Sept. 10, 2011
BY AMANDA PRUITT
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The Tennessee Lady Volunteers wrapped up their preseason tournament schedule with three victories at the Virginia Tech Invitational.
After a slow start against tournament host Virginia Tech on Saturday night, Tennessee hit its stride offensively and powered to a 20-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-17 victory to finish the tournament at Cassell Coliseum.
Sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Robinson was named tournament MVP after pacing the team with 24 kills and 16 digs, which marked the sixth time she has recorded at least 20 kills.
Coming off a sweep against American earlier in the day, the Lady Vols (7-2) began their match against Virginia Tech behind early. The Hokies hit .480 and the Lady Vols hit just .1167 as Virginia Tech took the first set.
After that, however, Tennessee's offense turned around in the final three sets, hitting .455 in the second, .429 in the third and .519 in the fourth.
"We started off slow, but you have to give Virginia Tech a lot of credit," Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick said. "They really played a clean first set, not making many errors. Their attackers did a good job getting it by our block and getting the ball where our diggers weren't.
"After that first set, I was very, very excited with how our team settled down and started to learn what Virginia Tech was doing."
In the second set, the Lady Vols were down 19-15 before coming back to tie the match 20-20 and again at 21-21. Kelsey Robinson recorded three kills in a row to put the Lady Vols up for good.
With Harrison getting kills up the middle, junior Leslie Cikra had more offensive opportunities on the sides. She got five kills in a row and Harrison added another as the Lady Vols closed out the third.
The Lady Vols continued pulling away in the fourth set, and appropriately, Robinson had the tournament's final kill.
Cikra tied her season best with 14 kills and hit .478 (14-3-23), her attack percentage second only to Harrison's .524 (12-1-21). Five Lady Vols hit better than .350.
"A lot of credit for hitting percentage and kills goes to Mary Pollmiller," Patrick said. "She really plays beyond her years. She's able to understand who our hot hitters are. She runs the offense in a clean and consistent manner."
Tennessee starts Southeastern Conference play next week at home against Georgia on Friday and Auburn on Sunday.