Nov. 17, 2013
KNOXVILLE -- Lexi Dempsey recorded her 16th double-double and Jamie Lea posted a team-high 16 kills, but Tennessee came up just short of an upset on Sunday, falling to LSU, 3-2 (13-25, 25-18, 24-26, 25-20, 15-13), at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Sunday's match was UT's fourth five-set contest of the season. Tennessee fell to 9-19 overall and 1-13 in SEC play while LSU improved to 16-10 and 6-8 in conference play. Dempsey totaled 43 assists and 15 digs. Whitney Heeres and Ashley Mariani each tallied 13 kills. Ellen Mullins finished with 27 digs and three assists.
"I was very proud of the effort we put out on every point," head coach Rob Patrick said. "It didn't matter if we were behind or ahead, I just thought the energy that the team brought to every point was really important in this match. We kept the energy at a high level for two and a half hours today."
For five sets, the Lady Vols and the Tigers seemed to respond time after time to each other's brief four-point runs. LSU had a slow start, committing several first-set errors before finding momentum in the second set. Tennessee used surges late in sets, pulling away with the third-set win and nearly coming back to take the fifth.
"Defensively, we played with a lot of heart," Patrick said. "Ellen Mullins played like an All-American. She shut off the entire left side of the court. After the first set where she had 13 digs, they didn't even try to hit the ball there in the second set."
Mullins 27 digs put her 10 away from tying Chloe Goldman's top record (1,755) on UT's all-time career digs chart as the Nashville native now has 1,745 career scoops.
In the first set, Tennessee capitalized early off some long volleys and found its spots at the net, building a 9-4 lead. With Tennessee up, 5-4, Megan Hatcher served for straight points for UT with an ace and kills by Mariani and Lexi Dempsey. Ahead, 11-8, UT Jamie Lee drilled a kill from the left side to spark a short 4-1 UT surge before an LSU timeout. The Lady Vols' recovery on LSU's attacks to the sides was key during that stretch. With Ellen Mullins serving, Tennessee rattled off three more points on a pair of LSU errors and a kill by Carly Wishlow to extend its lead to 18-9 and force another timeout by the Tigers. Shealyn Kolosky scored the set point with kill from the right side to cap a 7-4 Tennessee run. UT scored 15 of its 25 points off of kills in the first set while LSU managed just six kills with a -.024 hit percentage. Lea and Mariani led the way for the Lady Vols with, five and four kills, respectively.
Tennessee errors early in the second set swung momentum in LSU's favor. A pair of attack errors gave the Tiger a 2-0 lead. After the Lady Vols evened the set at 2-2, Emily Ehrle put the Tigers back in front with a kill and an attack error and a block gave LSU a 5-2 advantage. LSU stayed at least two points ahead the rest of the set. With a 17-15 Tigers lead, Khourtni Fears came up with two kills and two blocks to give LSU a 21-15 edge. Briana Holman's soft tap over the left side was good for set point, sending the teams into the break knotted at 1-1.
LSU's momentum spilled over early into the third set. A short 3-0 LSU run gave the Tigers an 8-3 lead before a Tennessee timeout. UT responded, going on a 5-1 run with a Whitney Heeres kill bringing the Lady Vols to within 9-8. Tennessee continued playing with renewed fire over the next several points. With Lexi Dempsey serving, LSU committed back-to-back attack errors and Mariani had a kill from the left side to push Tennessee ahead, 13-11, and force an LSU timeout. LSU climbed back to briefly take at 17-16 lead, but a bad set by Leak, a kill by Heeres and a block by Heeres and Wishlow put Tennessee back in front, 19-17. The Tigers went on a 4-1 run, capped by a Holman kill up the middle to retake the lead, 21-20, and force a Tennessee timeout. Lea answered the call for Tennessee, responding with a powerful kill on the left side and a block coming out of the timeout. Another two Lea kills down the middle pushed Tennessee ahead 24-22. An LSU kill on a soft tap over the net and an LSU block evened the set at 24. Lea and Kolosky made a big block on the left side and an attack error by Malorie Prado gave Tennessee the 26-24 third-set victory.
Kolosky opened the fourth set with a kill on the far right side of the net and Heeres followed with a smash along the left side to give UT an early 2-0 advantage. After several lead changes, LSU used a 6-0 run to take a 15-10 lead. The Tigers held the Lady Vols at bay until a service error by Katie Dunlap, a kill by Kolosky and an attack error by Ehrle pulled Tennessee to within 21-19 before an LSU timeout. After a kill by Lee, LSU strung together four straight points to force a fifth set.
Tennessee had momentum early in the fifth set, starting off strong with a service ace by Dempsey and an LSU attack error. UT's led 4-2 after a Mariani kill and a block by Kolosky and Heeres. The Tigers went on a 3-0 run to take the lead and held an 8-6 before the teams switched sides. Tennessee came roaring back with a 3-1 run to tie the set at 9-9 and force an LSU timeout. A UT ball-handling error and a block by Holman and Malorie Pardo put LSU back in front, 11-9. Dempsey responded with kill right at the net coming out of a Tennessee timeout, but an Ehrle kill and a UT attack error gave the Tigers a three-point advantage at 13-10. After another Tennessee timeout, LSU committed a service error and an attack error to pull UT to within 13-12. Mariani came up with a big kill to give UT service down 14-13, but Leak scored LSU's match point with a kill from the left side.
Tennessee will next host Florida on Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 5:30 p.m. ET. The match will be televised on ESPNU.