Box Score | Box Score (PDF)AUBURN, Ala. – The University of Tennessee volleyball team (7-3, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) was able to withstand a strong effort from a solid Auburn team (9-5, 1-2 SEC) and post a come-from-behind, four-game victory over the Tigers, 27-30, 30-28, 30-25, 30-27, Friday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in Auburn, Ala. Sophomore Leah Hinkey led the team with 16 kills, while senior Yuliya Stoyanova posted a season-high nine putaways in the match.
“Winning on the road in the SEC is always a terrific accomplishment, so I am happy that we were able to pull out a victory tonight,” Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. “I was disappointed, however, in the number of unforced errors that we had which made this match a lot tougher than it should have been.
“We knew Auburn was going to play great defense and I challenged our team to out-dig them as a goal for this match. We were able to accomplish that, but our other goal was to have less hitting errors and we were unable to do that due to a combination of our inconsistent play and Auburn’s defense.”
Other statistical standouts included freshman Nikki Fowler and junior Mindy Flynn who recorded 15 and 13 kills, respectively. Defensively, sophomore libero Chloe Goldman collected a team-best 19 digs, while fellow classmates Jena Berg and Jaye Loyd added 17 and 12 each. Hinkey also led the squad in blocks with seven, with Fowler and Stoyanova finishing just behind her with four apiece.
In spite of a late rally, the Orange and White could not quite seem to find its groove in the initial frame, falling 27-30. Up by one at 19-18 following a Hinkey blast that landed just inside the back line, Tennessee allowed Auburn to take control with a pair of three-point runs, separated by just one UT score. After the two teams traded points to move the score to 25-21 in favor of the Tigers, the Lady Vols embarked on a four-point spree of their own, featuring kills by Flynn and Hinkey. Auburn was undeterred, however, and stopped the rally in its tracks with consecutive kills. The Big Orange would move to within one twice more, but was unable to even the score before a Tiger kill and block ended the frame.
After jumping out to an early lead in the second frame, Tennessee was able to withstand a late Auburn comeback attempt, winning 30-28, to tie the contest at one game each heading into the intermission. AU opened the scoring with a pair of points before Tennessee took advantage of three Tiger miscues to rattle off five straight of its own. The squads traded scores on the next four plays before Auburn found itself on the positive side of three errors during a four-point run that tied the set at 8-8. The score remained tight, eventually reaching a 15-15 deadlock, before Auburn got consecutive kills by Jessica Glover to move ahead by two. UT responded with a Kylie Marshall kill, as the sophomore tipped an attack over the block into an open area in the middle of the court, but a Big Orange attack error gave the Tigers what would be their last lead of the game at 18-16.
Sparked by a sharp putaway by second-year Lady Vol Farren Powe that fell straight to the ground off the AU block, the Orange and White proceeded to claim seven of the following eight points to go up by a four-point margin at 23-19. Auburn would not go away that easily, however, and slowly battled back until it was able to tie the game at 26-all on a kill by Glover. With the score still tied at 28-28, UT moved ahead on a blast by Flynn through the block and down the right side. Auburn head coach Laura Farina tried to give her troops a chance to regroup with a timeout, but the effort proved futile as a Tiger attack landed wide to give Tennessee the victory.
The Lady Vols took control of the third set early on and never looked back en route to a 30-25 triumph. UT opened up a 3-1 advantage straight out of the locker room, behind a back-row kill by Fowler and a pair of Auburn miscues. The Tigers battled back to go up 6-5, but Tennessee quickly responded with seven scores in the next 10 plays to retake the lead for good. Later in the set, with a 20-18 advantage, the Orange and White decided it was time to put the game out of reach. A cross-court laser by Stoyanova started a four-point run that also saw Flynn knock out a kill of an over pass and Marshall punch consecutive attacks past the AU block into a vacated portion of the court. Back-to-back Auburn scores stopped the streak, but UT answered by going on another tear, this time for three points, as a Fowler swing fell wide off the block for a kill, Marshall added another putaway and a Tiger attack landed long. With the score now at 27-20, Auburn put together a furious five-point spree but could not overcome the entire Big Orange advantage. A sharp block by Hinkey and Fowler after a long rally, a solo putback by Marshall and a Hinkey smash ended all hopes of a comeback by the Tigers.
A hard-fought battle ensued in the fourth and final game, with the Lady Vols emerging victorious, 30-27. Trailing 14-18, Patrick called a timeout to reorganize his squad. The strategy paid dividends as a Flynn kill and three AU errors cut the deficit to one. Farina tried to reverse the tide with a timeout of her own, but it was too late as the momentum had already shifted. Following a UT service error, Berg assisted Hinkey on a block before tipping a kill to the back-left corner of the court. Stoyanova followed with a putaway to return the lead to Tennessee at 21-20. Over the next eight plays, the UT advantage increased to three at 26-23, before Farina used her final timeout. This time, however, the tactic worked, as the Tigers got back-to-back kills from Glover, a Tennessee ball-handling error and a smash by Whitney Jacobs to go up by a point, 27-26. The test provided a perfect opportunity for the Lady Vols to show their character, however, and they did just that. Flynn and Fowler combined to send back an AU attack, before Fowler recorded consecutive putaways to put her team at match-point. The four-point, match-ending run ended when an Auburn attack landed long to give UT the victory.
The Big Orange will next be in action, Sunday, Sept. 23, when it travels to Athens, Ga., to face the University of Georgia. First serve at the Ramsey Student Center is set for 2 p.m.