Nov. 14, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Lady Vols vs. Arkansas Highlights
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team closed out the home portion of its 2010 schedule with an impressive sweep over Arkansas, 25-17, 25-15, 25-15, on Sunday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Volunteers never trailed in the match and posted their best defensive performance of the season, holding the Razorbacks to a season-low .000 hitting percentage.
"This was a great win for us, especially because it showed how we were able to overcome a disappointing loss on Friday," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We came back on Saturday and had a really good practice and I was really proud of how we were able to put that loss behind us and move forward to the next match. We played with a lot of effort today we had another great home crowd which helped lead us to a victory."
The match marked the final home appearance for three Lady Vol seniors: Emily Steinbeck, Leah Hinkey and Nikki Fowler. The trio, which was honored in a pre-match ceremony, led Tennessee to an impressive 25-4 record in Thompson-Boling Arena over the past two seasons, including a 12-2 mark this year. Overall, Sunday's win improved UT's record to 22-6 and 13-5 in Southeastern Conference play, while Arkansas falls to 13-15 and 7-10 in league action.
"First of all, our three seniors are just fantastic people," Patrick said. "They are great academically, make great decisions on and off the court and represent the University of Tennessee in a high-class manner. I can't say enough about the sacrifices that Emily, Leah and Nikki have made for our volleyball program and I am extremely proud of how they have developed here at UT. We are honored and lucky to have them be a part of our program and I am very honored to have had the opportunity to coach each of them."
With a 1,186 Big Orange faithful on hand, the seventh-largest crowd in school history, Tennessee improved its total 2010 home attendance to a program record 13,761. The Lady Vols finished with an average of 983 fans per match, also a school record, and attracted 1,000 or more fans to Thompson-Boling Arena on six occasions.
Fowler paced a potent offensive attack for the Orange and White on Sunday, smashing out a match-high 12 kills and hitting .318. The Dallas, Texas, native added seven digs and three blocks to the winning effort as well. Hinkey tallied five kills, a team-high four blocks and hit .364, while Steinbeck dished out 16 assists and finished with three digs.
Sophomore Leslie Cikra finished second on the UT squad with eight putaways, sophomore Kelsey Robinson recorded six and sophomore DeeDee Harrison and junior Kayla Jeter rounded out the statsheet with five each. Jeter did so on just eight swings for a stunning .625 hitting percentage in addition to collecting a team-high eight digs and a pair of blocks.
As a team, Tennessee hit .287 and nearly doubled-up Arkansas in the kills category with 41 to just 22 for the Razorbacks. The Lady Vols also finished with more aces (4-2), digs (36-25) and assists (40-20), and held the league's kills leader Jasmine Norton, who entered the contest with 423 putaways, to just four kills and a season-low -.185 attack average.
Sunday's match marked the 17th time this season and seventh time in the last eight matches that the Big Orange has had six players record at least four or more kills in the same contest. The sweep was also UT's SEC-leading 16th of the 2010 campaign.
Despite a little bit of a slow start offensively, Tennessee came to play defensively in the initial set, limiting Arkansas to just seven kills and a .000 attack average en route to a 25-17 triumph. Fowler, Jeter and Harrison paced the UT attack with a combined 10 kills, while Hinkey and Jeter both had a pair of blocks in the frame.
The Lady Vols wasted little time grabbing the lead, jumping out to a quick 7-3 lead following an ace by freshman Kylann Scheidt. UT would extend its advantage to as many as five before a three-point Razorback run cut it to two at the 10-8 mark. Jeter got the Big Orange back on track with a cross-court blast from the outside. Following an error by Norton and a solo block by Hinkey, the UT lead was back to five at 13-8.
Arkansas was not done yet though, answering the Lady Vol spurt with three consecutive scores of its own to move back within two once again. That would be as close as it would get, however, as the Big Orange proceeded to claim seven of the next 10 scores, capped off by back-to-back slams by Harrison, to grab a commanding 20-14 advantage and force Razorback Head Coach Robert Pulliza to burn his final timeout of the set.
The short break netted his squad a pair of points, but Tennessee responded two-fold with four straight, including kills by Robinson and Jeter, an ace by Robinson and a solo block by Jeter, to go up by eight at 24-16. UT would need just two more plays to close out the frame with Harrison doing the honors with a tip over the Arkansas middle blocker.
The Big Orange was even more impressive defensively in the second stanza, forcing Arkansas into more attack errors than it had kills and a -.037 hitting percentage as it claimed a 2-0 lead with a 25-15 victory. The Lady Vol offense, meanwhile, posted a .280 attack average led by five kills on just seven swings by Fowler and three putaways by freshman Kelsey Robinson.
Much like the first set, Tennessee came racing out of the gate, using a pair of 3-0 runs to take a 7-2 lead. Arkansas used a kill and consecutive blocks to move within two, but a service error gave the ball back to the Orange and White. It would take full advantage of the miscue as well, scoring the next three points on back-to-back kills by Robinson and an attack error by UA's Kelli Stipanovich to stake claim to an 11-5 advantage.
UT would continue to pad its lead until it reached seven with the scoreboard reading 16-9 following a hammer by Jeter. The Razorbacks would make a late attempt to get back in the frame with a trio of scores, but Hinkey stopped the spurt with a blast down the right side of the court that kick-started a five-point tear.
After Hinkey's kill, Fowler took over, recording the next four Tennessee scores with a trio of putaways and teaming up with Harrison to block a Stipanovich swing. With the Lady Vols up 21-12, they simply cruised to victory as Arkansas gave them the final four points they needed to finish off the frame with a pair of ball-handling errors and two attack errors.
Following the 10-minute intermission, Tennessee posted its most impressive effort of the contest, hitting .393 (16-5-28) and holding the Razorbacks to .036 (8-7-28) while completing the sweep with another 25-15 triumph. Cikra was absolutely unstoppable, tallying six kills on seven errorless attacks for a stunning .857 hitting percentage in the set.
Once again, the Big Orange grabbed a hold of the momentum early and never looked back as it led 20-8 before Arkansas was able to score consecutive points for the first time. The key stretch in the early goings was a five-point spree in the middle of what ended up being a 17-5 run.
Following a Razorback timeout and a kill by Norton, Cikra single-handedly stopped UA in its tracks with consecutive bombs from the right side. Jeter and Harrison then sandwiched a pair of kills around a Norton putaway and Arkansas' second timeout to put the Orange and White ahead 15-6.
With UT leading 22-10 late in the set, the Razorbacks attempted a last-second comeback, scoring five times in a six-play stretch, but it was too little, too late as a kill by Harrison and a Norton attack error brought the match to a close.
Tennessee will have a week off before returning to the court against Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sunday, Nov. 21. The Lady Vols will then close out their regular-season schedule with a 7 p.m. showdown against border-rival Kentucky on Wednesday, Nov. 24.