Nov. 7, 2004
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The 15th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team moved to 24-2 and 13-1 in SEC play with a 30-22, 30-12, 30-26 sweep over LSU (14-10, 6-8 SEC) on Sunday. The Lady Vols kept alive their goal of winning the SEC regular-season title, moving to within 1/2 a game of Florida (21-2, 13-0 SEC). The Gators and Lady Vols end the regular season against each other at 1:30 p.m. next Sunday in Gainesville.
"Our team did a great job today carrying out our game plan," Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We've been working on our blocking quite a bit in practice and it was nice to see that hard work transfer over to match situations. The other item that I'm pleased with today is that we did not make many unforced errors (only 13 attack errors, the fourth-lowest total of the season, two serve-reception errors and one service error). Whenever we do that, we put a lot of pressure on the other team because we play very consistent defense."
Junior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif. / Kelseyville H.S.) earned a double-double with the seldom-seen combination of kills (11) and blocks (10). The block total is the second-highest recorded by a Lady Vol this season. Two other Big Orange swingers had double-digit totals in kills: sophomore middle blocker Sarah Blum (Tulsa, Okla. / Bishop Kelley H.S.) with 13 and junior outside hitter Amy Morris (Michigan City, Ind. / Penn State) with 11. Leaders for the Big Orange in hitting percentage today were Andre at .625 (11-1-16) and Blum at .458 (13-2-24).
Blum and freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (Sofia, Bulgaria / 81 SOU Victor Hugo H.S.) contributed four blocks each to UT's team total of 14, the third-highest total in a match this season and the most in a three-game contest.
Junior setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill. / Lyons Township H.S.) tallied 38 assists to move her season total to 1,237, placing her 10th on the all-time Lady Vol list. The total is just behind her own freshman season when she had 1,244. The Illinois native's sophomore campaign saw her compile 1,406 assists to place fourth on the ledger. In today's match, Knytych was also a big contributor defensively with 10 digs and four blocks.
Sophomore libero Annie Sadowski (Wheaton, Ill. / Wheaton-Warrenville H.S.) led UT in digs with 11.
"Our middles did a great job of putting themselves in serve receive and transition situations to attack the ball. I was very happy to see Sarah Blum have a good offensive game because she has been doing it primarily with her defense. We need her to keep providing more kills for us as we go down the final stretch of matches.
"(Setter) Julie Knytych did a great job of distributing the ball to the correct hitters and running our offense. She's been a great on-floor leader this entire season."
LSU took immediate control of the first game, taking a 7-3 lead before Sadowski settled in at the serving line, helping UT score nine consecutive points. Morris earned three kills during the run which gave the Orange and White a 12-7 advantage. The Lady Vols kept the Tigers at bay the remainder of the game, not letting the lead fall below four points. Andre recorded six of her 10 blocks in the first game alone and hit .571 (4-0-7). Morris and Blum also had outstanding hitting percentages in the opening game, hitting at .600 (6-0-10) and .500 (6-1-10) clips, respectively.
The Lady Vols earned a second-game victory of historic proportions, winning by a 30-12 count. The 18-point margin of difference is the largest by a UT squad in an SEC match in school history (since rally scoring came into effect in 2001). The previous record was 30-13, set in game one of Tennessee's 3-0 home victory over Kentucky on Oct. 3. The score tied the school record for margin of victory in any match as UT topped Fordham, 30-12, in game two of a 3-0 sweep on Aug. 31, 2002. Tennessee held LSU to a -.071 hitting percentage in the game, marking the seventh time this season the Lady Vols have held an opponent to a game hitting percentage of .000 or below.
Tennessee grabbed a 13-8 advantage in the third and final game, but LSU battled back to a 20-all tie. UT would score five of the last seven points for a 30-26 game victory.
Two seniors played their final regular-season match at Stokely Athletics Center this afternoon, both outside hitters: Whitney Gifford (York, Pa. / Dallastown H.S.) and Michelle Piantadosi (Boca Raton, Fla. / Olympic Heights H.S.). The two currently comprise the winningest four-year class in Lady Vol history, having compiled a .713 winning percentage with an 82-33 mark.
The Lady Vols now head on their road for their final regular-season SEC matches of the season, playing at Georgia at 7 p.m. on Friday and at No. 8 Florida at 1:30 p.m. next Sunday. UT has clinched at least a second seed for the SEC Tournament, to be competed from Nov. 19-21 in Gainesville, Fla., and trail the Gators by 1/2 a game for the top seed and SEC regular-season title. Florida's three matches remaining, all at home, are versus Georgia at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and against South Carolina at 5 p.m. on Friday before playing host to the Lady Vols next Sunday.