Nov. 21, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With the two hottest teams in the Southeastern Conference in action on Wednesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, the Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team had its seven-match winning streak snapped by Texas A&M in the Lady Vols' 11th five-setter of the campaign. The Aggies won the match, 15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 27-29, 15-9.
Texas A&M, which clinched the SEC West last week and also entered the match on a seven-game winning streak, improves to 23-5 on the season and 15-4 in league play. The Big Orange is now 21-7 overall and 14-5 in conference action. Tennessee, which is currently No. 15 in the NCAA RPI rankings, extends the school record to 11 five-setters in one season with this match. UT is 8-3 in those matches.
"It's disappointing. After the first set - where we played very hard and were very organized - we really got unorganized and lost our focus," said head coach Rob Patrick. "We won the first set pretty easily and were in complete control. In the second set, we kind of got lost out there and got a little unorganized. Defensively, we weren't able to sustain the level that we played at in the first set. We let the momentum go to Texas A&M and they carried it through the match."
"We just need to get back at it and be organized," Patrick said. "We just need to try and sustain our focus for a longer period of time. If we can do that, we'll be ok. We're pretty good about dropping the last match and getting on to the next one and moving forward."
Junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson posted her SEC-leading 21st double-double of the season, finishing with 18 kills and 15 digs. The Bartlett, Ill., native added four blocks for the Big Orange. Redshirt senior Kayla Jeter committed just three errors on 31 swings for a .387 hitting mark and added 15 kills for Tennessee. She also posted three blocks, including two solo. Sophomore setter Mary Pollmiller paced UT to a .251 hitting percentage with 53 assists. She added 13 digs for her 18th double-double of the season.
Seniors Leslie Cikra and DeeDee Harrison put down 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Harrison notched seven blocks and hit .333 in the match. Sophomore Olivia Okoro added six more kills and four blocks in the middle.
"I'm excited we were able to get the ball to DeeDee and Olivia in the middle as much as we did," said Patrick. "I was actually pleased with how low-error we played. We didn't have a lot of unforced errors. The problem was we weren't doing a great job defensively and that starts at the net. Give Texas A&M credit... they got the ball past our block so you've got to give them some credit."
Defensively, junior libero Ellen Mullins finished with 17 digs to lead four UT players with double-digit scoops. Freshman Bianca Arellano added a career-best 11 digs in the match, while sophomore defensive specialist Nikki Brice finished with five.
"Ellen did a great job of passing in the match," said Patrick. "She was able to help us with our offense. We weren't able to get the kills - Texas A&M did a nice job defensively on us. We got the swings we wanted, Mary did a nice job setting and moving the ball around, but we weren't able to get the kills."
Led by a five-kill effort from Jeter, the Lady Vols came flying out of the gate to hit .387 in the opening set and defeat the Aggies by a convincing 25-15 margin. Tennessee committed just three errors on 31 swings and had 15 kills. UT held A&M to a 0.77 attacking clip in the opener.
The Big Orange set the tone with a 6-1 run midway through the set that consisted of an excellent display of hustle from Arellano. The Phoenix, Ariz., native chased down a ball to extend a rally that would eventually lead to a big block from Harrison and Robinson. Jeter posted a .625 attacking line with no errors on eight swings, while Robinson and Harrison each added three spikes in the first. The duo also combined for four blocks. Pollmiller paced UT's attacking success with 12 assists, while Mullins had five crucial digs.
The Aggies responded in the second set, which consisted of 15 ties and seven lead changes. With the teams level at 20 late in the game, A&M finished out the set on a 5-2 run to level the match at 1-1 heading into the break. The Aggies did a complete turnaround offensively, hitting .326 in the second set and putting down 19 kills. Senior Alisia Kastmo led the way with seven kills for A&M in the game. Jeter added four more for UT to bring her match total to nine at the break.
Texas A&M carried its momentum and continued its efficient swinging after the break, hitting .471 in the third set to take a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-20 win. The Aggies had 20 kills and only four errors on 34 swings. A&M setter Allie Sawatzky had 15 helpers in the set to lead the attack. The Aggies went up 5-0 to start and never looked back, as they had three players with at least four swings commit no errors and combine for 12 putaways. Robinson reached double-double numbers in the match with six kills and four digs in the third.
The Lady Vols led 24-20 and were on the verge of forcing a fifth set when Texas A&M rallied for four-consecutive points. The squads traded points over the next few serves, and Cikra eventually gave Tennessee its seventh set-point opportunity of the frame at 28-27. A&M's Lindsey Miller went up for the swing on the right side, but airmailed the ball out across the court, giving UT a 29-27 fourth-set win. Cikra and Robinson each added five kills in the game, committing just three combined errors on 24 swings. The duo hit .333 and .308, respectively.
With the fifth set tied at 5-5, the Aggies broke it open and gained control with a 4-0 run, which included two kills and a block from Miller. Texas A&M went on to win the set by a 15-9 margin and hand the Lady Vols its second loss in the past 14 matches.
After Thanksgiving, the Orange and White is back in action at Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday night. Tennessee welcomes Mississippi State (4-24, 0-19) for the regular season finale at 7 p.m.