Oct. 5, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 18 University of Tennessee volleyball team will return home for the first time in almost three weeks as it gets ready to host South Carolina at 7 p.m. on Friday and Georgia at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday in Stokely Athletics Center.
The Lady Vols are coming off a tough loss to No. 8 Florida last Sunday in Gainesville. Seniors Sarah Blum and Kelsey Fautsch have formed a formidable duo this season and will look to guide Tennessee back into the win column against the Gamecocks. Fautsch leads the team with 201 kills this year and is third on the squad with 133 digs while Blum is currently eighth in the nation with 1.76 blocks per game and just 73 kills away from accumulating her 1,000th career kill. Junior Yuliya Stoyanova recently surpassed that mark, reaching it in the first game of UT's 3-1 win at Auburn last Friday. She has also been a steady performer for the Big Orange in 2006, having posted the second most kills with 188 and a team-leading 3.84 kills per game. That average also ranks her fifth in the SEC.
The University of South Carolina enters Friday's contest with a 10-7 record overall and a 3-3 record in SEC play. After losing to No. 4 Southern California earlier this season, the Gamecocks later bounced back to defeat No. 8 Florida. They have since suffered losses to No. 10 LSU and Arkansas and are coming off a five-game defeat at the hands of Alabama. The loss marked the first time in seven years that the Gamecocks have fallen to the Tide.
Seniors Shonda Cole and Iris Santos are responsible for USC's offensive success this season. Although the team suffered a loss last weekend, Cole received SEC Player of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks after collecting her nation-leading sixth match with 30 plus kills. She also ranks second nationally in kills per game with an average of 6.03 and is currently hitting at a .341 clip. At the setter position, Santos leads the team with six double-doubles as well as 712 assists. On defense, senior libero Alexcis Thomson commands the team with 213 digs for an average of 3.5 per game. She has also recorded at least 10 digs in South Carolina's last 10 contests.
The Georgia Bulldogs (4-12, 0-6 SEC) head into the weekend looking for their first win in SEC play. Their most recent loss came last weekend against Alabama. Injuries have plagued Georgia's lineup lately, as leading blocker Brooke Peugh has been sidelined with a shoulder injury and her playing status is set at day-to-day.
Georgia's offensive attack is led by sophomore Maria Taylor. The outside hitter currently ranks fourth in the SEC in kills per game with 4.17 and fifth in service aces per game with 0.47. Junior libero Brooke Burlingame leads the Bulldog defense with 4.32 digs per game and is coming off a career-high 36-dig performance versus the Crimson Tide.
Lady Vols Ranked No. 18:
The Tennessee volleyball team has been ranked No. 18 in the nation, according to the most recent CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Lady Vols, who advanced to the NCAA National Semifinals for the first time in school history in 2005, return four starters and nine letterwinners from that record-breaking squad, including Second Team All-SEC performer and State College All-Regional MVP Sarah Blum as well as AVCA Honorable Mention All-American Yuliya Stoyanova.
Lady Vols On TV:
The No. 18 Tennessee volleyball team is one of only two teams scheduled to make a pair of appearances on SEC-TV this season. UT will be featured on television a total of three times this year.
The Lady Vols will first hit the SEC-TV airwaves on Oct. 22 at 4:30 p.m. when they travel to Baton Rouge, La., to take on LSU. Tennessee will next be seen on CSS in a 2 p.m. match-up at South Carolina on Nov. 12. UT will also host Florida at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17 in a match that will tape-delayed and air on SEC-TV on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. FOX Sports Net South, Fox Sports Net Southwest and the Sunshine Network comprise SEC-TV and will air a total of eight matches in 2006.
No Place Like Home:
Although the Lady Vols' 22-match home-winning streak was snapped in a five-game loss to LSU on Sept. 15, Stokely Athletics Center continues to provide a strong home-court advantage. Since the beginning of 2004, the Big Orange are a combined 33-2 (.943) at home, with marks of 15-1 in 2004 and a perfect 13-0 last year, including wins over No. 4 Florida and No. 17 Minnesota. Prior to the loss to the Tigers, the last team to defeat Tennessee in Knoxville was No. 8 Florida on Oct. 22, 2004.
Since Stokely Athletics Center underwent a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 1998 season, UT has amassed an 86-23 (.789) home record, including four consecutive wins in NCAA Tournament matches that the Orange and White have contested on the court.
