Nov. 7, 2008
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (18-8, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) was able to overcome a spirited effort from a hard-working Arkansas squad (6-18, 3-11 SEC) to win its eighth consecutive match with its fifth straight sweep, 29-27, 31-29, 25-18, Friday night at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville, Ark. Junior libero Chloe Goldman tallied the third-highest, three-set dig total in school history with 25, while senior Milan Clarke posted a match-high 15 kills in the victory.
"Arkansas certainly did not make anything easy for us tonight, but it's always great to win on the road in this tough conference," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "I thought we made quite a few unforced errors in the first two sets, which I attribute to us not being as focused as we needed to be.
"Kylie, Mindy and Chloe helped us out significantly as they were our most consistent players throughout the match," Patrick said. "Kelsey did a very nice job of settling us down when she was on the court as well. After we survived the first two sets, the team did a much better job of playing low-error volleyball which is what has allowed us to be so successful during this streak."
In addition to her 15 kills, Clarke also hit at a solid .375 clip with just three errors in 32 swings. Sophomore Nikki Fowler, meanwhile, recorded 13 kills of her own, while senior Mindy Flynn and junior Farren Powe each collected 11 putaways in the match. Last week's SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Powe continued her efficient offensive output, collecting a team-best .529 hitting percentage with just two errors in 17 total attacks.
"Milan continues to get big kills for us while also reducing her unforced errors," Patrick said. "I'm really proud of how she has matured into such a good hitter. We are very comfortable putting the ball in her hands during key situations and she came through in a big way tonight."
Freshman Kelsey Mahoney finished just one dig away from her fifth career double-double with a team-high 38 assists and nine digs, while junior Kylie Marshall and Fowler tallied seven and six digs, respectively. Fowler also paced the UT blocking effort with four putbacks, including one solo block, while Powe tallied three and Flynn and freshman Alyssa Hilby each posted two.
"I can't say enough about Chloe's maturity on the court," Patrick said. "She is the anchor of our defense and was simply amazing today. She continues to impress me with how well she controls the ball, not only in serve receive but the rockets Arkansas was hitting at her."
As a team, the Big Orange set three-set match season highs in four different categories, including kills (60), total attacks (139), assists (56) and digs (61).
The Lady Vols were able to survive a strong push by Arkansas in the opening set, utilizing solid offensive performances from Clarke and Fowler to post a 29-27 triumph. As a team, UT hit at an outstanding .419 clip, led by eight kills by Clarke and seven from Fowler.
A sluggish start by the Big Orange allowed the Razorbacks to jump out to a quick 10-7 lead before UT could put together any sort of run. Following an Arkansas attack error that brought the score to within two, the Lady Vols were able to tie it up at 10-all with back-to-back kills by Flynn and Fowler. The two teams traded the next eight scores before consecutive kills by Kelli Stipanovich gave the lead back to Arkansas at 16-14.
A Clarke blast followed, but Stipanovich tipped yet another one past the UT block to keep the Razorback advantage at two. Although Clarke and Flynn both recorded kills to return the score to a deadlock at 17-17, Arkansas answered with consecutive scores on a Christina Lawrence putaway and a Lady Vol attack error, which forced Patrick to burn his first timeout of the match to reorganize his troops.
The tactic worked momentarily, allowing the Orange and White to tie the score once again as Fowler pounded one wide off the right-side block following a ball-handling error by the Arkansas setter. It wasn't enough for his squad to earn its first lead though, with the Razorbacks regaining the advantage on a UT service error.
Shortly thereafter, with the score tied at 21-21, Arkansas made a push to end the set, going up by two on another Tennessee service error and a block by Lindsay Scanlon and Kristin Seaton. After Patrick's second timeout, the Big Orange proceeded to claim four of the next five scores, capped off by a smash down the left-side line by Clarke, to go ahead, 25-24. Once again, the Razorbacks responded with Stipanovich's seventh kill of the frame to return the set to a deadlock.
On the next play, Clarke smashed a kill off the block to give UT its second chance at set point. Arkansas would not go away quite that easily, however, earning its second opportunity to win the frame after taking a 27-26 advantage following a blast by Lawrence and a Lady Vol attack error. The Big Orange dug down deep though and closed out the set with three consecutive scores. Fowler decided she had seen enough apparently, pounding out a pair of kills sandwiched around a solo block.
Another battle ensued in the second set, with the Orange and White scrapping out a hard-fought triumph, 31-29. It was Flynn's turn to take control offensively, smashing out six kills and hitting .333 with one error in 15 attacks. Goldman, meanwhile, was a force defensively, recording 12 digs in the frame.
The Lady Vols raced out to an early 7-3 advantage, scoring the final three points on kills by Powe, Flynn and Marshall. Much like they had done repeatedly in the first set, however, Arkansas answered right back with a trio of scores of their own to move within one at 7-6. Just moments later, it gained control of the momentum and refused to let go, scoring on five consecutive plays to take a 12-10 advantage.
The UT deficit remained at two until a UA service error sparked a four-score spree that also featured a pair of kills by Fowler and a putaway by Mahoney. The Razorbacks, however, erased that lead immediately, tying the set at 17-17. After trading the next eight scores, Arkansas took the lead at 22-21 on a kill by Lawrence. The lead was short lived though, with the Big Orange taking advantage of a Stipanovich attack error that landed wide left following a timeout by Patrick.
Arkansas Head Coach Robert Pulliza took a page out of Patrick's book and used his initial timeout of the set following the error but it had little effect as Hilby and Fowler joined forces to send back a Lawrence attack. Obviously not pleased, Pulliza took his second timeout in an attempt to halt UT's momentum. A ball-handling error by his setter, however, gave the Orange and White a chance at set point.
The Razorbacks continued to battle though, taking a 26-25 lead by winning four of the next five points. This time, it was the Lady Vols' turn to fight off set point, getting a kill by Powe to the back-left corner and a block by Flynn and Powe. Although Arkansas was able to fend off the next three set points, Tennessee finally closed it out on its sixth attempt of the frame, as a Stipanovich attack error followed a blast by Clarke from the left side.
The Big Orange finally found its groove in third and final frame, scoring a 25-18 victory to move its season-best winning streak to eight matches. Powe paced the offense with a .667 hitting percentage with five kills in six swings and just one error, while Goldman dug up seven Arkansas attacks in the frame.
Trailing by one at 11-12, the Lady Vols went on a four-point tear that included kills by Powe and Mahoney and a block by Flynn and Powe to take a lead it would not relinquish at 15-12. Following a service error that ended the run, UT continued right where it left off by winning seven of the next 10 scores to take a commanding 22-15 advantage that effectively ended the match. The two teams traded the final six points to account for the final score.
The Orange and White will next be in action at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sun., Nov. 9, when it will take on Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. The Lady Vols will then return to Knoxville for a pair of contests next weekend. They will first host No. 12 Florida at 7 p.m. on Fri., Nov. 14 before welcoming South Carolina to Rocky Top at 1:30 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 9. Sunday's match will be tape delayed and broadcast on FOX Sports Regional Networks at 3:30 p.m. that same day. In addition, the first 300 fans to the match against USC will receive a free set of Lady Vol volleyball trading cards.