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UT Set to Take On Auburn and Georgia


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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ??? The University of Tennessee volleyball team (6-3, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) will make its first league road trip this weekend, traveling to take on Auburn and Georgia on Sept. 21 and 23, respectively. The Lady Vols will attempt to tame the Tigers at 7 p.m. CT on Friday at the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum before battling the Bulldogs at 2 p.m. ET, Sunday at the Ramsey Student Center.

UT opened SEC play last week, hosting Alabama and Mississippi State. The Big Orange dropped a three-game match to the Crimson Tide, but rebounded nicely with a four-game victory over the Bulldogs. Sophomore setter Jena Berg and freshman right-side hitter Nikki Fowler both posted double-doubles in each contest. Against the Crimson Tide, Berg finished with 44 assists and 13 digs, while Fowler added a personal-best tying 17 kills along with 11 digs. Each player repeated the feat just two days later, with Berg amassing a career-high 54 assists to go along with 17 digs and Fowler collecting 13 kills and 10 digs. On the defensive side of the net, sophomore libero Chloe Goldman had another terrific weekend, digging up a team-best 42 attacks in the two matches, including 16 on Friday and 26 on Sunday.

For the season, sophomore Leah Hinkey has been the team???s most effective offensive weapon, amassing a squad-high 94 kills, .333 hitting percentage and 3.03 kills per game, while Berg has paced the team with 11.71 assists per game. Other standouts include Fowler and junior Milan Clarke who are second and third on the team with 81 and 77 kills, respectively, and sophomore Kylie Marshall, who has a team-best 16 aces. Defensively, Goldman ranks third in the SEC with 5.16 digs per game (160 total), while Hinkey is currently fifth in the league with 1.39 blocks per frame (43 total).

Tennessee vs. Auburn Breakdown

Currently 9-4 on the season, Auburn split a pair of contests in the initial weekend of SEC play, with a five-game triumph at South Carolina and a three-game sweep at the hands of Florida.

The Tigers are led offensively by seniors Whitney Jacob, Jelena Sekulic and Rachel Shanks, while freshman Nicki Gerig paces the attack from the setter position. Jacob rates as the eighth most efficient hitter in the SEC with a .337 hitting percentage, while Shanks is seventh in the conference at 3.67 kills per game. Sekulic is not far behind, as she has amassed 140 kills this season, good for 3.11 per frame.

Defensively, junior Jessica Glover and Jacob are the team???s top options with 146 digs and 48 blocks, respectively.

Tennessee vs. Georgia Breakdown

In its first year under head coach Joel McCartney, Georgia has improved by leaps and bounds after finishing 6-25 overall and just 2-18 in conference play in 2006. Proof of this improvement is found in the league statistical rankings, where UGA is found among the top three teams in five different categories, including second in hitting percentage (.297), kills/game (16.42) and service aces/game (2.29).

A trio of juniors in Maria Taylor, Brooke Peugh and Mara Martin and freshman Lindsay Gehan have led the resurgence. Taylor has been the most dominant hitter in the SEC this year with 5.05 kills per game, while Peugh ranks fourth in hitting percentage at .370. Martin, meanwhile, is third in the league with 12.39 assists per game and Gehan leads all players in the blocking category with 1.66 per frame.

Program Records Win No. 700

With a 3-1 victory over Mississippi State on Sept. 16, the Lady Vol volleyball team collected the 700th win in program history. Since records were first kept in 1973, UT has amassed a 700-459-16 record.

Super Sophomores

One of the main keys to success for Tennessee this season will be the continued improvement of its highly-heralded sophomore class. The group of seven elite athletes was ranked as high as the sixth-best recruiting class in the country prior to the 2006 campaign and it has lived up to its billing so far.

All seven players saw competitive action during their rookie campaigns and have pushed for even more playing time this year. Led by 2006 All-SEC Freshman Team member middle blocker Leah Hinkey, the unit also includes this season???s starting setter Jena Berg, libero Chloe Goldman and outside hitter Kylie Marshall, as well as Jaye Loyd, Carol Cheade and Farren Powe.

In 2007, the seven-member sophomore class has accounted for 76 percent of the team???s aces and digs, 49 percent of its kills, 48 percent of the squad???s blocks and 46 percent of UT???s total attacks.