Already 5-1 at home this year, Tennessee will host no fewer than eight more matches in 2006. A showdown with No. 8 Florida will occur on Nov. 17.
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. Patrick is the second-winningest coach in Tennessee history, with a 204-98 record (.675). 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 his last eight years.
With a winning mark in 2005, UT set the school record for consecutive winning seasons, besting the previous mark of seven (1978-84).
Against the Best:
At the conclusion of Friday's match, the Lady Vols will be the only team in the nation to have faced the country's two most productive hitters, Kelly Anne Billingy of Marshall and Shonda Cole of South Carolina.
Billingy leads the nation with 6.27 kills per game while Cole follows close behind with 6.02. Earlier this season, Tennessee took down Billingy and the Thundering Herd in a three-game sweep, 30-21, 30-28, 30-26, on Sept. 9 en route to the Pitt Invitational title.
Slow Starters, Strong Finishers:
The Lady Vols have usually taken a game or two to warm up this season. As a team, they have combined to hit just .232 (495-196-1290) in the first two games of their matches. That number, however, improves significantly in the third game where they hit .269 (254-92-607). Furthermore, the Big Orange is 10-6 in first games, compared to 11-5 in second games and 12-4 in third games.
Winning the Close Ones
Patrick's squad has been finding ways to win almost all of its close games this season. In games decided by three or fewer points, UT has posted a record of 15-4 (.824), including wins in 13 of their last 15. In two-point games, they are 11-4 (.733) and 9-2 in their last 11.
Stoyanova Reaches 1,000 Kills:
Junior Yuliya Stoyanova became just the 15th person in Tennessee volleyball history to reach the 1,000 career kill mark. She did so in the first game of the Lady Vols' 3-1 victory on the road against Auburn on Sept. 29. Stoyanova needs 263 more kills this year in order to reach the top-10 of the all-time list. This season, she leads the team with 3.84 kills per game and is second with 188 total kills.
Blum Not Far Behind:
Senior Sarah Blum is not far behind Stoyanova in the chase for 1,000 career kills as she only needs 73 more putaways before she accumulates the total. She is currently third on the team with 185 kills and 3.36 kills per game.
Return to Sender:
Led by senior middle blocker Sarah Blum, the University of Tennessee currently finds itself ranked 12th among Division I teams with an average of 3.31 blocks per game. Only four other teams have accumulated more total blocks than the Lady Vols' 369 this season. Blum paces the squad's effort as she is ranked eighth in the nation with 1.76 blocks per game.
Junior outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova started the 2006 season right where she left off in 2005, knocking out a season-high 19 kills against Miami University to help UT win the Comcast Lady Vol Classic Championship. Two weeks later she guided the squad to another tournament title, winning MVP honors at the Pitt Invitational. Stoyanova paced the team with back-to-back double-double performances in victories over Pittsburgh and Marshall. For her efforts, she was also awarded both SEC Player of the Week as well as Lady Vol Athlete of the Week.
The junior is second on the team in kills in 2006 with 188, only 13 behind senior Kelsey Fautsch's total of 201. Her average of 3.84 kills per game leads the team and ranks fifth in the SEC.
During her sophomore campaign, she finished fourth in the conference with an average of 4.15 kills per game en route to First Team All-SEC and AVCA Honorable Mention All-American honors.
For her career, the Sofia, Bulgaria, native is averaging 3.66 kills per game, the third-highest average recorded at Rocky Top. She sits behind only Ariana Wilson (4.08 from 1998-01) and Tamala Brightman (4.32 from 1990-93) for the school record.
Finding the Perfect Balance:
After three seasons of providing stellar defense for UT, senior middle blocker Sarah Blum has added offense to her game in 2006.
The Tulsa, Okla., native has put up terrific numbers on both sides of the court so far this season, leading the team with a .319 hitting percentage, 14 solo blocks, 97 total blocks, 1.76 blocks per game, 247.5 points and 4.5 points per game.
After leading UT to wins over Louisville, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, Blum was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week (Sept. 25). She posted totals of 48 kills, 23 blocks and hit .347 during that three-match span.
In the Lady Vols' season opener, Blum moved into second place on the UT career blocks chart after totaling 11 rejections. She surpassed Ariana Wilson's career mark of 466 and now sits behind only Robin Maine (664). She finished the 2005 campaign with a team-high 161, good for the fifth-best season in school history.
