Match NotesKNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Currently in the midst of a three-match losing streak, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (7-6, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) will attempt to return to its winning ways this weekend, when it hits the road to take on South Carolina and No. 6 Florida. The Lady Vols will square off with the Gamecocks at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, S.C., before traveling to the Sunshine State for a 1:30 p.m. showdown with the sixth-ranked Gators in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Sunday.
UT suffered a pair of setbacks last week, falling in four games at Kentucky and in five at home versus Arkansas. In its first mid-week contest of the season, the Lady Vols fought hard, but were unable to overcome a solid Wildcat squad, eventually falling 28-30, 28-30, 30-22, 24-30. Four days later, the Big Orange returned home for the first time in two weeks to host the Lady Razorbacks. Arkansas proved to be an unwelcome guest, however, as UT was defeated 30-32, 30-27, 27-30, 30-20, 8-15.
Freshman Nikki Fowler provided a rare bright spot for the Orange and White, notching double-doubles in both matches for the third and fourth of her young career. The Dallas, Texas, native posted 12 kills and 15 digs versus UK and 22 kills and 11 digs against the Lady’Backs. Her 22 kills and 49 attacks on Sunday both marked career highs, as well as the highest totals by a Lady Vol this season. Sophomore Chloe Goldman continued to anchor the defense for UT, leading the squad in the dig category in both contests with 19 and 27, respectively.
For the season, the Orange and White’s top offensive options have been sophomore Leah Hinkey and Fowler. A 6-1 middle blocker, Hinkey has been solid this year, leading the team with 71 blocks, 147 kills and a .324 hitting percentage. Fowler, meanwhile, has amassed a squad-high 404 swings to go along with 140 putaways, 115 digs and 43 blocks. Defensively, Goldman ranks third in the SEC with a 5.16 digs per game average, while Hinkey is third on the conference blocks per game chart with a 1.45 average.
Tennessee vs. South Carolina Breakdown
South Carolina’s Friday night contest with Tennessee will be its first since earning its initial SEC victory of the season at Mississippi State last Sunday. The Gamecocks trail the all-time series with UT by a narrow, two-match margin of 25-23, after splitting a pair of contests last season.
USC has been a streaky squad in 2007, following a four-match winning streak with five consecutive losses, prior to its triumph over MSU. Currently 8-7 on the year, South Carolina is led offensively by junior Belita Salters and senior Ivana Kujundzic. Salters has recorded the eighth-best hitting percentage in the SEC, with a .333 mark, and 141 kills, while Kujundzic leads the team with 158 putaways. A pair of freshman also stand out for the Gamecocks, as Megan Laughlin and Dani Bedore have tallied 140 and 126 kills, respectively.
Defensively, junior libero Dinela Concepcion paces the squad with 3.80 digs per frame, good for 10th in the conference. Salters also leads the team in the block category with 58 this season.
Tennessee vs. No. 6 Florida Breakdown
The top team in the SEC this year, No. 6 Florida will provide a tough test for the Lady Vols Sunday afternoon. A perfect 13-0, 6-0 SEC in 2007, the Gators hold a 35-9-1 advantage over UT in the all-time series between the two squads, although Tennessee has won three of the last six.
As a team, Florida ranks among the league’s top four in every statistical category, including holding down the top spot in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists and kills.
Offensively, UF uses a three-pronged attack, featuring a trio of seniors. Kisya Killingsworth ranks second in the SEC with a .412 hitting percentage, while Marcie Hampton has the second-most kills in the league with 173. Amber McCray joins them in the attack with 129 kills this season. Pacing the offense is yet another senior in Angie McGinnis, who is the top setter in the SEC, statistically, with 12.58 assists per game.
The dominance extends to defense where sophomore libero Elyse Cusack has amassed 249 digs and is second in the league with 5.53 digs per game. Killingsworth also leads the team with 51 blocks, but junior Kelsey Bowers is just behind her with 49 of her own.
One of the main keys to success for Tennessee this season has been 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 77.4 percent of the team’s digs, 72.6 percent of its aces, 50.2 percent of the squad’s blocks, 47.2 percent of its kills and 46.0 percent of UT’s total attacks.