Fowler Making an Impact

Despite the fact that she is just nine matches into her collegiate career, freshman Nikki Fowler has already made a significant impact in the Lady Vol lineup. After making her debut against No. 1 Nebraska, the Dallas, Texas, native used her all-around game to help propel UT to a 3-2 victory over No. 21 Utah. When all was said and done, Fowler was near an almost inconceivable quadruple-double with 10 kills, nine assists, seven digs and seven blocks. She also added a pair of service aces for good measure.

She continued her terrific play Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic, where she helped UT claim its fourth consecutive title in the tournament with 18 kills, 25 digs and 11 blocks in three matches.

At the State Farm Illini Classic, Sept. 7-8, Fowler really began to come into her own, posting career highs with 17 kills and 42 attacks against Marquette alone.

In the opening weekend of SEC action, the 6-2 rookie recorded the first two double-doubles of her young career, with 17 kills and 11 digs versus Alabama and 13 kills and 10 digs in UT???s 3-1 triumph over Mississippi State.

For the season, Fowler leads the team with 236 attacks, is second on the squad in kills (81), assists (28), aces (10) and points (106.0) and third in digs (74) and blocks (27).

Dig It Up

Sophomore libero Chloe Goldman???s 27 digs versus Marquette at the State Farm Illini Classic in Champaign, Ill., on Sept. 8 marked the most by a Lady Vol in over a year and tied for the 16th-highest single-match total in school history. The last UT player to have more was former SEC Defensive player of the Year Amy Morris who collected 42 against Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005.

This season, Goldman has led the Lady Vols in the dig category in all but one match, missing out in only the initial contest of the campaign against No. 1 Nebraska. She currently ranks third in the SEC with a 5.16 digs per game average.

Hinkey, Goldman and Fowler Impress at State Farm Illini Classic

While sophomore Leah Hinkey was the only Lady Vol to pick up State Farm Illini Classic All-Tournament team honors, she was not the only one to play at a high level at the competition, as fellow classmate Chloe Goldman and freshman Nikki Fowler were equally as impressive.

A day after setting a new career high with 16 kills against Creighton, Hinkey recorded the first double-double of her career with 10 kills and 10 blocks in a 3-1 victory over Marquette. In that same match against the Golden Eagles, Goldman and Fowler set personal bests and team season-highs with 27 digs and 17 kills, respectively.

Trio of Lady Vols Named to Comcast Lady Vol Classic All-Tournament Team

After the University of Tennessee volleyball team claimed its fourth consecutive title at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, it had three players named to the all-tournament team, including the MVP for the weekend???s competition. Sophomore Leah Hinkey was tabbed the Most Valuable Player, while junior Milan Clarke and sophomore Chloe Goldman each garnered all-tournament laurels.

Over the course of the tournament, Hinkey was one of four UT players to eclipse the .300 hitting percentage mark, blasting out a .509 average (32-5-53). She also finished second on the team in both kills (32) and aces (7) and third in blocks (9) and total attacks (53). For her efforts, she was also named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week.

The only player to be named to the all-tournament team in UT???s first two competitions this season, Clarke also had a spectacular tournament on the offensive side of the net, as she tallied a team-best 36 kills and 70 attacks. The Santa Monica, Calif., product registered a stellar .371 hitting percentage (36-10-70) to go along with six digs and six blocks.

Goldman, meanwhile, was the anchor of the Tennessee defense, collecting 4.56 digs per game and finishing with 41 total. She also played a crucial role in the passing game, passing at a .971 clip with only one reception error in 35 attempts.

Clarke, Hinkey Earn Weekly Honors

Junior Milan Clarke and sophomore Leah Hinkey were honored for their play at the AVCA Showcase Aug. 24-25. Clarke was awarded Lady Vol Athlete of the Week laurels after being named to the AVCA Showcase All-Tournament Team, while Hinkey was tabbed Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week following a 13-block performance against No. 21 Utah.

Clarke Named to All-Tournament Team at AVCA Showcase

Following a pair of strong performances against No. 1 Nebraska and No. 21 Utah, junior Milan Clarke was named the Lady Vols??? lone representative on the AVCA Showcase All-Tournament Team. The Santa Monica, Calif., product registered team highs in both kills (24) and attacks (69) on the weekend, while adding nine digs and six blocks as well.

