Nov. 7, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-Match Interview with Rob Patrick
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 22nd-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team picked up its fourth straight sweep and matched its longest winning streak of the season with its sixth consecutive victory by making quick work of Mississippi State, 25-17, 25-18, 25-15, Sunday afternoon at the Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Miss.
The victory improves the Orange and White's overall record to 21-5 this season, including a 12-4 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, fall to 12-14 on the year and 4-11 in league action.
"A Sunday match on a long road trip like this is tough, so I'm really proud of our team," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "I told them in the locker room after the match that they played gritty today. It might not have been our prettiest or cleanest match, but I really thought that they were very gritty.
"Our serving was really on, which helped us keep Mississippi State off balance and away from what they wanted to do offensively throughout the match. Overall, I was very pleased with how our team competed today, which is what we needed to do on Mississippi State's home court."
Tennessee's balanced attack was on full display once again as it had six players record at least four kills for the sixth straight contest and 16th time this season. Junior Kayla Jeter led the way with a match-high 11 kills on .450 hitting, in addition to tallying four blocks, three digs and an ace.
Just behind her was sophomore DeeDee Harrison who pounded out 10 putaways on just 13 swings for a stellar .615 attack average to go along with a pair of blocks. Rounding out the offensive effort, seniors Nikki Fowler and Leah Hinkey had six kills each, sophomore Leslie Cikra picked up five and freshman Kelsey Robinson had four.
Pacing the offense were setters Emily Steinbeck and Kylann Scheidt who distributed 15 assists each. Defensively, Hinkey topped all players with five blocks in the contest, while Robinson finished with a match-best 15 digs. Fowler scooped up 11 Bulldog attacks as well.
The Lady Vols shook off a few rough points to start the match before using a 14-4 run to take full command of the frame which they eventually won, 25-17. Seven different UT players recorded kills, led by three from Cikra as the Big Orange out-hit the Bulldogs, .310 to .088.
MSU came out of the corner swinging, scoring the first three points of the contest. The Lady Vols weren't about to back down from the challenge though, immediately grabbing the lead back with four consecutive points of their own, taking advantage of a pair of State miscues and getting a kill by Cikra and a block by Jeter and Hinkey.
Although the Bulldogs stopped that spree with a kill, UT picked up right where it left off with Jeter blasting out a cross-court shot from the outside, Fowler and Hinkey joining forces on a monstrous block and an MSU attack error putting the Orange and White ahead 7-4.
Following another State kill, Tennessee continued to extend its lead by winning six of the next seven scores. Fowler kept the momentum on UT's side of the net with a pair of putaways, sandwiched around a kill by freshman Carly Sahagian. Just seconds later, the Big Orange tallied three more points with a hammer by Harrison, an ace by Fowler and a sharp, cross-court laser by Cikra, to jump out to a 13-6 advantage.
Mississippi State would not get closer than four scores the rest of the way as Tennessee cruised to a first-set victory. The Lady Vols closed out the frame strong, finishing on a 4-1 spree that featured kills from Robinson and Harrison and an ace by Robinson on a beautiful jump serve that landed in front of the Bulldog libero.
A timeout just two points into the second set served as a wake-up call for the Big Orange which responded in strong fashion, dominating play for the rest of the frame as it took a two-set lead into the intermission with a 25-18 triumph. Jeter was the team's top offensive weapon during the stanza, hitting .364 with five kills and recording two blocks.
After two sloppy plays to open the frame, Patrick decided he had seen enough and called a timeout to get his troops refocused. The tactic worked like a charm, as his squad responded with five consecutive points to take a 6-1 lead. Following the timeout, Jeter notched a kill from the outside to kick-start the run which also included a blast by Hinkey, two MSU attack errors and a block by Hinkey and Jeter.
Just a few moments later, Mississippi State would tally a trio of scores to move within two at the 7-5 mark, but the Lady Vols were able to answer with a cross-court laser off the right hand of Fowler, a solo stuff by Cikra and another Bulldog miscue to regain their five-point advantage at 11-6.
MSU continued to put forth a strong effort, however, inching its way back into striking distance. With the scoreboard reading 18-16 in UT's favor, the Orange and White effectively put the frame away by going on a four-point tear that saw Harrison simply take over. After dropping a hammer down the left-side line, the Nashville, Tenn., native recorded a solo block to force Bulldog Head Coach Jenny Hazlewood to burn her second timeout.
Following the short break, Jeter opened play back up with a tip over the block on the outside before Harrison crushed out a pair of kills over the next three plays to put Tennessee up 23-17. A kill by Hinkey and a block by Jeter and Hinkey would account for the final two UT scores of the stanza.
The Lady Vols wasted precious little time racing out to a quick lead in the third set and never looked back as they led wire-to-wire in a 25-15 triumph to finish off the road sweep. The Big Orange was running at full speed offensively, hitting .500 as a team with 16 kills and just two errors on 28 attacks. Harrison paced the effort with five putaways on six attempts for a .667 attack average.
The frame opened with three consecutive UT points, thanks to a Bulldog attack error and back-to-back hammers by Hinkey and Jeter. The Lady Vols kept padding their lead until really putting their foot down with a 4-0 spurt that allowed them to double up MSU at the 14-7 mark. Jeter was all over the court during the run, collecting a pair of kills from the outside and helping Hinkey stuff a right-side attack from State.
A Hazlewood timeout would turn the tables momentarily as her team proceeded to rattle off five scores in a seven-play span, but kills by Fowler and Robinson, sandwiched around a Bulldog ball-handling error, effectively thwarted their comeback attempt and put UT up 19-12.
Just a few minutes later, following MSU's second timeout, the match turned into the "DeeDee Harrison Show" yet again as she accounted for five of UT's final six points with a quintet of kills to bring her match total to 10.
Tennessee will now return home for its final two matches of the 2010 campaign. The Lady Vols will open against No. 16 on LSU Friday, Nov. 12, at 3:30 p.m., before hosting Arkansas at 2 p.m. two days later. Prior to the match against the Razorbacks, which will be televised live on Comcast Sports Southeast, UT will honor its three seniors in a "Senior Day" ceremony.
For the most up-to-date information on the Lady Vol volleyball team, make sure you follow @UTLadyVols and @UTVolleyball on Twitter.