“We won this match with the hard work, sacrifice and dedication this team put in during the summer and off-season,” UT head coach Rob Patrick said. “We got stronger as the match wore on and our conditioning pulled us through the final two games, allowing us to play at a higher level than Marquette. I challenged our team during the break to pick up its defensive intensity because I felt Marquette had too much success on offense in the first two games. I am proud of the way our team took that heart for the rest of the match.”
Fowler was the Orange and White’s top offensive weapon, recording 19 kills, 42 attacks and three aces, all personal bests. Sophomore setter Jena Berg paced the Lady Vol attack and collected her third double-double of the season. The Bristol, Wis., native surpassed the 50-dig mark for the first time in her career with 52, in addition to notching 13 digs. She also set career highs with 10 attacks and six blocks in the contest.
“One of the things we felt we could do in this match was isolate Nikki (Fowler) after we established our middle hitters at the beginning,” Patrick said. “She is extremely versatile in that she can hit from any of the three front-row positions, as well as the back row. Also, now that we have a consistent starting rotation, Jena (Berg) is able to find Nikki more easily in transition.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Goldman tallied a personal-best 27 digs in the triumph, marking the highest UT total since 2005 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Amy Morris recorded 42 at Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005 and tying the 16th-highest single-match total in school history. Fellow classmates Leah Hinkey and Kylie Marshall also posted strong defensive efforts with 10 blocks and 14 digs, respectively.
“I see Chloe as the key to our success this year,” Patrick said. “She is anchoring our passing and defense in a very consistent manner and is providing a tremendous amount of energy to our team. I am proud of the way she has come in and filled a very difficult position for us.”
Led by six kills from junior Mindy Flynn and four each from Hinkey and sophomore Farren Powe, UT took the early advantage, with a 30-26 win in the first game. Goldman also added eight digs defensively in the effort. The two squads were evenly matched for most of the frame, but the Lady Vols were able to pull away late to win it. It was Marquette, however, which garnered the first significant lead of the set, moving ahead 11-6 behind the strength of a five-point outburst. The Orange and White quickly fought back though, shrinking the lead to one, 12-13, after Hinkey blasted a kill through the block attempt and a Marquette attack error.
The Golden Eagles were able to hold off the Big Orange for a little while longer, but, with the score at 17-19 in favor of MU, Tennessee rattled off three consecutive scores to take its first lead of the game. The two squads continued to battle until the score reached 26-all, and the Lady Vols took over. Flynn blasted a cross-court laser from the right side to give her team the lead and MU followed with an attack error. The set ended after Fowler recorded a kill that landed long after being touched at the net and another Golden Eagle miscue.
Despite a furious comeback attempt, the Big Orange was unable to hold off Marquette in a hard-fought second game, falling 30-25. Fowler came alive offensively for UT, pounding out eight kills in the frame. Marquette held a slim, two-point advantage at 13-11 before making a decided effort to put the game away. Sparked by three consecutive kills from Jenn Brown, Kimberley Todd and Ashlee Fisher, the Golden Eagles proceeded to soar out to a 25-17 lead, by winning 12 points in an 18-play stretch.
Down and seemingly out, Tennessee refused to go into the break without a fight. Just eight points later, the Lady Vols had cut the MU lead down to two, with seven scores broken up by only a single Marquette kill. During that stretch, four different Lady Vols pounded out kills, including a pair from Fowler, who also added an ace to boot. That was as close as the Orange and White would get, unfortunately, as the Golden Eagles claimed four of the final four scores in the set to tie the match.
The Big Orange wasted no time jumping ahead in game three, cruising to a 4-0 lead straight out of the locker room. After extending the advantage to 8-5, junior Milan Clarke tipped one over the MU block to start a six-point run that also featured a solo block by Powe and Hinkey and Berg combining to send back a MU attack. Marquette was able to put together a three-point rally shortly thereafter to move the score to 16-9, but it would not be able to get any closer than that for the remainder of the game. Sophomore Carol Cheade finished off the frame in style, with a kill in her lone swing of the match.
It took a little while, but once Tennessee got rolling in the fourth game, it did not stop. Trailing 14-11, the Big Orange offense was having trouble getting its engines going. Consecutive smashes by Fowler ended that in a hurry, and after back-to-back blocks, the Orange and White found itself ahead for the first time in the set, 15-14. A kill by Todd tied it up again, but UT went on another tear, this time for five straight points, punctuated by a triple block by Berg, Hinkey and Clarke, to take the lead for good. Later on, with the score at 27-22, Fowler decided enough was enough. The 6-2 outside hitter joined forces with Flynn to send back a Golden Eagle attack before notching a kill of her own to give her team eight chances to clinch the match. It would only need one though, as Fowler and Hinkey recorded another block to seal the victory.
The Big Orange will return home to open the SEC portion of its schedule at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, when Alabama makes the trip to Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville, Tenn. The match will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Net South. The Orange and White will take on Mississippi State two days later at 1:30 p.m.