She has also recorded the top-three seasons in blocks per game during her tenure at Rocky Top, with marks of 1.53 in 2005, 1.42 (2004) and 1.39 (2003). Her career average of 1.49 is the best in school history. Blum is found in sixth place on the career hitting percentage list as well, having tallied a .307 average.
Over the last two seasons, UT is 26-3 (.897) when senior outside hitter Kelsey Fautsch records 10+ kills in a match, including 11 victories so far this year.
After transferring from Nebraska prior to the 2005 season, Fautsch quickly became one of the Lady Vols most consistent performers. The senior outside hitter competed in all but game in 2005 and posted double-digit attack totals in all but one match.
In 2006, Fautsch has continued that trend, with double-digit kills in 13 of the 15 matches in which she has played. She currently leads the team with 201 kills this year and is third with 133 digs.
Replacing a Legend:
Although it will be difficult to match the enormous numbers put up by the two-time All-SEC performer, Noble has fared just fine, tallying a team-high 704 total assists (12.14 per game). That mark places her fourth in the conference. She is also second on the squad with 163 digs (2.81 per game).
During her freshman campaign, the Vandalia, Ohio, native contributed 76 assists, good for second on the team. That mark includes a then career-high 28 assists, which she put up in the Lady Vols' dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over No. 7 Notre Dame on Nov. 26 last year.
Flynn Earns MVP Honors:
Sophomore RS/MB Mindy Flynn had a breakout performance at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic on Aug. 25-26, winning the tournament's MVP award. She was also named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week for her stellar performance.
Flynn tallied 25 kills with just one attack error in 53 attempts (.453 hitting percentage) over the course of the three-match tournament. Her 12 kills versus Miami University on Saturday marked a career-high. Earlier in the day, Flynn set another personal-best mark with an impressive .667 (10-0-15) hitting percentage in the Lady Vols' sweep of Centenary. In the Friday night match, Flynn registered three kills, six digs, and four block assists in the victory over Virginia.
For the weekend, Flynn totaled 25 kills, seven assists, nine digs and 10 blocks in 11 games.
The Louisville, Ky., native has been one of the Lady Vols top performers this season, posting 69 blocks and 103 kills, good for second and fifth on the team, respectively.
Making Their Mark:
The most heralded freshman class in Tennessee volleyball history, ranked among the nation's top 10 by several publications, has received plenty of playing time this season.
Hinkey has recorded the fourth most kills on the team (112) as well as the third highest block total (62).
With the team moving to a 6-2 offense at times during a number of matches, Berg has become a valuable player for the Lady Vols as the team's second setter. Currently, she has the second most assists on the squad (64) and is fifth in digs (123). The Bristol, Wis., native is also tied for fifth on the team in service aces with seven.
Fellow freshman Marshall has also played well at a number of positions, including libero and outside hitter, tallying 35 kills, 121 digs, eight blocks and 12 service aces this season.
The Price is Right:
Senior libero Annie Sadowski's parents traveled to Los Angeles simply to watch their daughter compete in the LMU/USC Hilton LAX Invitational. Little did they know that they would be the ones making history.
Vickyann Sadowski, Annie's mother, attended a taping of "The Price is Right" and came away with the single largest collection of prizes in the show's 35-year history. When all was said and done, she had won a combined total of $147,517 worth of prizes, including a Beachcomber hot tub, collection of digital cameras from DXG, a video arcade game featuring Joust and Robotron, a home theater system from JBL, $1000 cash, a six-night stay at the New York Marriott Marquis, and three cars: a 2007 Saturn Sky, a Dodge Caravan and a Dodge Viper SRT Tech Convertible.
We'll Get There...Eventually:
The Lady Vols have not had the best of luck when traveling this season. So far, 10 of their 11 flights have either been delayed, cancelled or, in two instances, both. They have suffered through approximately 19 hours of delays in just four road trips and have been postponed an average of almost an hour and 45 minutes for every flight.
The Big Orange's travel obstacles have not been confined to the air, however, as the team bus narrowly escaped a head-on collision with a couch (yes, a couch!) on Interstate 85 North as it headed from Auburn, Ala. to Atlanta, Ga. Thanks to the driver's evasive maneuvers, the bus sustained just minor damage on its side after clipping the tumbling sofa which had fallen off the bed of a truck driving immediately ahead of it.
The off-court travel issues have done little to phase the team, however, as it has amassed an 8-2 road record, including a tournament victory and three SEC wins.