Oct. 16, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Fresh off a sweep of in-state rival East Tennessee State, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (11-8, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) will finish off the first half of its conference schedule this weekend when it welcomes Ole Miss (8-8, 4-3 SEC) and Arkansas (5-12, 2-5 SEC) to Rocky Top. The Lady Vols will host the Rebels at 7 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 17 before the Razorbacks make the trip to Thompson-Boling Arena for a 1:30 p.m. showdown two days later.
After dropping a pair of league matches on the road last weekend at South Carolina and then-No. 9 Florida, the Big Orange finished off its three-match road trip in style, taking out ETSU, 3-0, on Tuesday night in Johnson City, Tenn. Senior Milan Clarke put on an offensive display, smashing out 13 kills on just 16 swings with no errors for a career-best .812 hitting percentage. That is the highest attack average by a UT player since Trinia Cuseo hit at a stellar .833 clip (15-0-18) against Florida on Nov. 18, 2000.
The Orange and White which hit at a season-high .420 (43-9-81) percentage as a team, also got a double-digit kill effort from sophomore Nikki Fowler who had 10 putaways. Pacing the attack was junior setter Michaela Hanakova who topped the team in three different categories with 23 assists, seven digs and three aces. Senior Mindy Flynn, meanwhile, led the team's blocking effort with three putbacks, while junior Kylie Marshall and Clarke recorded two each.
Following its matches this weekend, Tennessee will hit the road once again, traveling to Alabama and Mississippi State. The Big Orange will square off with the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Ala., at 7 p.m. CT on Fri., Oct. 24 before taking on the Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sun., Oct. 26.
SCOUTING OLE MISS
Following a sweep over in-state rival Mississippi State on Friday and a four-set loss at the hands of Alabama on Sunday, Ole Miss comes to Rocky Top with an 8-8 overall record and a 4-3 mark in conference play.
Offensively, the Rebels are led by freshman outside hitter Katie Norris who has a team-best 153 kills (2.68 per set), while senior setter Rachel Kieckhaefer paces the attack with an average of 9.04 assists per set. Redshirt freshman middle blocker Regina Thomas ranks fourth in the conference and 45th nationally with an attack percentage of .362 and posted 26 kills in last weekend's matches. The Richardson, Texas, native also ranks second on the team in kills per set (2.65) and first on the squad with 0.96 blocks per set.
Senior defensive specialist Allison Weber leads a strong defensive unit with an average of 4.07 digs per set. As a team, Ole Miss is third in the SEC with an average of 14.88 digs per frame, behind only the Lady Vols (14.94) and South Carolina (15.66)
Tennessee holds a 31-6 advantage over UM all-time, despite dropping both matches a year ago. The Big Orange, however, has never lost more than two consecutive contests to the Rebels in school history.
In the last showdown between the two squads, UT outside hitter Nikki Fowler recorded the first triple-double in school history with 19 kills, 19 assists and 18 digs in Oxford, Miss., on Nov. 2, 2007. Lady Vol libero Chloe Goldman also had a stellar match, recording a career-high 40 digs in the 3-2 loss to the Rebels. Her performance currently ranks as the second-highest single-match digs total in school history.
The Lady Vols close out the weekend with a home match against the Arkansas Razorbacks. After losing in four sets at Alabama on Friday, first-year coach Robert Pulliza's team rebounded to sweep Mississippi State on Sunday. For the season, Arkansas is 5-12 overall and 2-5 in SEC action.
The Razorbacks are paced offensively by freshman outside hitter Kelli Stipanovich's 3.42 kills per set average. The St. Louis, Mo., product posted 24 kills in the two matches this past weekend and has a team-high total of 195 this season, including 89 in conference play. As a team, Arkansas hit a blistering .308 against Mississippi State, well above its season average of .191.
