Cynthia Buggs had a match-high 17 digs against the Gators.
Nov. 22, 2003
The fourth-seed University of Tennessee (21-9, 10-6 SEC) fell to top-seeded and third-ranked Florida (30-1, 16-0 SEC) by a score of 3-0 (23-30, 24-30, 23-30) in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Volleyball Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Tennessee led throughout the early stages of game one, however, Florida took command for good when it gained a 19-18 lead, then went on to win by a count of 30-23. Freshman Cynthia Buggs provided 10 digs for UT in game one, while junior Michelle Piantadosi led the way with five kills. UT provided another test to the Gators in game two, but UF prevailed in the end with a 30-24 triumph. Buggs chipped in four more digs for the Lady Vols in game two, while Piantadosi and junior Whitney Gifford registered four kills each. UT continued its tough play against Florida in game three, but the Gators continued to perform well also and sealed the match with a 30-23 victory.
"I was very proud of the way we played today," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "We played hard and battled with Florida for each point. They are just a great team that makes great plays. As a young team we are very excited about the future."
Piantadosi led Tennessee with 11 kills in the match, followed by nine from Gifford and eight from sophomore Amy Morris. Buggs finished with a match-high 17 digs, while freshman Sarah Blum tallied four blocks. Sophomore setter Julie Knytych dished out 32 assists, and now has a total of 1,361 helpers this year, which ties her with Molly Mooney for the fifth-highest single-season total in UT history.
The match marked the third clash between Tennessee and Florida this season, with the Gators claiming both previous matches. During UT and UF's second meeting of the year on Oct. 31 in Knoxville, the Lady Vols played more consistently against Florida than did any SEC team all season. In that match, the game scores were 30-24, 30-25, 30-24, and no other league school has been able to score more than 20 points in all three games during a match against UF. After today's SEC semifinal match, the Lady Vols now have been able to accomplish that feat twice.
UF is coming off an unprecedented regular-season during which it posted an unblemished 16-0 SEC record, while winning every match by a 3-0 score. The Gators are currently in the midst of an NCAA-record stretch during which they have won 88 consecutive games. Additionally, Florida has won the SEC Tournament 12 of the last 13 years, with 1997 being the only exception when Arkansas defeated UF in the finals.
The Lady Vols were making their 25th appearance in the SEC Tournament, which ties them with LSU for the most in league history. The Orange and White's all-time SEC Tourney record is now 25-23, as the squad boasts three league titles (1981, '82, '84) and four runner-up finishes (1979, '80, '83, '88).
The Orange and White now have one final regular-season match remaining against Winthrop in Rock Hill, S.C., on Fri., Nov. 28. After that, the Lad Vols will find out on Sun., Nov. 30 if they receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. The NCAA First Round matches will take place at various campus sites, beginning on Dec. 4.