UT Volleyball Defeated by Creighton at Illini Classic

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. ??? The University of Tennessee volleyball team (4-2) dropped its first match in two weeks, falling in three sets to Creighton (4-3), 30-25, 30-24, 30-22, at the State Farm Illini Classic in Champaign, Ill. Sophomore Leah Hinkey followed up her MVP performance at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic last weekend with another strong effort, recording career-highs with 16 kills and 31 attacks in the defeat.

???My hat is off to Creighton,??? Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. ???They played a very consistent match and put a lot of pressure on us with their strong serving and ball control. I was happy with our effort and, for the most part, with our defense, but our outside hitters could not get on track offensively and that hurt us in the later stages of all three games.???

Hinkey shouldered the majority of the offensive load for Tennessee, as she was the lone Lady Vol with more than five kills and hit at a .323 clip (16-6-31). On the defensive side, fellow classmate Chloe Goldman dug up a team-best 19 Creighton attacks, while Hinkey and junior Milan Clarke tied for the squad-high in blocks with five each. Sophomore Jaye Loyd and freshman Nikki Fowler also had solid performances, tallying 12 and 11 digs, respectively.

The initial frame saw the two teams engage in a see-saw battle, with the Bluejays emerging victorious, 30-25. The Big Orange staked claim to the early lead, 3-1, behind a pair of blocks and a kill by sophomore Farren Powe. Creighton immediately fought back, however, tying the set at three with two blocks of its own. The score remained deadlocked until CU rattled off points on 11 of the next 15 plays, capped off by a four-point streak, to move ahead 21-14. Tennessee was not done yet, though, as it was able to shrink the lead to just one at 25-26, with a strong push highlighted by three kills, a block and an ace by Hinkey. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, the final four points all went Creighton???s way to put UT in an early one-game hole.

The Bluejays jumped ahead early in the second set and never looked back en route to a 30-24 triumph. After sophomore Kylie Marshall knocked a kill off the CU block to make it 1-1, Creighton took advantage of three UT miscues and added a kill and an ace to go up 6-1. Tennessee quickly worked its way back into the game and tied the set and tied the set at nine by scoring on eight of the following 11 plays, including a five-point spree to close out the rally.

Bluejay head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth called a timeout to calm her troops and it proved to be just the right move, as her squad came out of the break on fire. CU attempted to put the game away, blasting its way to a 19-13 advantage. Once again, Tennessee showed its toughness and cut the lead down to two at 20-22, but the Bluejays offense proved to be too much and strung together a seven-point outburst, featuring five kills, to take a commanding 28-20 lead. UT tried to mount one final rally with a trio of scores, but could not overcome the entire deficit and went into the locker room down by two games.

In the third and final frame, the Lady Vols were unable to put together a consistent offensive effort, falling 22-30 in the set and dropping its second match of the season. The set remained tight until Creighton took a three-point advantage and extended it to nine in just 16 plays. With the score at 26-17, Tennessee tried to stage one last comeback attempt with a four-point streak, but its inconsistency continued as CU used three UT errors and a kill by Allie Oelke to end the contest.

The Big Orange will return to the court tomorrow and face either Marquette at Noon or Illinois at 3 p.m. CT, depending on the outcome of tonight???s contest between the Golden Eagles and Fighting Illini. The match will mark the end of the Orange and White???s non-conference tournament schedule for the season.





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