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Tennessee Battles Hard Before Succumbing to No. 12 Florida, 3-0
Farren Powe

Farren Powe

Nov. 14, 2008

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - In front of a crowd of 1,079 Orange-clad fans, which represented the fourth-largest home crowd in Lady Vol volleyball history, Tennessee (19-9, 12-5 Southeastern Conference) fought valiantly but dropped a 3-0 decision to No. 12 Florida (21-2, 15-1 SEC) by scores of 23-25, 18-25, 23-25, on Friday night at Thompson-Boling Arena The defeat ended the fifth-longest winning streak in UT history at nine matches, dating back to a 3-0 sweep on Oct. 14th at East Tennessee State.

"We have to tip our hats to Florida," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "They played great defensively and really kept us on our heels all night. While this is a disappointing loss, we will get back to work immediately to get ready for a very tough South Carolina team on Sunday. Hopefully, we can fix some of the issues that we had tonight and get back on track.

"I especially want to thank our fans who really came out and showed their support for us tonight," Patrick said. "They were tremendous and I can't thank them enough."

Senior middle blocker Mindy Flynn led the Lady Vol offense with 10 kills, while sophomore outside hitter Nikki Fowler added six and junior middle blocker Farren Powe and senior outside hitter Milan Clarke notched five kills each. Fowler also contributed a team-high 15 digs and freshman setter Kelsey Mahoney guided the squad in assists with 20. Junior libero Chloe Goldman finished second on the team with 15 digs of her own, while freshman Alyssa Hilby paced the Big Orange blocking effort with six putbacks, including two of the solo variety.

In the opening set, Tennessee quickly fell behind 2-0 via a hitting error and one of a team-high seven kills by Florida freshman outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel. The Blue and Orange advantage see- sawed between one and three points until a kill from junior outside hitter Kylie Marshall eventually brought Tennessee even at 17-all. Just minutes later, a hitting error by the Gators granted UT its first lead of the set at 19-18. A big solo stuff from Fowler improved the score to 22-20 in favor of the Lady Vols, igniting the home crowd and forcing Florida Head Coach Mary Wise to burn a timeout in an attempt to stem Tennessee's momentum.

The break paid immediate dividends for the Gators, as a blistering kill by Lauren Bledsoe and consecutive Lady Vol offensive miscues pushed UF right back in front at 23-22 forcing Patrick to call his own timeout. Trailing 24-22 and facing game point, the Big Orange forced a hitting miscue by Jaeckel to climb within a point, but Murphy managed to bang a shot off the Lady Vol blockers and out of play for the set-clinching point. The loss ended Tennessee's 19-set winning streak, the second-most by a Patrick-coached UT squad, that stretched back over seven matches to the final set of a 3-1 victory at Arkansas on Oct. 19th.

The Gators nabbed quick control in the second set as a trio of Tennessee miscues granted Florida a 3-0 lead. Trailing 7-2, a pair of kills from Powe and consecutive errors from UF helped the Lady Vols climb within two at 9-7. The Blue and Orange continued to build upon its advantage from there in set number two. With the Lady Vols behind 18-11, Patrick's charges ignited a four-point rally to draw within three tallies and again get the large crowd involved. A move by the UT coaching staff to place freshman Amanda Friday in the match to serve worked as Tennessee nabbed two quick scores, including one tally off the Springfield, Va., native's first career ace, to cut its deficit to 19-18. Unfortunately for the Big Orange, the squad couldn't get the big point necessary to get over the hump as Florida eventually secured a 25-18 victory.

Behind 3-0 in the third set, the Lady Vols demonstrated their mettle by roaring back to even the count at five-all on a kill from Flynn. Deadlocked at seven, a kill by Fowler, a Gator attack error and successful blasts from Flynn and Marshall granted the Big Orange a 11-7 lead. UF battled back within three points at 13-10 before the big hitting of Powe and Clarke stretched the gap to five tallies at 16-11.

The high-water mark in the third set for the Lady Vols came at 21-16 as another Flynn kill helped Tennessee creep closer to a crucial match-extending win. Unfortunately, the Gators began chipping away at the lead utilizing kills from Murphy and a trio of Tennessee offensive miscues to battle to a 21-all tie. Kills from UF's Murphy and UT's Clarke tied the count at 22-22 before a Lady Vol hitting miscue and a Florida ace pushed the Gators to match point. Following a service error by UF's Elyse Cusack, Murphy hammered a shot home from the right side to clinch the match, 25-23.

Tennessee will continue its two-match homestand on Sunday by hosting the South Carolina Gamecocks at 1:30 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena. The contest will be tape delayed and televised at 3:30 p.m. on the FOX Regional Sports Networks. Pete Pranica will provide play-by-play and Phil Bush will offer color commentary. The first 300 fans to the match on Sunday will also receive a free set of Lady Vol trading cards.

 

 

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