Sept. 18, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (3-3) will close out a season-long, five-match homestand this weekend as it opens the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule with matches against Mississippi State (5-6) and Kentucky (7-2). The Lady Vols will take on the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena on Fri., Sept. 19, before hosting the Wildcats at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The Big Orange got back on track this past weekend, christening its new home court at Thompson-Boling Arena with a pair of wins at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic in Knoxville to improve its overall record to 5-4 on the season. Following a tough week in Denver, the Lady Volunteers recorded victories over both Gardner-Webb and Dayton, sandwiched around a hard-fought, five-set loss to No. 17 Illinois.
Sophomore Nikki Fowler was the lone UT representative on the all-tournament team after recording a team-high 49 kills and 131 attacks during the competition, including double-doubles against the Fighting Illini and the Flyers. Junior libero Chloe Goldman also played well, tallying a tournament-high 71 digs, including a season-best 36 in a five-set victory over Dayton. That total marked the fourth-highest single-match total in school history and was just six off the UT standard set of 42 set by Amy Morris at Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005. For their efforts, Goldman and Fowler were named SEC Defensive Player of the Week and Lady Vol Athlete of the Week, respectively.
The Lady Vols will hit the road next weekend as they travel to take on LSU and Georgia. UT will square off with the Tigers at 7 p.m. CT on Fri., Sept. 26, in Baton Rouge, La., before making the trip to Athens, Ga., to take on the Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. on Sun., Sept. 28.
Tennessee will be participating in the SEC "Together We Can Drive" this weekend. Free admission will be provided to any fan that donates two non-perishable food items.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE
Tennessee will open the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule against Mississippi State at 7 p.m. ET on Friday in Thompson-Bowling Arena.
MSU hosted the Bulldog Club Invitational last weekend, defeating Centenary in the opener before dropping decisions to Central Arkansas and Memphis. Freshman outside hitter Faith Steinwedell was the lone State player to earn all-tournament team honors after tallying 17 kills, seven aces, 34 digs and four blocks. She and fellow classmate, middle blocker Mandy Mellencamp, have drawn starts in all 11 matches in 2008.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are led by sophomore middle blocker Ashley Newsome who established a career high with 11 blocks in MSU's 3-0 midweek victory over Jackson State on Sept. 9. She now leads all players in the SEC with 49 total blocks, including 15 solo putbacks. The Bulldogs, the league leader in service aces in each of the past four seasons, have returned to the top spot in the SEC this week with a league-best 75 through the first 11 matches of the season. They average 1.83 aces per set as a team and have five players who have already reached double figures in aces, led by junior Ioana Demian's total of 15.
Although Mississippi State snapped a 15-match UT winning streak with a 3-2 victory in Starkville last season, the Lady Vols hold a commanding 33-7 in the all-time series between the two schools.
Following a showdown with Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Fri., Sept. 19, Alabama will head to Rocky Top to take on the Lady Vols.
The Crimson Tide is currently in the midst of a three-match winning streak having swept its Crimson Tide Invitational Tournament. The Tide rolled past Samford, 3-0, South Florida, 3-1 and Murray State, 3-0. Brooks Webster was named MVP of the tournament posting 15 kills against Samford and South Florida and 14 against Murray State. Alyssa Meuth and Elizabeth Salstrand both earned all-tournament honors as well.
Webster leads the Tide in five statistical categories including kills (124), kills per set (3.76), where she also ranks No. 2 in the SEC, total attacks (313), points (147.5) and points per set (4.47). Meuth ranks second on the team in kills with 79 total, 2.72 per set, and points 83.5 (2.88 per set), while sophomore Calli Johnson leads the blocking front having collected 34 total rejections on the season, good for an average of 1.03 per set which puts her at No. 8 in the conference.
In addition, Johnson sits atop the SEC's hitting percentage list where she has posted a .410 percentage over the first nine matches. Also holding a No. 1 ranking is Mary Catherine Aune with 19 service aces (0.61 per set). Lauren Martin has set up the bulk of the offense this season tallying nearly 10 assists per set where she ranks fourth in the league. Holding down the defense is Amy Pauly, who has collected 108 digs in 2008. Her 3.27 digs per match place her eighth among all SEC players.
Tennessee will look to snap a five-match losing streak to the Tide dating back to the 2005 campaign. Despite their current slide against Alabama, UT still leads the all-time series, 25-10.
