Aug. 18, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - After hosting its annual media and photo day at Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday, the Tennessee volleyball team returned to action on Saturday for its second intersquad scrimmage of the preseason.
The Lady Vols split into two teams - although players were shuffled around throughout - and played three sets in Pratt Pavilion Saturday night. After a bit of a slow start, the Southeastern Conference favorites picked up the intensity, got into the groove and finished strong.
"They're kind of working through the dog days of the preseason," said head coach Rob Patrick. "They've been in the gym for about eight days or so and they've been working really hard. Their legs are a little bit tired. They may be half a step slower and they need to work through that. I thought they did a pretty good job. We started a little bit slower during the scrimmage, but I was very happy how we finished strong. That's really what counts is being able to push through that and finish strong."
Through eight days of preseason practice, the 16-year skipper has seen loads of improvement, especially on the defensive side.
"Our blocking is better," Patrick said. "That's one thing we've really made an effort with. We're a tall team and pretty physical so that's something I thought we should be better at this year. We made it an emphasis to work on blocking and we really should expect to have more blocks this season. I've been pretty happy to see the development of that as we've gone through our preseason."
ORANGE & WHITE GO THREE SETS
Redshirt senior Kayla Jeter also thought the three-set scrimmage lacked intensity to start, but felt the squad picked it up midway through, finished strong and came away a better team.
"It started off kind of slow in the beginning," said Jeter. "We picked it up in the middle, but overall I think we have little things we need to work on. Every day we're trying to get better."
Specifically, the team continues to hone its defensive skills and has also put a recent emphasis on its serving game.
"The biggest thing we're trying to focus on now is mostly defense and our serving," Jeter said. "We want to be really aggressive from the service line and that starts with confidence. When we're back there, we have to be used to taking those big serves so we can get used to it so in games we're not caught by surprise. Defensively, we just have to play hard and go after those balls more."
Although the Lady Vols welcome back seven returning starters, Patrick believes the young team still has a lot to learn.
"I think we're playing the game better," said Patrick. "We did a nice job of playing our positions and I think as a team we're just playing the game better and being able to make a lot more reads. That's something I'm really excited about because I think that's the next evolution and next step with this young group we have."
WELCOME BACK... TO THE BASICS
After missing last season due to an ACL tear, Jeter returned to the Lady Vol lineup this preseason and got back to the basics in Saturday night's scrimmage.
"The biggest thing for me has always been fundamentals," said Jeter. "It's the little things that make the biggest difference in games. Offense sells tickets, but defense wins games. Making sure we're in the right position, stopped and reading correctly is really important to our success, especially where we want to be later in the season."
Prior to her injury, Jeter entered the 2011 campaign on the Preseason All-SEC Team after earning All-America, All-South Region and All-SEC honors the season before. In addition to her athletic abilities, Jeter brings a wealth of volleyball knowledge and leadership back to the court for the Lady Vols.
"We're excited to have Kayla back," said Patrick. "She's such a great player and to have her type of skills and athleticism on the court again is really fantastic. It allows us to do a lot more things and to have somebody with that much experience on the court is really going to help us. We're very excited about her coming back."
Although it's her fifth and final campaign, Jeter continues to learn every day at practice. Due to a positional change, she'll have to do so rather quickly this season.
"My biggest thing this year - besides coming back - is playing a completely new position," Jeter said. "I have never played right side since being in college. Every single day is a learning day. For me, it's really just getting used to seeing the block and hitting. On the defensive side for blocking, it's getting used to moving to that outside position. It can be tough at times, but I'm just trying to learn a little bit more every day."