Nov. 17, 2002
The University of Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team ended the regular season on Sunday with a 3-0 (30-25, 30-25, 30-18) shutout of LSU at Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville. The win gave the Lady Vols their 20th victory of the campaign and their second 20-win season in three years. UT improved to 20-10 with the triumph and evened their SEC mark at 8-8. The Tigers fell to 17-10 and 9-7 in league play with the loss. Tennessee will now head to Fayetteville, Ark., as the No. 6 seed in the SEC Volleyball Tournament where they will face third-seeded Arkansas on Friday, Nov. 22. LSU holds the fourth seed in the tourney and will face No. 5-seeded Georgia.
"This season could have gone south pretty easily with all the injuries we had at the beginning of the year," Patrick said after giving the Lady Vols only their second 20-win season since the 23-12 1988 campaign. "Our team has fought through adversity all year and I'm proud of them for that. Every player is better today than they were in August and that's a testament to their hard work and willingness to learn."
Tennessee grabbed the momentum early on in the first game, jumping out to a five-point lead, 12-7, after sophomore middle blocker Michelle Piantadosi slammed one of her five kills of the frame. LSU managed to cut the UT lead to three, 19-16, with a 4-0 run capped by a kill from sophomore outside hitter Krya Lancon. After calling for time, the Lady Vols came out prepared to finish what they had started. UT senior outside hitter Kelli Scott put the Orange and White up 29-24 with her fifth kill of the game and a service miscue by the Tigers gave Tennessee the game, 30-25.
The Lady Vols trailed during most of the first half of game two, but even things up at 15 after an unforced error by the Tigers. Tennessee dropped the next three rallies, but managed to keep the score close until freshman middle blocker Heather Harrington took over the serving duties with the Big Orange down, 23-21. The Pasadena, Texas, native led the Lady Vols on a 6-0 tear to give UT a 27-23 lead. Consecutive kills by Piantadosi and freshman middle blocker Kristen Andre gave Tennessee the second round, 30-25.
Knowing that a win in game three would secure the No. 6 seed in the SEC tourney, the Lady Vols came out on a mission after the 10-minute break between games two and three. After Harrington tallied a kill to give Tennessee a two-point advantage, 8-6, it was freshman setter Julie Knytych's turn to lead the Orange and White on a scoring run. The LaGrange Park, Ill, native helped the Lady Vols score seven unanswered points for a 15-6 upper hand. At one point during the run, Knytych ran off three service aces in a row en route to her career-high four on the afternoon. The Big Orange would cruise from there and take the match, 30-18, in the third frame.
Piantadosi recorded a match-high 14 kills on 29 attacks and also had four blocks. Andre and Harrington pitched in with 10 and five kills and three blocks apiece as well. Knytych concluded the afternoon with 38 assists to eclipse the 1,200-assist mark on the season. Scott finished with 13 kills on 24 attacks for her second straight match of hitting .400 or better. The Peoria, Ariz., native also had seven digs.
"It's been great to see Kelli finishing her career this way," Patrick said. "She deserves to go out on a high note."
Scott is assured of ending her career with the Lady Vols ranked third in aces and digs. She will also rank at least ninth in attacks and needs 14 kills to leave UT ranked among the top 10 in school history.