Dec. 2, 2011
By Todd Mounce, Media Relations Graduate Assistant
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A stingy Ohio State defense simply proved too much on Friday, as the 14th-seeded Tennessee volleyball team saw its season come to a close with a hard-fought five-set loss, 25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 25-22, 12-15, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.
"Ohio State played a great match," Lady Vol head volleyball coach Rob Patrick said. "They were very aggressive in all facets of the game, but I'm very proud of the way our players gave everything they had. The one thing I always tell our players is we can always walk off the court when we have given everything and left it on the court. We did that today."
The loss ends one of the most successful seasons in Lady Vol history as the Southeastern Conference champions finished with a 28-4 overall record, including a near-perfect 14-1 mark at home. Both the overall attendance and average attendance figures were shattered this season, as 17,852 fans came out to support the Big Orange, with average crowd of 1,190 at each match.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team for giving 100 percent every single day in practice and 100 percent every day in our matches," Patrick said. "We're obviously very disappointed that our season is over right now, but my hats are off to the players for playing as hard as they could for as long as they could. They represented UT tremendously not only this season, but in this match."
Defense was the key for the Buckeyes as they limited the Orange and White to their third-lowest hitting percentage of the season at .171. On the other side of the net, it was the Tennessee defense that kept it in the match, setting the single-match school record for an NCAA Tournament contest with 35 blocks.
"The game plan was there defensively," Patrick explained. "I thought we did a pretty good job of that. We held them to basically a .200 hitting percentage (.207), which is below their average. We had 20 blocks, which means we put our blocks in the right spot. Defensively, I thought our team did a wonderful job of carrying out the game plan."
As she did all year, sophomore Kelsey Robinson paced the Big Orange with her 23rd double-double, accumulating a team-high 17 kills to go along with 16 digs, two blocks and an ace. The 2011 SEC Player of the Year finished with 561 kills, good for the fourth-highest single-season total in Tennessee history.
Behind Robinson, it was a trio of freshmen that carried the load. First-year Lady Vols Shealyn Kolosky and Mary Pollmiller each notched double-doubles and Tiffany Baker produced a solid all-around effort with 13 kills, six digs and a personal-best eight blocks.
Kolosky's double-double consisted of a pair of career-highs with 10 blocks and 11 kills on .391 hitting, while Pollmiller tallied 48 assists and 19 digs, also a career high.
First Team All-SEC selections DeeDee Harrison and Leslie Cikra also pounded out double digit kills, as for the first time all season five Lady Vols recorded 10 kills or more. Against the Buckeyes, Harrison, a Nashville, Tenn., product tallied 12 kills, while Cikra finished with 10.
Friday's offensive effort marked the first time a Tennessee team had five players with 10-plus kills since the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament versus Texas A&M (Dec. 4, 2004).
The loss ends the career of UT's lone senior Kelsey Mahoney, who helped the Lady Vols reach four NCAA Tournaments and post a combined record of 99-29 in her four years at Rocky Top.
In what all came down to a race to 15 in the fifth set, Tennessee started strong, going on a 3-0 run after the Buckeyes scored the first point. Kolosky, Pollmiller and Robinson all blasted kills to give UT the 3-1 early advantage. Five straight from OSU gave the Buckeyes the lead, 6-3, which resulted in a UT timeout.
Down four, 9-5, Tennessee put together a 3-0 rally and scored five of the ensuing six to knot the set up at 10 all. In that span, Robinson, Harrison and Cikra all had kills, while the Buckeyes had a pair of attack errors. Shots from Baker again tied the match at 11 and 12, but that was the final points the Lady Vols would score.
Ohio State (21-14) ended the set and the match on a 3-0 run to down the Big Orange and advance to the NCAA Regionals next week in Gainesville.
The Lady Vols and the Buckeyes split the first four points of the opening set prior to OSU putting together a 4-0 run to record a 6-2 lead. Tennessee followed that up with a spurt of its own, rattling off six-straight points to claim an 8-6 advantage. Baker propelled the run, tallying a pair of kills, while Kolosky also blasted a ball down, Mullins recorded an ace and Kolosky and Baker combined for two blocks.
Up one, 10-9, Tennessee scored four of the ensuing five to push its lead to four, 14-10, led by a kill and a solo block from Robinson and a kill from Pollmiller and Kolosky. With UT leading 18-14, the Buckeyes scored three in a row, resulting in a Lady Vol timeout.
The break was critical for the Orange and White, as they scored the next two points by way of a Kolosky bomb and a block from Kolosky and Pollmiller to make the score 20-17. UT had a four-point lead on two occasions late, 23-19 and 24-20, but Ohio State clawed back into the set and cut its deficit to just one, 24-23. Baker ended the set with her fourth kill of the frame, giving Tennessee the opening game 25-23.
After splitting the first four points of set two, Ohio State grabbed a 4-2 lead prior to the Big Orange notching four-straight tallies, three of which were blocks. Cikra sparked the rally with a kill, while Kolosky had a hand in sending three Ohio State attacks back.
The Buckeyes would score five of the next six to reclaim a 9-7 advantage, but UT answered with a 4-0 run of its own. Two kills from Robinson, one from Harrison and a block from Pollmiller and Cikra allowed the Orange and White to reclaim the lead, 11-10. Ohio State evened the game at 14, but a kill from Cikra and a combined block from Harrison and Baker pushed UT's lead back to two, 14-12.
The set would be tied at points 14, 16, 17 and 18 before OSU would take a two-point advantage at 20-18, forcing the Lady Vols to take a timeout. A Buckeye service error and a Robinson kill got UT to within one, 21-20, but Ohio State scored four of the final five points to win the frame, 25-21.
Set three was a back-and-forth affair throughout, as OSU held a slim 4-3 advantage to begin the frame. The Buckeyes extended their lead to as many as four, 11-7, before slams from Harrison and Kolosky and a Baker stuff after an Orange and White timeout made the score 11-10. Ohio State would counter, scoring the next three to extend its lead again to four, 14-10.
The Scarlet and Grey went on to lead by as many as five, 17-12 and 18-13, but a Lady Vol timeout resulted in UT scoring five of six to get within one, 19-18. UT was the beneficiary of two Buckeye attack errors, in addition to a pair of blocks and a kill from Robinson.
With the score 20-18 in favor of the Buckeyes, a kill off the arm of Cikra and two OSU attack errors gave UT its first lead of the set, 21-20. Ohio State caught up to the Orange and White at points 21 and 22, finishing out the set by scoring four of the final five to earn a 25-23 set victory.
Tennessee wouldn't go down without a fight, jumping out to a 4-1 advantage in the fourth. After Ohio State recorded the first point, kills from Kolosky and Harrison, a block from Pollmiller and Harrison and an OSU miscue gave the Big Orange the early lead.
Still up a point, 5-4, a Robinson ace, a kill from Baker on an overpass and a Buckeye service error gave UT an 8-4 lead. Tennessee pushed that advantage out to five after Baker and Kolosky notched kills and an error from Ohio State made the score 13-8. Still holding a five-point advantage at 20-15, OSU grabbed four of the next five to cut the deficit to two, 21-19, and force Patrick to use a timeout.
Robinson blasted a kill following the timeout, but two-straight Buckeye points made the score 22-21. Tennessee would never relinquish its lead however, scoring three of the final four to win the set 25-22, by way of a combined block from Harrison and Robinson, a kill by Harrison and a Baker blast.