LADY VOLS LOOKING TO HELP OFF THE COURT TOO
The Lady Vol volleyball team is supporting a pair of charitable causes this season in the SEC "Together We Can" food drive and the Susan G. Komen Foundation's "Dig for the Cure."
The SEC "Together We Can" food drive will take place this weekend as barrels will be placed at Thompson-Boling Arena to collect donations of non-perishable food that will be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. Fans donating two items will be given free admission to the match.
The Lady Vols will also participate in the Susan G. Komen "Dig for the Cure" on Fri., Oct. 3, when it takes on Auburn at 7 p.m. Fans can make either a flat donation or donate per dig as UT raises money in support of breast cancer research. Last season, UT averaged just over 17 digs per set in two contests against Auburn.
For more information about donating to either cause, please visit www.UTLadyVols.com.
PATRICK CLOSING IN ON RECORD
Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick needs just four more victories this season to become the all-time winningest volleyball coach in Tennessee history. He currently ranks second with a 226-129 record (.637) behind only Bob Bertucci who recorded a 229-115 (.662) mark from 1979-86.
He became just the second coach in UT volleyball history to record 200 career wins with a 3-1 victory over Arkansas on Sept. 17, 2006.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native has led a resurgence of volleyball on the UT campus since his arrival in 1997. Six of the eight years prior to that season, UT had recorded losing campaigns, while Patrick has earned a winning record in nine of the last 10 years, en route to setting the school mark for consecutive seasons above .500 with nine straight from 1998-2006. He bested the previous mark of seven (1978-84) with his 17th win of the 2006 campaign.
UT HISTORY IN HOME OPENERS
Throughout the years, the University of Tennessee volleyball team has amassed a stellar 26-5 (.839) record in home openers, including a 3-0 triumph over Gardner-Webb this season. During the Rob Patrick era, the Lady Vols have been even better with an 11-1 (.917) mark in his 11 years at the helm. The lone loss during that span was to LSU on Sept. 21, 2001.
FRESHMEN MAKING AN IMPACT
The much heralded UT rookie class is already beginning to make an impact on the court this season with three different freshman having already earned starting nods through the team's first nine contests.
Mahoney is second on the squad with 164 assists and 4.43 assists per game this season in addition to having collected seven aces and 51 digs. In just five matches, Hilby has accumulated 24 kills and 24 blocks, while Jeter has 13 kills, three aces, 20 digs and 11 blocks in seven contests.
UT CLAIMS TITLE AT MARQUETTE KICKOFF TOURNAMENT
The University of Tennessee volleyball team opened its season in style, claiming the Marquette Kickoff Tournament title with three wins in two days on Aug. 29-30.
UT christened the campaign with a three-set sweep over in-state rival Chattanooga, 25-13, 25-14, 25-18, on Aug. 29, before taking out Houston in five sets, 25-12, 25-19, 20-25, 19-25, 15-10, and Marquette in four frames, 25-14, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, the following day.
Sophomore Nikki Fowler took home tournament Most Valuable Player honors as well as SEC Offensive Player of the Week accolades after knocking out a team-high 41 kills over the course of the weekend, while senior Milan Clarke and juniors Kylie Marshall and Chloe Goldman earned spots on the all-tournament team as well.
CHANGING THINGS UP A BIT
Following a tough season in 2007, UT Head Coach Rob Patrick decided to change up his recruiting tactics a little bit in an attempt to jumpstart his team. For the first time during his tenure at Rocky Top, Patrick signed a player from the state of Tennessee when middle blocker DeeDee Harrison made the decision to attend Tennessee.
He also went a different route by bringing in junior setter Michaela Hanakova, a transfer from Salt Lake Community College. She is the first junior college player to come to UT since Laura Paul joined the program from Southwest Missouri State - West Plains for the 1999 and 2000 campaigns. Her arrival came just one year after Erika Brez came to Rocky Top from Parkland College in 1998.
FOWLER NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-SEC TEAM
University of Tennessee sophomore outside hitter Nikki Fowler was named to the 2008 preseason All-Southeastern Conference team on Aug. 21. The poll was the first in the history of the conference and featured nine athletes.
Fowler was the only underclassman to make the squad, which also consists of seven seniors and one junior. Each SEC head volleyball coach voted for seven players and no ties were broken. The Eastern Division had five players recognized, while the West had four. LSU led all teams with three selections, and Florida had two.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Fowler became just the second player in UT history to garner a postseason player of the year award during her initial season at Rocky Top, being named 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year. She also earned a spot on the conference's all-freshman team.
