Nov. 5, 2004
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The 15th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team showed its highest level of resolve this season, rebounding from its worst game of the campaign to defeat Arkansas, 15-30, 30-22, 30-28, 30-24, on Friday night. UT had two season lows in the first game, a -.103 hitting percentage (8-12-39) and 15 points scored, before roaring back in the second with a .467 hitting percentage (16-2-30). The Lady Vols then put Arkansas away with a pair of victories in games three and four.
"I'm proud of the way our team fought through the entire match," Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We obviously didn't have the start we would have liked, but we did not let that affect our play as the match continued. It was a good win against a very good team. One thing our team continues to do is win big points (UT rallied from a 28-26 deficit in game three for a 30-28 victory), fighting until the end of each game.
"We did make the match harder than it needed to be with the amount of unforced hitting errors we had. All of our hitters could have made some better choices in their placement and shot selection, but I liked how they stayed aggressive and tried to work through some inconsistent play. I have to give Arkansas credit for playing very well and that had something to do with the errors that we made."
With the win, Tennessee clinches at least a second seed in the SEC Tournament, to be hosted by the University of Florida from Sept. 19-21. The Orange and White are one game behind Florida (21-2, 13-0 SEC) with three to play in the race for the regular-season title. The Lady Vols see their second-best start in school history continue, moving to 23-2 overall and 12-1 in SEC play. Arkansas saw its chance to clinch the Western Division title slip away, falling to 13-11, 9-4 in SEC action, two games up on Alabama (17-7, 7-6).
Arkansas came out on fire the first game, taking commanding 13-3, 19-7 and 24-9 leads before holding off the Lady Vols, 30-15.
Tennessee came back to the court in the second game with a vengeance, compiling a .467 hitting percentage (16-2-30), its highest in a game since Oct. 3, when UT hit .471 (19-3-34) in the third game of a 3-0 sweep over Kentucky, a span of 35 games. UT grabbed a 10-4 lead to take control of the game, prevailing, 30-22.
After the Big Orange grabbed a 5-4 advantage in the third game, Arkansas responded with a 5-0 lead for a 9-5 Lady Razorback edge. Arkansas would then carry leads varying from 1-4 points until UT tied it at 18. The Lady'Backs then saw their advantage fluctuate from 1-3 tallies until the Lady Vols tied the game, 24-24. The Big Orange took a short-lived 25-24 advantage before Arkansas rallied back for a 28-26 lead. The Lady Vols proved their mettle by scoring the final four points, winning, 30-28.
Tennessee took an 11-4 lead in game four before UA rallied back to tie the game at 21. Following a 23-23 stalemate, the Big Orange then went on a 7-1 run to win the game, 30-24, and the match, 3-1.
Junior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif. / Kelseyville H.S.) recorded the highest hitting percentage in the match for the Lady Vols: .444 (9-1-18). Junior outside hitter Amy Morris (Michigan City, Ind. / Penn State) had her 13th double-double of the season, and her fifth consecutive, with 10 kills and 12 digs. Freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (Sofia, Bulgaria / 81 SOU Victor Hugo H.S.) led the Big Orange in kills with 18. Senior outside hitter Michelle Piantadosi (Boca Raton, Fla. / Olympic Heights H.S.) contributed 11 of her own.
Junior setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill. / Lyons Township H.S.) tallied 47 assists, bringing her season total to 1,199. With five assists on Sunday versus LSU, she would move into sole possession of the 10th spot on the all-time single-season list at UT. Her 44th would place her ninth, while if she were to record 52 assists versus the Tigers, she would move into eighth.
Sophomore middle blocker Sarah Blum (Tulsa, Okla. / Bishop Kelley H.S.) continued to show her strong presence at the net, leading UT in blocks with six. Sophomore defensive specialist Cynthia Buggs (Compton, Calif. / Long Beach Poly H.S.) led the Big Orange in digs with 15, and was followed by sophomore libero Annie Sadowski (Wheaton, Ill. / Wheaton-Warrenville H.S.) and Morris, who had 12 each.
For the first time this season, UT was out-hit in a match (.189-.171 tonight) and came away with the victory. The previous two occurrences came in Tennessee's losses: at Michigan on Sept. 18 and versus No. 8 Florida on Oct. 22.
The two Lady Vol seniors, outside hitter Whitney Gifford (York, Pa. / Dallastown H.S.) and Piantadosi, play their final regular-season match at Stokely Athletics Center at 2 p.m. on Sunday versus LSU. The duo have recorded a .711 winning percentage in their careers (81-33), which if held would be the highest winning percentage by a four-year class in school history (the 1979-82 class has the current record of .709 with a 139-57 mark).