Nov. 11, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team won its fifth consecutive match and completed the season sweep of the South Carolina Gamecocks with a 3-0 (27-25, 25-16, 25-18) win in Columbia, S.C., on Sunday afternoon.
Tennessee, which has now won nine consecutive matches against the Garnet and Black, improves to 19-6 overall and 12-4 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Gamecocks fall to 16-13 overall and 4-13 in league action.
"I'm very proud of the team going on the road again and getting two wins this weekend against two teams that play really well at home," said head coach Rob Patrick. "South Carolina really has a great offense so our goal was to try and slow them down a little bit and our players did a wonderful job of getting stronger as the match went on."
Junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson posted a match-high 17 kills and added 10 digs for her third straight double-double. Redshirt senior DeeDee Harrison added 12 kills and hit an even .500 in the match, while sophomore Olivia Okoro finished with a career-best 10 kills. Leslie Cikra and Kayla Jeter rounded out the balanced offensive attack by combing for 11 kills.
"We've been working all year long in trying to get a little bit more balance in our offense," said Patrick. "Kelsey has been a huge force for us offensively - her entire career not just today - but we really want to get some diversity in our offense. We've been able to do that over the last couple of weeks and our middles - DeeDee and Olivia - are doing a wonderful job of presenting themselves in transition."
Defensively, Harrison led the Big Orange at the net with four blocks, while sophomore setter Mary Pollmiller added three. Junior Ellen Mullins supplied the Lady Vols with multiple chances by posting 18 digs in the match for an even 6.0 scoops per set. Pollmiller added 11 digs, while freshman setter Bianca Arellano added seven. Both sophomore defensive specialist Nikki Brice and Jeter contributed six scoops each. Tennessee finished the match with 60 total digs.
"Mary did a great job of distributing the ball to all of our hitters," Patrick said. "When you have five players with 15 attempts or more it's great."
"Ellen has really progressed through her career at Tennessee and that's something we really pride ourselves in is that players really get better as they go through it," said Patrick. "Ellen is one of the most coachable ladies that you'll ever have and a very hard worker. I love to see somebody that is willing to work hard and then see the fruits of their labor out on the court."
The Orange and White, which improves to 8-0 on Sundays and 10-2 on the road with the win this season, hit .280 in the match and held the Gamecocks to a .089 attacking clip.
The Lady Vols jumped out to a 7-2 lead on the Gamecocks in the opening set, but quickly had their lead erased as South Carolina leveled the match at 13. From that point on, the frame consisted of 10 ties and four lead changes as the game came down to the wire. South Carolina forced a set point opportunity at 24-22, but a Robinson kill and a SC error leveled things up at 24. Okoro came up big late in the set, putting down a kill to put UT up 25-24 and then followed with the set-winner to give the Big Orange a 27-25 first set victory. Okoro and Robinson combined for 11 kills in the opener, while Pollmiller dished out 15 helpers.
Tennessee hit a blazing .485 in the second set and cruised to a 25-16 victory behind a well-balanced offensive attack. The Lady Vols committed just three attacking errors on 33 attempts and had 19 kills in the set. Harrison and Robinson led the way with five kills each, while Cikra put down four. UT outdug the Gamecocks 17-10 in the set, which included eight from Mullins. The Orange and White were able to sideout 82 percent of the time in the second frame. Robinson, Harrison and Cikra hit .444, .667 and .800, respectively in the second game.
Behind a Harrison and Jeter block, the Lady Vols took a 1-0 lead to start the third after the break and would never look back. UT, which led the set by as many as 10, went on to win by a 25-18 margin to secure the sweep. Robinson recorded six kills and seven digs in the third and Harrison added four kills and two blocks to lead the Lady Vols.
Tennessee returns home after a four-match roadswing to conclude the 2012 regular season at home with four matches. The Lady Vols will host Auburn in the first meeting of the season in what will be Coach Patrick's 500th career match at Tennessee on Friday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.