Rob Patrick on the Radio

For the remainder of the 2007 season, University of Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick will be the featured guest on WUTK 90.3 The Rock at 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday night. Patrick will talk about the current state of the UT volleyball program and provide a preview of upcoming matches.

Lady Vols on TV

The University of Tennessee volleyball team is scheduled to make at least more television appearances this season, after playing before a national audience against No. 1 Nebraska in the season opener and taking on Alabama last Friday on FOX Sports Net South. The contest against the Huskers on Aug. 24 was televised live on CSTV.

The final scheduled television appearance for the Lady Vols will come in Baton Rouge, La., when they take on LSU on the Pelican Sports Network.

New Attendance Records

At the AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb., Tennessee played in front of the two largest crowds to ever see a Lady Vol volleyball team in action. For their match against No. 1 Nebraska, 10,158 fans were in attendance, breaking the previous high mark of 7,931 set at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 15, 2005, when UT took on Washington in the NCAA National Semifinals.

That record did not last for long, however, as 11,076 fans packed into the Qwest Center to watch Tennessee play Utah the next day.

Near the Top of the Class

The 2007 Lady Vol senior class, consisting of Yuliya Stoyanova and Joselyn Johnson, currently ranks as the second most successful in school history with an 82-27 (.752) overall record in the last three seasons.

The 2005 unit tops the chart, as Kristen Andre, Julie Knytych, Amy Morris, Heather Harrington and Jasmine Fullove finished their careers with a 99-32 (.756) record.

Third on the list is the 2006 group of Sarah Blum, Kelsey Fautsch and Annie Sadowski, which amassed a .748 winning percentage, with a record of 98-33, during its time at Rocky Top.

200 Wins ... And Counting

Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick 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. Patrick is the second-winningest coach in Tennessee history, with a 216-110 record (.663). Bob Bertucci recorded a 229-115 (.666) mark from 1979-86.

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 each of the last nine years, en route to setting the school mark for consecutive seasons above .500. He bested the previous mark of seven (1978-84) with his 17th win of the 2006 campaign.

Movin??? On Up

Since Patrick???s arrival at Rocky Top, the Big Orange has steadily moved up the SEC pecking order. Prior to his tenure, UT ranked in a tie for the eighth-best winning percentage among SEC teams from the first year of SEC volleyball in 1983 to 1996. The Lady Vols won just over 51 percent of their matches during that span and had over 20 wins only four times.

Once Patrick took the helm, however, that trend began to reverse course. From 1997 to date, Tennessee has recorded the third-highest winning percentage behind only Florida and Arkansas, claiming victories 59 percent of the time. UT has also recorded 20+ wins five times.

Replacing a Legend

This season, Tennessee has faced the unenviable task of replacing the program???s all-time blocks leader Sarah Blum.

In order to match the enormous numbers put up by the two-time All-SEC performer, the Lady Vols have not asked one person to take up the challenge, but instead looked for increased contributions from a number of people.

At the top of that list have been junior Mindy Flynn and sophomore Leah Hinkey. A 6-2 middle blocker, Hinkey has started to put together a stellar sophomore campaign, as she leads the team with 43 blocks, 941 kills and a .333 hitting percentage, is second on the team with 10 aces and third with 192 attacks.

Meanwhile, Flynn is currently second on the team with 38 blocks and is fifth on the squad with 62 kills.

Looking to Continue the Streak

With an appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season, the Big Orange would tie the school record with four straight berths, previously set from 1981-84 under Bob Bertucci???s watch as head coach.

Tennessee has reached the tournament nine times in its history, including a Final Four appearance in 2005. The Orange and White has also been selected to host the first and second rounds of play in each of the past three years after hosting just three times in the previous 21 seasons.

No Place Like Home

Over the past three seasons, Stokely Athletics Center has provided a strong home-court advantage for the Lady Vols. Since the beginning of 2004, the Big Orange is 42-7 (.857) at home, with a 15-1 mark in 2004, a perfect 13-0 slate in 2005 and a 10-5 record in 2006.

Since Stokely Athletics Center underwent a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 1998 season, UT has amassed an 95-28 (.772) home record, including four wins in five NCAA Tournament matches that the Orange and White have contested on the court.



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