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UT Steps Out of Conference Play for Showdown with Louisville
Amanda Friday

Amanda Friday

Oct. 7, 2008

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (9-6, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) will take a brief break from its conference schedule to play host to Louisville (6-8, 2-2 BIG EAST), Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols and Cardinals have each won two of the last four matches against each other in the past four seasons, with the home team claiming victory in each contest.

The Big Orange split a pair of conference matches this past week, dropping a hard-fought, four-set loss to Kentucky on Wednesday night before blanking Auburn on Friday in three straight sets.

With the win over the Tigers, Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick gained sole possession of first place on the UT career wins chart, earning the 230th victory of his career to surpass Bob Bertucci who recorded 229 wins from 1979-86.

Against the Wildcats, sophomore Nikki Fowler paced the Big Orange attack with her fifth double-double of the season, collecting a match-high 19 kills in addition to 17 digs.

Just two days later, it was junior Farren Powe's turn to put on an offensive display, attacking at a career-high .625 clip with a personal-best 15 kills and zero errors in 24 swings. Her hitting percentage marks the highest by an SEC player in conference action this season. Junior libero Chloe Goldman stood out defensively for UT, recording 31 digs over the course of the two contests, including 18 against Kentucky.

Following its match against the Cardinals, UT will open a three-match road trip when it hits the road to face South Carolina and No. 9 Florida at 7 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 10 and 1:30 p.m. on Sun., Oct. 12, respectively.


Tennessee begins one of its busiest weeks of the season when it hosts Louisville on Wednesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena. UL Head Coach Leonid Yelin's team was swept by Notre Dame last Saturday before rebounding to defeat DePaul in four sets on Sunday. Offensively, the Cardinals are paced by junior Justine Landi, who is hitting .229 on the year with an average of 3.28 kills per set. Landi posted 33 kills, including 22 against DePaul, and attacked at a blistering .421 clip last weekend. Senior middle blocker Jana Matiasovska is also putting up solid numbers this season, averaging 2.89 kills per set and attacking at team-best .311 percentage. UL is currently hitting .248 as a team, good for fourth place in the BIG EAST. Louisville also boasts one of the nation's top defensive units, as Lecia Brown, a 5-10 middle blocker from Wellington, Fla., currently ranks 12th in the nation with an average of 1.35 blocks per set. As a team, the Cardinals average 2.76 blocks per set, the 16th best average in Division I. Although the Lady Vols hold a 10-7 edge in the all-time series between the two squads, Louisville and UT have split each of the past four matches, with the home team claiming victory in each contest.


UT volleyball fans not able to attend home matches will be able to watch from the comfort of their own home this season as live video of select matches will be available at www.UTLadyVols.com. Roger Hoover will provide play-by-play of the action and, as always, fans can follow along with live stats via GameTracker as well. UT will live stream video for matches against Ole Miss (Oct. 16), Arkansas (Oct. 19), Georgia (Oct. 31), LSU (Nov. 2) and Florida (Nov. 14).


Prior to every remaining home match, Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick will lead a "Chalk Talk" session to give fans an inside look at that day's contest. UT volleyball fans are encouraged to attend the event which will be held at the Courtside Club in the Ray Mears Room at Thompson-Boling Arena. Gates to the arena open one hour before first serve and Patrick's session will begin 45 minutes prior to the start of each match.


On Fri., Oct. 3, the Lady Vol volleyball team helped raise over $1,000 by participating in the Susan G. Komen "Dig for the Cure" , when it took on Auburn. Fans made either a flat donation or donated per dig as UT raised money in support of breast cancer research. "Dig for the Cure" was established in 2003 in an effort to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research while partnering with volleyball programs across the country. Currently, 156 volleyball programs are involved in this organization and have helped raise over $340,000 for breast cancer research.


With a 3-0 victory over Auburn on Sun., Oct. 3, Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick became the all-time winningest coach in UT history, earning the 230th victory of his career to surpass Bob Bertucci's mark of 229 set from 1979-86. 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. 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 nine of the last 10 years, en route to setting the school mark for consecutive seasons above .500 with nine straight from 1998-2006. He bested the previous mark of seven (1978-84) with his 17th win of the 2006 campaign.


On Sat., Sept. 27, Lady Vol Assistant Coach Katie Noble returned to her alma mater, Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa., where she was officially inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame. A member of four straight NEC Tournament championship teams and subsequent appearances in the NCAA Tournament, Noble is the only two-time NEC Player of the Year (2001, 2002) in Robert Morris volleyball history. She held the Colonial career record for kills with 1,418 before it was eclipsed in 2005 and also ranks third in career attack percentage (.280) and block assists (203), fourth in games played (463) and fifth in solo blocks (133). In 2001, Noble, a native of Mentor, Ohio, and a graduate of Mentor High School, helped lead RMU to a school record 30 victories. Five of the six members of the 18th class of inductees, including Noble, were enshrined into the Robert Morris Athletic Hall of Fame at halftime of RMU's football game against Monmouth, Sat., Sept. 27, at Joe Walton Stadium.


