Nov. 30, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Ellen Mullins set her fifth record this season on Senior Day as Tennessee fell in a hard-fought four-setter (25-22, 22-25, 21-25, 21-25) to the Bulldogs as the Lady Vols finished 9-23 overall and 1-17 in SEC play. Mississippi State improved to 12-20 on the year and 3-15 in league action.
With Mullins' 15 digs on the day, she set the Tennessee record for most digs in a single-season during the 25-point rally scoring era as she accumulated 640 scoops this season. The Nashville native already owns two other spots on the list as she dug up 541 balls in 2012 and 471 scoops in 2011, which rank fourth and sixth on the chart, respectively.
The All-American inked her name at the top of UT's record chart for all-time career digs on Nov. 20 against Florida, when she surpassed Chloe Goldman's record of 1,755 career scoops. With her total against Mississippi State, Mullins finishes her career as a Lady Vol with 1,801 career digs.
"I'm very proud of Ellen for the hard work that she's put in here for four years," head Coach Rob Patrick said. "She's worked very hard to produce the records that she has. Someone who holds five different records in anyone's record books is one of the all-time greats for that program and Ellen has definitely been an all-time great for us. Not only just this past year, but for her whole career. We have been very blessed and honored to have her as a part of this program and I have been blessed and honored to have coached her for four years."
In her final match as a Lady Vol, senior Whitney Heeres put down a team-best and career-high 15 kills with one solo block. She scooped up three balls and added one assist.
"In the short time that she's been here with us at UT, Whitney Heeres has made a huge impact on our program," Patrick said. "She's one of the people who really bought into what Tennessee volleyball is all about. I wish I was able to coach her for a longer period of time because she is a tremendous volleyball player and an even better person. We didn't get to see her full complement of what she can do on the volleyball court due to the short time she was here and also because of her injury. She is someone who has impacted us in a very positive way and I've been very lucky to have been able to coach her and been around for her graduation from Tennessee."
Following Heeres was freshman Ashley Mariani with 12 kills and freshman Jamie Lea added 10. Freshman Raina Hembry hit at a.353 mark on the day with seven kills. Mariani recorded a career-high 19 digs, while junior Nikki Brice added 14 and freshman Bridgette Villano scooped up 12. Sophomore setter Lexi Dempsey dished out 42 assists with five digs.
The Big Orange held the Bulldogs to hitting .119 as a team in the first set. Heeres and Lea led UT with five kills apiece, as Heeres hit a team-best .500 in the opening stanza. Tennessee took the first set, 25-22.
In the second set, the teams were tied on 11 occasions, the last coming at 21-all with a kill by Wishlow, but Mississippi State would end the set on a 5-3 run to win it, 25-22, and tie up the match with one game apiece.
In the third set, Hembry posted back-to-back kills and Mariani followed up with an ace to give UT a 9-7 edge. Mississippi State responded with a 3-0 run to go up 10-9 on the Lady Vols. A kill from Heeres followed by blocks from Lea and Hembry put UT back up 11-10 before State's Dani McCree laid down a kill to tie it up 11-all. The Bulldogs would gain another two points to take back the lead 13-11 before an attack error would give UT back a point. The teams traded points back and forth as the squads would be tied on three occasions before MSU took its first timeout with UT up, 18-17. Out of the timeout, MSU's McCree laid down a kill to knot it back up 18-all. Heeres put down her 10th and 11th kills of the game to put the Lady Vols up by two, 20-18. Mississippi State took its final timeout of the set. The Bulldogs rallied for a 6-0 stint to lead UT 24-20. An attack error by McCree gave Tennessee a point, but MSU would take the set, 25-21, and a 2-1 advantage in the match.
UT used a 4-0 run behind Mariani's serves to trail by one, 14-13, before State's McCree put down a kill. Mariani responded with a kill to pull back within one, 15-14, but back-to-back kills from McCree would give Mississippi State a 17-14 edge in the set. A service error on the Bulldogs would give UT a point, but MSU would gain the next two points to lead 19-15 as Tennessee called a timeout. Out of the break, Hembry put down a kill and Hembry, along with Lea, followed up with a block. A ball handling error on the Bulldogs pulled UT within one at 19-18. MSU went on a 4-0 run to go up 23-19 before Hembry halted the Bulldog momentum. Mississippi State went on to win the fourth set, 25-21, and the match, 3-1.