 rallies for a 10-5 advantage. UT cut the Gators' lead to three, 11-8, after Scott flushed a kill from the right side, but Florida poured on its attack and eventually ran the score to 17-9 behind its relentless play. The Orange and White never closed to within more than six from that point forward, falling 30-18 in the final round.
With her 19 assists on the afternoon, UT freshman setter Julie Knytych cracked the 1,000-assist mark for the 2002 campaign. She now has 1,010 helpers on the year. Hester led the Lady Vols' offensive efforts with seven kills, while Scott chipped in with five. Gifford paved the way for UT on defense with seven digs, as did Compeau. Freshman middle blocker Kristen Andre tallied two kills, five digs and a pair of blocks for the Lady Vols as well.
Tennessee will host a pair of SEC contests next weekend in Stokely Athletics Center. The Lady Vols welcome No. 20 South Carolina to Knoxville on Friday, Nov. 8, for a 7 p.m. matchup and then have a date with the Wildcats of Kentucky on Sunday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m. UT came up on the short end of a five-game match with the Gamecocks earlier this year after defeating the Wildcats, 3-1, in Lexington. USC holds the historical edge over the Big Orange with a 21-18 record and 17 wins in the last 18 meetings. Kentucky leads the series with UT, 33-17, but the Lady Vols have claimed the last three tilts and eight of the last 10.