The first SEC Freshman of the Year in Tennessee history, Fowler played a critical role in a number of areas for the Lady Vols during her rookie campaign, leading the Big Orange with 370 kills, 1,081 total attacks and 449.0 points and averaging a team high 3.27 kills per game and 3.97 points per game. She also stood second on the squad with 26 aces and 98 blocks, third on the team with 98 assists and 0.87 blocks per game and fourth with 281 digs and 2.49 digs per game.
The only other Lady Vol to claim a postseason player of the year award is Amy Morris, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year following the 2005 season.
UT PICKED TO FINISH THIRD IN SEC EAST
For the second consecutive season, the University of Tennessee volleyball team has been picked to finish third in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, as determined by a vote of the league's 11 head coaches, the conference office announced. With a total of 33 points, the Lady Vols were selected to finish behind league-title favorites Florida and Kentucky.
Following Florida (11 points), Kentucky (18) and Tennessee (33) in the East were Georgia (38) and South Carolina (40). LSU, meanwhile, was the unanimous selection to win the Western Division, with Ole Miss (21), Alabama (27), Arkansas (41), Auburn (44) and Mississippi State (52) rounding out the group.
The Gators received the majority of the votes for SEC champion with seven, while LSU earned three and the Wildcats picked up a single nomination in the preseason survey.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER
Harrison's father, former Vanderbilt star Dennis "Bigfoot" Harrison, spent 10 seasons as a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. In addition, her brother, David Harrison, is currently a center on the Indiana Pacers roster in the NBA. Her father earned a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl in 1981, while her brother was named to the All-Big XII First Team and earned Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors at Colorado in 2004. In all, Harrison has 11 siblings, including five brothers and six sisters.
Meanwhile, Jeter's father, Gary, was an All-American defensive tackle for Southern California, a top-five draft pick and played in the NFL for 13 seasons with the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. During the 1985 season with the Rams, he was a teammate of and played on the same defensive line as DeeDee's father, Dennis.
LADY VOL OLYMPIC CONNECTION
While the 2008 Beijing Olympics took place halfway across the globe, there was at least one connection that linked Tennessee volleyball to Olympic gold, as UT Head Coach Rob Patrick is a former coach of two-time beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh.
During the 1996 season, Walsh was a freshman on the NCAA National Champion Stanford team on which Patrick was an assistant coach. That year, Walsh was named National Freshman of the Year and first team All-American after she and Patrick helped lead the Cardinal to a Pac-10 title and a victory over Hawaii in the national championship match.
MOVIN' TO AN ARENA...DOWN BY THE RIVER
After spending 10 seasons in Stokely Athletics Center, the Lady Vol volleyball team has made the short move down to the Tennessee River to play in Thompson-Boling Arena for the 2008 campaign.
The Big Orange hopes that it can bring with it the tradition of home-court dominance that it displayed in Stokely, where it amassed an impressive 98-34 (.742) record following a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed prior to the 1998 season.
Another tradition that UT hopes to continue at Thompson-Boling is that of record-breaking attendance. Tennessee has competed in TBA on two prior occasions, setting the top two home attendance marks in the process, including a crowd of 3,311 that came to see the Orange and White take on Georgia on Oct 28, 2005. In 2008, the volleyball configuration at TBA will provide seating for up to 7,000 Big Orange faithful.
BRINGING IN THE BEST
The University of Tennessee volleyball program's 2008 recruiting class has been ranked as the 13th-best group of incoming players in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com.
The talented class features six student-athletes, including five freshmen and a junior college transfer.
Joining the Big Orange this fall are 5-7 defensive specialist Amanda Friday (Springfield, Va.), 6-3 middle blocker Alyssa Hilby (Tacoma, Wash.), 5-10 setter Kelsey Mahoney (Fort Worth, Texas), 5-11 outside hitter Kayla Jeter (Solon, Ohio), 6-3 middle blocker DeeDee Harrison (Nashville, Tenn.) and 5-8 junior setter Michaela Hanakova (Brno, Czech Republic).
LADY VOLS ON TV
The University of Tennessee volleyball team will make at least two appearances on television this season. The Lady Vols will first hit the airwaves on Sun., Oct. 12, when they travel to Gainesville, Fla., to take on the University of Florida at 1:30 p.m. The match will be shown live on Sun Sports.
UT will also be on television on Sun., Nov. 16 when South Carolina makes the trip to Rocky Top for a 1:30 p.m. contest. That match will be tape delayed and broadcast on FOX Sports Regional Networks at 3:30 p.m. that same day.