The much heralded UT rookie class is already beginning to make an impact on the court this season with three different freshman having already earned starting nods through the team's first 13 contests. Setter Kelsey Mahoney and outside hitter Kayla Jeter have started five and two matches, respectively, while freshman middle blocker Alyssa Hilby leads all rookies with 10 starts. Mahoney is second on the squad with 291 assists and 5.02 assists per set this season in addition to having collected a team-high 18 aces and 78 digs. In just 10 matches, Hilby has accumulated 35 kills and a squad-best 47 blocks, while Jeter has 15 kills, three aces, 22 digs and 11 blocks in 11 contests.


Throughout the years, the University of Tennessee volleyball team has amassed a stellar 26-5 (.839) record in home openers, including a 3-0 triumph over Gardner-Webb this season. During the Rob Patrick era, the Lady Vols have been even better with an 11-1 (.917) mark in his 11 years at the helm. The lone loss during that span was to LSU on Sept. 21, 2001.


The University of Tennessee volleyball team opened its season in style, claiming the Marquette Kickoff Tournament title with three wins in two days on Aug. 29-30. UT christened the campaign with a three-set sweep over in-state rival Chattanooga, 25-13, 25-14, 25-18, on Aug. 29, before taking out Houston in five sets, 25-12, 25-19, 20-25, 19-25, 15-10, and Marquette in four frames, 25-14, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, the following day. Sophomore Nikki Fowler took home tournament Most Valuable Player honors as well as SEC Offensive Player of the Week accolades after knocking out a team-high 41 kills over the course of the weekend, while senior Milan Clarke and juniors Kylie Marshall and Chloe Goldman earned spots on the all-tournament team as well.


University of Tennessee sophomore outside hitter Nikki Fowler was named to the 2008 preseason All-Southeastern Conference team on Aug. 21. The poll was the first in the history of the conference and featured nine athletes. Fowler was the only underclassman to make the squad, which also consists of seven seniors and one junior. Each SEC head volleyball coach voted for seven players and no ties were broken. The Eastern Division had five players recognized, while the West had four. LSU led all teams with three selections, and Florida had two. A native of Dallas, Texas, Fowler became just the second player in UT history to garner a postseason player of the year award during her initial season at Rocky Top, being named 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year. She also earned a spot on the conference's all-freshman team. The first SEC Freshman of the Year in Tennessee history, Fowler played a critical role in a number of areas for the Lady Vols during her rookie campaign, leading the Big Orange with 370 kills, 1,081 total attacks and 449.0 points and averaging a team high 3.27 kills per game and 3.97 points per game. She also stood second on the squad with 26 aces and 98 blocks, third on the team with 98 assists and 0.87 blocks per game and fourth with 281 digs and 2.49 digs per game. The only other Lady Vol to claim a postseason player of the year award is Amy Morris, who was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year following the 2005 season.


The 2008 Lady Vol roster boasts a pair of freshmen with strong athletic pedigrees as the fathers of both DeeDee Harrison and Kayla Jeter are former stars in the National Football League. Harrison's father, former Vanderbilt star Dennis "Bigfoot" Harrison, spent 10 seasons as a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. In addition, her brother, David Harrison, is currently a center on the Indiana Pacers roster in the NBA. Her father earned a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl in 1981, while her brother was named to the All-Big XII First Team and earned Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors at Colorado in 2004. In all, Harrison has 11 siblings, including five brothers and six sisters. Meanwhile, Jeter's father, Gary, was an All-American defensive tackle for Southern California, a top-five draft pick and played in the NFL for 13 seasons with the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. During the 1985 season with the Rams, he was a teammate of and played on the same defensive line as DeeDee's father, Dennis.


After spending 10 seasons in Stokely Athletics Center, the Lady Vol volleyball team has made the short move down to the Tennessee River to play in Thompson-Boling Arena for the 2008 campaign. The Big Orange hopes that it can bring with it the tradition of home-court dominance that it displayed in Stokely, where it amassed an impressive 98-34 (.742) record following a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed prior to the 1998 season. So far so good for the Orange and White which has won five of its first seven contests in TBA this season. Another tradition that UT hopes to continue at Thompson-Boling is that of record-breaking attendance. Tennessee had competed in TBA on two occasions prior to this season, setting the top two home attendance marks in the process, including a crowd of 3,311 that came to see the Orange and White take on Georgia on Oct 28, 2005. In 2008, the volleyball configuration at TBA provides seating for up to 7,000 Big Orange faithful.


While the 2008 Beijing Olympics took place halfway across the globe, there was at least one connection that linked Tennessee volleyball to Olympic gold, as UT Head Coach Rob Patrick is a former coach of two-time beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh. During the 1996 season, Walsh was a freshman on the NCAA National Champion Stanford team on which Patrick was an assistant coach. That year, Walsh was named National Freshman of the Year and first team All-American after she and Patrick helped lead the Cardinal to a Pac-10 title and a victory over Hawaii in the national championship match.


The University of Tennessee volleyball team will make at least two appearances on television this season. The Lady Vols will first hit the airwaves on Sun., Oct. 12, when they travel to Gainesville, Fla., to take on the University of Florida at 1:30 p.m. The match will be shown live on Sun Sports. UT will also be on television on Sun., Nov. 16 when South Carolina makes the trip to Rocky Top for a 1:30 p.m. contest. That match will be tape delayed and broadcast on FOX Sports Regional Networks at 3:30 p.m. that same day.



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