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Lady Vols Host SEC West Leaders



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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ??? Having just finished a streak in which it played five of six contests on the road, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (7-8, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) will return to the friendly confines of Stokely Athletics Center to take on the top two squads in the SEC Western Division in No. 18 LSU and Ole Miss. The Lady Vols will square off with the Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday, before hosting the Rebels at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Following this weekend???s action, UT will step out of conference for a road showdown with Louisville at 7 p.m. next Tuesday.

The Big Orange is currently in the midst of a five-match winless drought, it???s longest since 1999. This past weekend, Tennessee dropped a pair of road contests, falling in four to South Carolina, 30-23, 27-30, 23-30, 22-30, and in three to No. 6 Florida, 27-30, 18-30, 18-30.

Against the Gamecocks, freshman Nikki Fowler led the team in kills for the fourth time this season with 14, while sophomore Farren Powe recorded a career-high .583 hitting percentage with nine kills on 12 swings with just two errors. In its contest with the Gators, Tennessee failed to have a player reach double-digits in kills for just the second time on the year. Junior Milan Clarke was the closest, knocking out nine putaways for the second time on the weekend.

This season, the Orange and White offense has been led by sophomore Leah Hinkey and Fowler. A Glenwood Springs, Colo., native, Hinkey has been a steadying force, leading the team with 77 blocks, 162 kills, a .297 hitting percentage and 215.5 points. Fowler has also been impressive during her rookie campaign with a squad-high 470 attacks and 21 aces. She is also second on the team with 160 kills, 47 assists and 207.5 points. Sophomore Chloe Goldman, meanwhile, has anchored the UT defense with 4.98 digs per game. That mark ranks the 5-6 Lady Vol libero fifth in the SEC.


Tennessee vs. No. 18 LSU Breakdown

The Southeastern Conference Western Division Leader, No. 18 LSU will make the trip to the Volunteer State for a 7 p.m. contest on Friday, Oct. 12. The Tigers trail only No. 5 Florida for the overall conference lead with a record of 15-2, 7-1 SEC. The only two losses for LSU this season have come at the hands of the Gators and Iowa State. Tennessee has dropped four of its last five decisions to the Tigers, including a pair in 2006, and trails 27-15 in the all-time series.

A solid, all-around squad, LSU ranks among the top three in five statistical categories in the SEC. It is first in opponent hitting percentage (.135) and service aces (2.20/game), second in W-L percentage (.882) and blocks (2.95/game) and ranks third in kills (15.46/game).

Individually, sophomore Maggie Lonergan paces the Tiger attack with 12.36 assists/game, while classmate Lauren DeGirolamo leads the team with a .338 hitting percentage. Junior Kyna Washington, however, has a team-high 269 kills in 2007.

On defense, junior Elena Martinez tops the SEC with an impressive 5.71 digs/game, while DeGirolamo and sophomore Brittnee Cooper rank third and sixth, respectively, with 1.46 and 1.36 blocks/frame.

Tennessee vs. Ole Miss Breakdown

The Lady Vols will finish off the first half of SEC play with a 1:30 p.m. contest against Ole Miss on Sunday, Oct. 14. UT has dominated the all-time series with the Rebels to the tune of 31 wins to just four losses. Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick has never been defeated by Ole Miss since arriving on Rocky Top, having won 13 in the Big Orange???s current 14-game winning streak in the series. The Rebels rank second in the SEC Western Division behind only LSU, with an 11-4 overall record and a 5-3 mark in conference action.

The most impressive player for Ole Miss this season has been junior setter Rachel Kieckhaefer. Fresh off of her second triple-double of the season, a 44-assist, 15-dig, 10-kill effort, Kieckhaefer will bring the league???s fifth-highest assist average (11.47/game) to Knoxville. Other Rebel standouts include senior Katie Kramer and sophomore Caitlin Weiss. Kramer has amassed 233 kills on the season, while Weiss has 203 putaways.

On the defensive side of the ball, senior libero Tara Langley has been particularly good, averaging 5.06 digs per frame, good for third in the SEC. In the blocking category, junior Emily Jones leads the squad with 66 total putbacks and 1.06 blocks per game.

Tennessee vs. Louisville Breakdown

Following a pair of tough SEC matches, Tennessee will step out of league play for a non-conference matchup against the top team in the BIG EAST this year in Louisville. The Lady Vols, who will take on the Cardinals at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16 in Louisville, Ky., hold a 10-6 advantage in the all-time series between the two squads, including a four-game victory in Knoxville last season.

Louisville currently stands at 11-4 on the year and sits atop the BIG EAST standings with a perfect 6-0 record. The Cardinals have a number of options offensively, including junior Jana Matiasovska, senior Svetlana Dukule and sophomores Lecia Brown and Justine Landi. Matiasovska leads the squad with 209 putaways, while the other three have all crossed the century-mark in the kills category with 154, 105 and 102, respectively. Sophomore Samantha Dabbs paces the attack with 11.04 assists per game.

Defensively, the Cardinals rank as the best blocking team in the nation with 4.19 blocks per frame. Brown leads the effort with the country???s best individual mark at 2.19 blocks per game (114 total). Just behind her are junior Rui Liu, Landi and Dukule at 1.39, 1.05 and 1.02 blocks/game, respectively.

Super Sophomores

One of the main keys 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 91.9 percent of the team???s assists, 77.5 percent of its digs, 69.4 percent of its aces, 50.0 percent of the squad???s blocks, 46.3 percent of its kills and 45.3 percent of UT???s total attacks.

Fowler Making an Impact

Despite the fact that she is just 15 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 470 attacks and 21 aces, is second on the squad with 160 kills, 47 assists and 207.5 points, third with 49 blocks and fourth in digs with 130.

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 2.51 mark in her other 11 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 fifth in the SEC with 4.98 digs per game.

She has led UT in the dig category a total of 14 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.

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 put together a stellar sophomore campaign thus far, as she leads the team with 77 blocks, 162 kills, a .297 hitting percentage and 215.5 points. She is also second on the team with 354 attacks and third with 13 aces. Hinkey currently ranks fifth in the conference with 1.38 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 1.25 per frame.

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 this weekend 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 701-464-16 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 217-115 record (.654). 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.

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.


 

 

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