Box Score | Box Score (PDF)COLUMBIA, S.C. – The University of Tennessee volleyball team (7-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) could not take advantage of a first-game win, falling in four to South Carolina (8-8, 2-5 SEC) Friday evening, 30-23, 27-30, 23-30, 22-30, at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, S.C. Freshman Nikki Fowler led the Lady Vols with 14 kills while sophomore Farren Powe recorded a career-high .583 hitting percentage.
“The injury bug is really taking its toll on us,” UT head coach Rob Patrick said. “I was happy with how we battled, but we had to make too many changes in our lineup to play as consistently as we need to. Hopefully, we can use the experience we gained in this match to our advantage in the future as we strive to get better each and every day.”
Sophomores Jena Berg and Leah Hinkey also posted solid performances for UT in the loss. Berg tallied her 10th double-double of the season with 38 assists and 11 digs, while Hinkey reached double digits in kills for the 11th-consecutive contest with 12. Defensively, Goldman paced the squad with 17 digs while Fowler, Hinkey and Powe tied for the team-high with four blocks each.
Despite trailing by as many as five early in the initial frame, Tennessee was able to come back and post a solid 30-23 win, to take the first advantage in the match. The Lady Vols struggled to find their consistency in the beginning portions of the game, falling behind 6-11 after Belita Salters tipped a kill through the UT block and consecutive attack errors. Sophomore Milan Clarke ended the run with a blast that ricocheted off the Gamecock block, across the court and four rows deep into the stands, but the USC lead returned to five on the next play as the Orange and White committed a blocking error.
From that point on, the Big Orange would assume control of the game, winning 23 of the final 34 points. With the score at 12-15, Tennessee began to find its groove offensively, getting kills on four straight plays, with Hinkey recording two and Clarke and Fowler knocking out one each, to take its first advantage of the match. A smash by South Carolina’s Dani Bedore followed, but UT countered with another three-point spree to go ahead 19-16. The Lady Vol lead continued to increase at a rapid rate, with streaks of three and four consecutive points propelling them to a 29-22 score. A Gamecock kill simply delayed the inevitable, as their next swing landed long, giving the Big Orange the first game, 30-23.
A late Tennessee comeback bid was not enough to overcome South Carolina in the second frame, as the Gamecocks tied the match at one game each, winning 30-27. UT opened the set on the right note with a kill by Clarke, but that would prove to be its only lead of the game. USC promptly responded eight consecutive scores and never looked back. The Big Orange would not give in, however. Trailing 17-23, the Lady Vols embarked on a five-score spree featuring an ace by sophomore Kylie Marshall, a block by Hinkey and Clarke and three Gamecock miscues.
After the two squads traded the next two points, South Carolina returned its lead to five, scoring on four consecutive plays. UT responded, once again, with three straight points, including a Powe kill that fell wide off the block and a Berg ace, to move within two at 26-28. Shortly thereafter, however, a blast by USC’s Ivana Kujundzic ended the frame and sent the Orange and White into the locker room with the match all tied up.
UT battled hard in the third set, but could never quite get on track before a late USC run gave it a 30-23 victory and two games to one advantage. For the first time in the match, neither team was able to gain momentum early, fighting to a 13-13 deadlock. It was all Gamecocks from then on, however, as they rattled off 16 points in the next 24 plays, with runs of three, four and five points, to go up 29-21. A cross-court laser by Hinkey to the back-left corner of the court and a Laughlin attack error kept the Orange and White alive, but an unforced error finished the set off for South Carolina.
The fourth game followed the same script as its two predecessors, with the Gamecocks finishing strong to claim the set 30-22 and the match three games to one. UT jumped ahead in the beginning stages, claiming an 8-5 after a kill and two aces by Fowler and a USC blocking error. South Carolina took four of the next five to tie the frame at nine before Tennessee countered with three straight, as Fowler and Hinkey recorded back-to-back putaways and the Gamecocks gave away another point with a kill of the right-side antenna. The Lady Vols’ momentum was halted by a USC timeout, however, and they never recovered. Following the short break in play, South Carolina proceeded to go on six three-point sprees with just 10 Big Orange points interspersed between them to close out the match.
The loss is Tennessee’s fourth-consecutive setback, matching the school’s longest winless streak since dropping five straight in 1999. The Orange and White will next be in action on Sunday, Oct. 7, when it makes the trek to Gainesville, Fla., to square off with No. 6 Florida. First serve is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.