Aug. 6, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team officially opened the 2009 season for Lady Vol athletics on Thursday afternoon, conducting the first team practice of the year. The Big Orange welcomed five newcomers to a squad that returns 10 letterwinners from last season. UT will be looking to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season after finishing the 2008 campaign with a 22-10 record.
"This time of year is always a lot of fun," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "Everyone is excited to get things going and just full of enthusiasm to kick off the season on the right foot. Overall, I thought we had a very productive practice today. Our players came in and were able to take care of business. One thing that I was particularly pleased to see was how well we were able to control the ball. Hopefully we can come back tomorrow and continue to build off a strong start."
Leading the way for the Big Orange offensively will be junior outside hitter Nikki Fowler, a 2008 American Volleyball Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-American. The Dallas, Texas, native finished her sophomore campaign ranked second in the conference with 3.80 kills per set, en route to becoming the only unanimous selection to the All-SEC First Team. She also led UT in kills (427), kills/set (3.62), attacks (1139), points (493.0) and points/set (4.18). Fowler enters the 2009 campaign ranked third in the UT career record book with 9.57 attack attempts per set and eighth with 3.44 kills per set after two years at Rocky Top.
On the defensive side of the ball, senior Chloe Goldman will pace the squad from the libero position for the third consecutive season. In 2008, the Monterey, Calif., product earned AVCA Honorable Mention All-Region honors after accumulating 511 digs to finish with the second-highest single-season total in school history. That mark falls behind only her own record of 628 digs set in 2007, while her average of 4.56 digs per set ranked third all-time in the program's single-season annals. For her career, Goldman sits on top of the Lady Vol digs per set chart with a three-year average of 4.21 and ranks third in career digs with a total of 1,187. She needs just 288 more digs to surpass Kristy Dobson's school record of 1,474, which she set from 1988-91.
Also returning for the Lady Vols are seniors Carol Cheade, Kylie Marshall and Farren Powe, junior Leah Hinkey, sophomores Amanda Friday, Kayla Jeter and Kelsey Mahoney and redshirt freshman DeeDee Harrison. Sophomore Alyssa Hilby, meanwhile, will redshirt this year after suffering a season-ending knee injury this summer.
Donning the Orange and White for the first time this season will be junior Emily Steinbeck, a transfer from UT-Martin, and four highly-regarded freshmen in Leslie Cikra, Jasmine Brown, Rebekah Smith and Natalie Guerra.
Tennessee will open its 2009 schedule at home on Aug. 29 when it kicks off the seventh annual Comcast Lady Vol Classic against 2008 Ohio Valley Conference champion Tennessee Tech at Noon at Thompson-Boling Arena. UT will then square off with the winners of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, Western Kentucky, at 7 p.m. that same day. The final match of the tournament will pit the Lady Vols against Lipscomb at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
LADY VOLS TO HOST FREE HIGH SCHOOL COACHES CLINIC ON SATURDAY
The Lady Vol volleyball team and Head Coach Rob Patrick will host a free high school coaches clinic from 4-7 p.m. this Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Patrick will open the clinic with an hour-long classroom and question-and-answer session from 4-5 p.m. in the volleyball locker room at Thompson-Boling Arena. Participating coaches will then have the opportunity to watch Patrick and his staff in action during a two-hour practice with the team from 5-7 p.m. before a one-hour scrimmage that will last from 7-8 p.m.
"The sport of volleyball has taken some big strides within the state of Tennessee over the past few years and we are very excited about this opportunity to reach out to the community and give something back," Patrick said. "The growth of the sport is entirely due to the hard work and dedication of the high school and club coaches throughout the state and we just want to help out in any way that we can."
For more information, please contact the UT volleyball office at (865) 974-8847 or UTVBCamp@hotmail.com.
4-5 p.m. - Classroom and Q&A Session with Head Coach Rob Patrick
5-7 p.m. - On-court practice with team
7-8 p.m. - Team scrimmage (optional)