Senior setter Caira Dortch currently sits at fifth in the conference rankings with an average of 9.13 assists per set and is second on the team with a total of 114 digs (2.09/set). Only redshirt freshman Phoebe Batista has more digs this season with 218 (3.63/set) from the libero position. Yun Tang, a 6-3 middle blocker from Beijing, China, ranks second in the conference and 47th nationally with an average of 1.2 blocks per set. On the year, she tops the team with 60 total putbacks.
Tennessee is just 8-14 all-time against the Razorbacks, although the Lady Vols have won five of the last seven matches in the series.
UT defensive specialist Jaye Loyd seems to fair particularly well against Arkansas, having set five career highs against the Razorbacks in the second match between the two squads last season on Nov. 16, 2007. In addition to a personal-best 56 assists, Loyd also had career highs in kills (2), attacks (4), block assists (2) and total blocks (2).
The Lady Vols have been a fixture at the top of the SEC statistical rankings this season and currently rank among the top five teams in nearly every major statistical category in league play. The Lady Vols rank second in the conference in digs (15.96/set), are third in opponent hitting percentage (.178), assists (12.78/set), kills (13.44/set) and blocks (2.31/set) and are fourth in hitting percentage (.221).
Individually, UT is well represented on the SEC charts, led by junior Chloe Goldman's 4.89 digs/set average, which ranks second in the conference. Sophomore Nikki Fowler's name is found on the kills list where she stands in second as well with 3.78/set. Freshman Kelsey Mahoney, meanwhile, is currently third in service aces with 0.41/set, while fellow classmate Alyssa Hilby is also in third with 1.25 blocks/set. Junior Farren Powe ranks third on the hitting percentage leaderboard with an average of .393.
"CHALK TALK" WITH Rob Patrick
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.
LADY VOLS "DIG FOR THE CURE"
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.
LIVE VIDEO AVAILABLE FOR SELECT HOME MATCHES
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. 17), Arkansas (Oct. 19), Georgia (Oct. 31), LSU (Nov. 2) and Florida (Nov. 14).
BANNER DAY FOR CLARKE AT ETSU
Against East Tennessee State on Oct. 14, UT senior outside hitter Milan Clarke recorded one of the most impressive offensive performances by a Lady Vol in recent memory, tallying an amazing .812 hitting percentage with 13 kills and no errors on 16 swings.
With her .812 attack average, the Santa Monica, Calif., native, now holds the highest single-match hitting percentage by any player in the Southeastern Conference this season, surpassing the previous high of .786 (12-1-14) set by Florida's Kristy Jaeckel versus Pacific on Aug. 30.
Prior to her offensive display against the Bucs, Clarke's previous career high for hitting percentage (min. three kills) was .600 (3-0-5) against Gardner-Webb earlier this season at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic on Sept. 12.
NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP FOR FOWLER
Almost two-thirds of the way through her second season at Rocky Top, outside hitter Nikki Fowler has been able to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, leading UT in kills (244), kills/set (3.49), total attacks (662) and attacks/set (9.46).
The 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Fowler has led the Lady Vols in 14 of their 19 matches this season, accumulating double-digit totals in 14 contests as well.
A native of Dallas, Texas, she also tops the team in double-doubles for the second straight campaign with five in 2008, accomplishing the feat against Illinois, Dayton, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.
PATRICK SETS UT CAREER WINS RECORD
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. During his 12 seasons at Rocky Top, Patrick has amassed a career record of 232-133 (.636).
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.
FRESHMEN MAKING AN IMPACT
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 19 contests.
Setter Kelsey Mahoney has started the last seven matches and nine total this season, while outside hitter Kayla Jeter has started two matches and middle blocker Alyssa Hilby leads all rookies with 13 starts.
Mahoney ranks second on the team with 372 assists and 5.24 assists per set this season in addition to having collected a team-high 18 aces and 103 digs. In just 13 matches, Hilby has accumulated 48 kills and a squad-best 61 blocks, while Jeter has 26 kills, three aces, 27 digs and 14 blocks in 14 matches.