Fowler Making an Impact
Despite the fact that she is just 13 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 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. She accomplished the feat twice more a little over a week later at Kentucky and versus Arkansas. Fowler posted 12 kills and a career-high 15 digs against the Wildcats before amassing a personal-best and team season-high 22 kills and 49 attacks, in addition to 11 digs, against the Lady’Backs.
For the season, Fowler leads the team with 404 attacks, is second on the squad in kills (140), assists (44), aces (16) and points (179.0), third in blocks (43) and fourth in digs (115).
Bringing Her ‘A’ Game
Freshman Nikki Fowler has been particularly impressive in matches against teams whose names begin with the letter ‘A.’ In four such contests this year, Fowler is averaging 3.80 kills per game, up from a 2.44 mark in her other nine matches. The 6-2 right-side hitter also has put together three of her four best performances of the season in those contests, with 15 kills at Auburn, 17 against Alabama and 22 versus Arkansas. Her 22 kills and 49 attacks against the Lady Razorbacks mark the highest totals by a Lady Vol this season.
Dig It Up
Sophomore Chloe Goldman has been nothing short of spectacular at the libero position for the Lady Vols this season, as she currently ranks third in the SEC with 5.16 digs per game.
She has led UT in the dig category a total of 12 times this year, missing out in only the initial contest of the campaign against No. 1 Nebraska.
Four times this season, Goldman has topped 25 digs in a single match, including a 26-dig effort versus Mississippi State, 27 in a four-game victory over Marquette, a career-high 28 at Georgia and 27 against Arkansas.
Her 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. It also tied for the sixth-most digs in a four-game match in UT history and was just six behind Stephanie Ehler’s record of 33 set against Kentucky on Oct. 5, 1988.
Her best effort of the season, however, came in Athens, Ga., against the Bulldogs, where she dug up 28 attacks, tying Kristy Dobson for the 10th-most digs in a five-game match. The last UT player to have more was former SEC Defensive player of the Year Amy Morris who collected a school-record 42 against Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005.
Near the Top of the Class
The 2007 Lady Vol senior class, consisting of Yuliya Stoyanova and Joselyn Johnson, currently ranks as the third most successful in school history with an 83-30 (.735) 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.
Second on the list is the 2006 group of Sarah Blum, Kelsey Fautsch and Annie Sadowski, which also amassed a .748 winning percentage, with a record of 98-33, during its time at Rocky Top.
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 71 blocks, 147 kills, a .324 hitting percentage and 196.5 points. She is also second on the team with 306 attacks and third with 12 aces. Hinkey currently ranks third in the conference with 1.45 blocks per game as well.
Flynn, meanwhile, is second on the squad with 55 blocks and is fourth with 99 kills. The Louisville, Ky., native ranks fifth on the all-time blocks chart with 1.05 per game, while Hinkey is second at 1.27 per frame.
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.
Lady Vols Live on the Web
Fans of the Lady Vol volleyball team will be able to watch their favorite team in action this season, as a live video feed will be available for free on www.UTLadyVols.com for select Orange and White home contests. The next two featured matches will be Oct. 12 and 14 when Tennessee returns home to face LSU and Ole Miss.
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 on Sept. 14 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.
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 701-462-16 record.
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 217-113 record (.658). Bob Bertucci recorded a 229-115 (.662) 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.
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 42-8 (.840) 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 95-29 (.766) home record, including four wins in five NCAA Tournament matches that the Orange and White have contested on the court.
UT History in Home Openers
Throughout the years, the University of Tennessee volleyball team has amassed a stellar 25-5 (.833) record in home openers, including a 3-0 triumph over Appalachian State on Aug. 31.
During the Rob Patrick era, the Lady Vols have been even better with a 10-1 (.909) mark in his 10 years at the helm. The lone loss during that span was to LSU on Sept. 21, 2001.
Earlier and Earlier Every Year
With a start date of Aug. 24, the Lady Vol volleyball program now holds the distinction of starting its season earlier than any other women’s athletics team in history at Tennessee. The previous record was tied last year when the Lady Vols opened on Aug. 25 at home versus Virginia in the Comcast Lady Vol Classic. The UT soccer team has also begun its season on Aug. 25 on two different occasions.