Nov. 21, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
Post-Match Interview with Rob Patrick
With the victory, the Lady Volunteers improve to 23-6 on the season and 14-5 in Southeastern Conference action. The Rebels, meanwhile, finish the regular season at 19-10 overall, including a solid 13-7 mark in league play.
"I was really proud of our team today and I told them that in the locker room after the match," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "Ole Miss played at a very high level for four sets and we didn't, but I was proud of how we came out of the locker room after a tough second set and refocused. Our players had to fight for every point because Ole Miss wasn't giving anything to us. We really competed. This match wasn't about stats. It was about how we were going to respond to a team that punched us in the face in the second set and we responded really well."
Jeter paced the Big Orange attack on Sunday, smashing out a team-high 13 kills on 39 swings. The Solon, Ohio, native also added 10 digs, a pair of blocks, an assist and a service ace to UT's winning effort. The double-double marks the second of her career with her other one coming against Kentucky on Sept. 29 in Knoxville earlier this season.
"Kayla Jeter and Nikki Fowler have really carried the load for us this season," Patrick said. "Ole Miss had a great game plan against Nikki and Kayla came through for us with some big kills at some big times. She is somebody that can play all the way around for us and has done that at a high level. I don't think people understand how much she means to our team, not only in the front row where she got 13 kills, but in the back row where she had double-digit digs. She also did a great job with her serving putting Ole Miss in some tough situations where we were able to defend and go on some runs. She really had a great all-around match."
With a pair of blocks late in the fourth set, senior Nikki Fowler increased her career total to 335 to reach yet another milestone as she moved into a tie for 10th all-time in Tennessee history in total blocks. She is tied with Farren Powe (2006-09) and Dianne Borgerding (1982-85). Fowler, who also had six kills, a team-high 14 digs, an assist and an ace against the Rebels on Sunday, is the only Lady Vol ranked among the top 10 in career attacks, kills, digs and now blocks in school history.
Also posting solid efforts on Sunday was senior Leah Hinkey who recorded a .333 hitting percentage with 11 kills and four blocks, which tied sophomore DeeDee Harrison for the team lead. Freshman Kelsey Robinson, meanwhile, narrowly missed a double-double of her own with nine kills, 10 digs, an assist, an ace and a block.
Although Ole Miss came out of the corner swinging in the initial set, the Lady Vols did not back down. After falling behind by six at the 11-5 mark, Tennessee came roaring to life and dominated the remainder of the frame, winning 20 of the final 24 points to emerge victorious, 25-15. Jeter paced the Big Orange with five kills and six digs in the stanza.
Trailing by five at 9-4, Patrick called a timeout to steady his troops. Although the tactic didn't pay immediate dividends with Ole Miss moving ahead 11-5, the long-term effect was exactly what the Lady Vols were looking for. A Rebel service error gave the volleyball back to the Orange and White which took full advantage as Jeter, Robinson and Harrison notched back-to-back-to-back kills to bring UT within two at 11-9.
Although Ole Miss stopped that run with a tip by Allegra Wells that fell for a putaway, the Big Orange picked up right where it left off and notched the next five points to take a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the frame at 14-12. A pair of Jeter kills bookended the 5-0 spree which also featured a block by Hinkey and Jeter and two Rebel attack errors.
Just four plays later, Tennessee embarked on another impressive spurt, this time claiming seven consecutive points to take a commanding 23-14 advantage. Fowler dropped an absolute hammer from the outside to open the run, during which she collected a total of three kills. Jeter also added an ace and a putaway before Ole Miss' third attack error during the stretch put UT within two points of the set victory. It would need just three more plays to finish things out as Robinson collected back-to-back blasts to end the frame.
The start of the second set went much like the first with Ole Miss jumping out to an 11-4 advantage and forcing a Tennessee timeout. The second half of the frame did not, however, as the Big Orange couldn't come up with the strong finish it displayed earlier in the contest and the Rebels used a 12-0 tear to cruise to a match-evening, 25-13 triumph.
The Lady Vols hit -.062 in the frame with just eight kills and 10 errors on 32 swings. It marked just the second time this season that UT hit negative in a set. The first was in the third stanza against Northwestern on Sept. 10, in Athens, Ohio. All eight kills came from three players as Jeter and Hinkey had three each and Robinson added two.
Following the timeout at the 11-4 mark by the Lady Vols, the Rebels continued to pour it on, winning the next six scores to force Patrick to burn his second and final timeout with his team trailing 17-5.The 12th and final point of the Ole Miss run saw Wells record another kill on a tip on the very next play before a shot by Jeter finally stopped the bleeding little bit.
Just two plays later, a blast by Hinkey sparked a four-point UT rally, but I was way too little, too late. The teams traded the next six scores before a 3-0 Ole Miss spree ended the set and tied the match at intermission.
The Lady Vols got back on track in the third set, shaking off another early deficit and a hard-fighting Ole Miss squad to claim the frame, 25-20. Tennessee turned to its middle blockers to turn the momentum, as Hinkey and Harrison combined to hit .429 with nine kills on just 14 swings. Cikra added three kills on just six attacks and tallied two blocks as well.
Trailing 9-7 early on, the Big Orange quickly regained the lead by rattling off a quartet of scores in a row. Jeter opened the run with a kill from the outside and Hinkey followed with an angle shot down the right side of the court. Senior Emily Steinbeck then served a floater that just caught the back-right corner over the shoulder of an Ole Miss defender before Cikra took a huge swing from the right side that hugged the line for a kill and forced Rebel Head Coach Joe Getzin to call his first timeout of the stanza with his team suddenly down 11-9.
UT continued to slowly add to its advantage until it reached four with the scoreboard reading 19-15 following an Ole Miss attack error. At that point, however, the Rebels quickly moved within just a single score by winning the next three points.
A timeout by Patrick halted that comeback attempt in its tracks though as Cikra and Hinkey posted back-to-back kills and then joined forces on a block to return the Lady Vol lead to four at 22-18. Tennessee would close out the frame just moments later, taking a 2-1 lead in the contest following a kill by Fowler and a Rebel miscue.
The Big Orange finished off its 23rd victory of the season with another 25-20 triumph in the fourth set. UT utilized a balanced offensive attack with Robinson and Cikra recording four kills each, Jeter adding three and Fowler blasting out two.
This time, it was the Orange and White that raced out to an early lead, using a pair of three-point runs, separated only by two Rebel scores, to move ahead 11-8. Ole Miss would keep fighting, however, taking the lead back at the 14-13 mark following a three-score spree of its own.
At that point though, the Lady Vols took full control of the match, answering the Rebel run with a 7-1 tear, capped off by consecutive blocks by Harrison and Fowler. Those two putbacks moved Fowler into 10th place all-time on the UT career blocks chart and moved the score to 20-15 in Tennessee's favor. From there, the Big Orange would cruise until Jeter brought the match to an end when she dropped a hammer down the left-side line for UT's 25th and final point.
Tennessee will close out the regular-season portion of its schedule on Wed., Nov. 24, when it travels to Lexington, Ky., to take on border-rival Kentucky at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. Following that contest, the Big Orange will await its NCAA Tournament fate which will be announced between 3-3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 28 on ESPNews.