Nov. 12, 2004
ATHENS, Ga. -- The No. 15 University of Tennessee volleyball team (25-2, 14-1 SEC) set up a showdown with No. 7 Florida (23-2, 15-0 SEC) with a 30-20, 35-33, 30-18 victory over Georgia (16-9, 8-7 SEC) on Friday night. The Gators topped South Carolina earlier tonight, 30-18, 30-22, 30-18.
"The team set a goal to win the SEC and I'm really proud of them putting themselves in a position to play for the SEC championship on Sunday," Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "I told the team after the game that they put themselves in this position not with this win tonight but with all the work and sweat when nobody was looking from January through the summer months. I couldn't be prouder of a team than I am of this one.
"I was really proud of how hard we played tonight. Georgia is a very good team which plays very well at home and to beat them in three games at their place was a great accomplishment. The one item that really propelled us was our serve reception. We were in system for most of the match and (setter) Julie (Knytych) did a tremendous job of finding the right hitters and putting the ball in the exact right spots for each individual hitter. I wasn't pleased with our controlling of the ball off of digs but we were able to make enough defensive plays to slow Georgia down."
Freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (Sofia, Bulgaria / 81 SOU Victor Hugo H.S.) tallied a match-high nine blocks and hit .320 (11-3-25). Junior outside hitter Amy Morris (Michigan City, Ind. / Penn State) recorded her 14th double-double on the season with 13 kills and 14 digs, both tied for the most by a Lady Vol in tonight's match. Two other Lady Vols recorded double-digit totals in kills as well: senior outside hitter Michelle Piantadosi (Boca Raton, Fla. / Olympic Heights H.S.) with 13 and junior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif. / Kelseyville H.S.) with 11.
Defensively, sophomore defensive specialist Cynthia Buggs (Compton, Calif. / Long Beach Poly H.S.) had 14 digs while junior setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill. / Lyons Township H.S.) contributed 13.
Knytych also had 48 assists to move her season total to 1,285, the eight-highest by a Lady Vol in school history.
Tennessee took the first game tonight, 30-20, spurred by a 7-1 run which snapped a 14-all tie and gave the Lady Vols a 21-15 advantage.
The squads battled back-and-forth throughout game two with Georgia taking the early 9-3 advantage before the Big Orange battled back and took the lead, 14-13. The Bulldogs then grabbed a 19-16 advantage before Tennessee rallied back for a 26-21 lead. With UT holding a 29-27 advantage, Georgia staved off two game points to tie the game, 29-29, and then another to tie the game at 30.
Next the Lady Vols needed to kill off some UGA game points, battling from 31-30, 32-31 and 33-32 deficits and ending the game with a 3-0 run for a 35-33 win. The point total ties the most in UT history (since rally scoring came into effect in 2001). The Lady Vols topped Ole Miss in game one of a 3-1 victory on Sept. 26, 2003, by an identical 35-33 count.
The Big Orange put the Bulldogs away in game one, sparked by a 7-0 run to give UT an insurmountable 25-12 advantage on its way to the 30-18 win.
Next up for the Lady Vols is the final SEC regular-season match of the season at Florida on Sunday with first serve set for 1:30 p.m.
If Tennessee wins and the teams tie for the championship, both will earn co-championship honors and a tie-breaking procedure will be used for seeding purposes only. The tie-breakers, in order, are head-to-head match record, head-to-head game record and head-to-head point total. Florida topped UT on Oct. 22 by 26-30, 34-32, 30-19, 30-21 scores.
The Gators have won at least a share of their 14th consecutive SEC regular-season championship and are looking for their 13th straight with sole possession of the crown (the 1991 squad tied for the title with LSU at 13-1).
Florida brings in a trio of astounding winning streaks into the match. The Gators have won 145 straight SEC regular-season matches dating to a 6-15, 15-12, 15-13, 15-12 loss at South Carolina on Nov. 13, 1994. UF has been victorious in 121 consecutive overall conference matches (including SEC Tournaments) with its last setback coming by 15-7, 15-7, 17-15 scores to Arkansas in the SEC Tournament championship match played in Athens, Ga., on Nov. 23, 1997. Both of those are NCAA records.
The Gators have also claimed 109 straight SEC home wins dating to a 15-7, 15-9, 15-11 loss to LSU on Sept. 30, 1990.