Nov. 9, 2008
OXFORD, Miss. - With its sixth straight sweep, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (19-8, 12-4 Southeastern Conference) extended its league-best winning streak to nine matches as it defeated Ole Miss (11-13, 7-8 SEC), 25-17, 25-17, 25-18, Sunday afternoon at the Gillom Sports Center in Oxford, Miss. The Lady Vols' current run stands as the second-best streak during UT Head Coach Rob Patrick's tenure and fifth-best in school history.
"It's great to be coming home from this weekend with two road wins over teams that have been playing very well lately," Patrick said. "Offensively, we have been able to control the ball well enough with our passing game and in transition to have at least two options at all times. Our setters are also doing a great job of finding either the hot hitter or the person in the best position to finish the play.
"One of the main differences between our offense today and our offense a month and a half ago is the fact that our hitters are making very few unforced errors," Patrick said. "In our match today, four of our main hitters combined to make just one error on 54 swings. When a team is able to do that, it really helps to keep its opponent on their heels. Ole Miss really came out with a lot of confidence today following their win over Kentucky on Friday, but we did a good job of handling that and taking control of the match during the first two sets."
Three different Lady Vols tied for the team-high in kills on Sunday, as seniors Milan Clarke and Mindy Flynn and sophomore Nikki Fowler each had 10 putaways in the 3-0 triumph over the Rebels. Clarke hit at an outstanding .556 clip with no errors in 18 total attacks. Flynn was just behind her with a .450 attack average with just one error in 20 swings, while junior Farren Powe topped the squad with a .667 hitting percentage (6-0-9). As a team, UT out-hit Ole Miss, .365 to .085.
"It's really fun to see two of our seniors be so successful on a consistent basis during the latter part of their careers," Patrick said. "They have had a huge impact on our success. Milan had a huge weekend and is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now. She has been a go-to player for us the second half of the season and has really been consistent in that role.
"Mindy is really playing a great all-around game as well, giving us a nice block on both pins and a couple of digs a match," Patrick said. "She's also getting more kills than we expected while still keeping her errors low. Chloe and Kylie were both terrific anchoring our defense once again today. Kylie also did a nice job of keeping Ole Miss off-balance with her serving.
Junior libero Chloe Goldman paced the Big Orange defensive effort with 15 digs, while fellow classmate Kylie Marshall reached double-digits with 10 of her own to go along with four kills, two aces and the team's only solo block. Fowler and freshman Alyssa Hilby led the squad with two putbacks each.
In the initial set, the Orange and White offense was on full display, hitting a combined .438 (16-2-32) en route to a 25-17 victory. Flynn topped the team with four kills in the frame, while Powe, Fowler and Clarke tallied three each.
The Big Orange came out of the gates aggressively, racing out to a 7-2 advantage with runs of four and three points, separated by just a pair of Rebels scores. Back-to-back Ole Miss attack errors opened the scoring before Flynn and Hilby pounded out consecutive kills to make it 4-0 in favor of UT.
The Rebels finally got on the scoreboard with putaways by Emily Jones and Miranda Kitts, but the Lady Vols kept right at it, getting three more scores, as Flynn sandwiched a pair of kills around another OM attack error. After two more Ole Miss points, Tennessee continued to pour it on, going up 10-4 with another three-point tear, including a kill by Powe on a tip over the Mississippi block attempt.
Shortly thereafter, the Rebels put together their only run of the frame, scoring on four consecutive plays to move within three at 13-10. They would get no closer, however, as the Orange and White responded just four plays later a trio of points of its own. Following an Ole Miss error, Flynn blasted a kill down off the left-side block. She then proceeded to smash home another putaway off an over pass immediately after to run the score to 18-12. From that point on, there was little Mississippi could do, as Tennessee took seven of the final 12 points to win the opening frame, 25-17.
Although Ole Miss was able to keep the score close early on in the second frame, Tennessee used a pair of four-score sprees to break it open before claiming the set, 25-17, and taking a two-game lead into the intermission. The UT offense continued to roll, getting five kills from both Fowler and Clarke and four more from Flynn.
With the scoreboard reading 4-3 in favor of the Lady Vols, a kill by Powe to the back-left corner of the court and three consecutive attack errors by the Rebels quickly gave the Big Orange a five-point advantage. Although the next score went to Ole Miss, UT quickly regained control on a blast by Clarke that landed wide off the left-side block. Marshall then stuffed a Katie Norris attack and Clarke followed with yet another kill that landed long after being touched at the net. Following a timeout by Ole Miss Head Coach Joe Getzin, a Powe ace that landed just inside the back line closed out the run.
After the Lady Vols held the lead for the entirety of the first two sets, the third frame featured nine tie scores and two lead changes. The Big Orange still came out on top, however, finishing off its sixth consecutive sweep with a 25-18 victory. Although it was held to just eight kills in the set, UT took advantage of 17 unforced errors by Ole Miss, including 11 attack errors.
The Rebels struck their first significant blow of the match early in the third frame, breaking open a 6-6 deadlock with four consecutive scores, including a pair of aces by Morgan Springer. A timeout by Patrick immediately put an end to that run, however, as his squad came out of the short break with four straight points of its own. A block by Clarke and Hilby opened the run and was followed by a Rebel attack error. Flynn then blasted a cross-court kill to the back-left corner of the court before the streak ended on a sharp putback by Fowler and Hilby.
The two teams then traded the next three scores before the Lady Vols effectively ended the frame with a pair of three-point runs sandwiched around just a single Rebel score. All three of UT's points in the first spree came via Ole Miss errors before a timeout by Getzin netted a kill by Rachel Kieckhaefer that moved the score to 14-13. Tennessee continued to extend its lead, however, as Powe answered the Ole Miss score with a left-handed tip over the block. Marshall then followed a Rebel error with a cross-court smash that put the Orange and White up by four at 17-13.
Ole Miss was unable to get any closer than three scores the rest of the way, as UT finished off the set by winning eight of the last 13 scores. The final three points of the contest came by way of a kill by Fowler, a block by Powe and Flynn and an attack error by Ole Miss' Caitlin Weiss.
The Lady Vols will return to Knoxville to close out the home portion of their schedule 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 for their final home match of the season. Sunday's match will be tape delayed and broadcast on FOX Sports Regional Networks at 3:30 p.m. that same day. In addition, all three Tennessee seniors will be recognized before the contest and the first 300 fans to the match against USC will receive a free set of Lady Vol volleyball trading cards.