Match NotesKNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee volleyball team (8-10, 3-7 Southeastern Conference) will open the second half of its SEC schedule this weekend, as it travels to Starkville, Miss., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., to square off with Mississippi State and Alabama, respectively. The Lady Vols will take on the Bulldogs in the Newell-Grissom Building at 7 p.m. CT on Oct 19, before matching up against the Crimson Tide at 1:30 p.m. CT two days later in the Coleman Auxiliary Volleyball Extension.
The Orange and White is coming off of three consecutive solid performances, including a thrilling, five-game victory over then-No. 18 LSU on Friday, Oct. 12, .that snapped a five-match winless streak. Although UT dropped its next two contests, a five-game heartbreaker against Ole Miss and a four-game battle at Louisville, it showed tremendous progress and looks to build on those performances this weekend.
Sophomore Chloe Goldman put together one of the most dominant defensive runs in school history with 85 digs in the three-match span. The 5-6 libero opened the weekend with 37 digs against the Fighting Tigers, putting her name second in the UT record books for most digs in a single-match. The only player to have more was Amy Morris with 42 at Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005. Goldman’s total also stands as the most by any player in the SEC this season. The Monterey, Calif., product did not stop there, however, following up that effort with a 23-dig performance against Ole Miss and 25 digs in just four games at Louisville.
Offensively, freshman Nikki Fowler provided the fireworks for the Big Orange, pounding out 42 kills, including a team-high 20 versus LSU. The reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, Fowler notched consecutive double-doubles, adding 12 digs against the Tigers and recording 14 kills and 10 digs in the contest versus Ole Miss.
For the season, Fowler and sophomore Leah Hinkey have been the squad’s most effective offensive weapons. In her rookie campaign, Fowler leads UT with 202 putaways and 609 swings, while Hinkey has hit at a team-high .280 clip, smashing out 193 kills of her own. Goldman continues to stabilize the team’s defensive game, as she ranks third in the league with 5.20 digs per game. Hinkey has also provided a solid net presence this year, averaging 1.30 blocks per frame, good for sixth in the SEC.
Scouting Mississippi State
Fresh off of its first SEC weekend sweep of the season, Mississippi State will host Tennessee at 7 p.m. in the Newell-Grissom Building on Oct. 19.
Tennessee has dominated the all-time series with Mississippi State, winning 33 of the 39 meetings between the two squads, including the last 15. The Bulldogs last win over UT came on Nov. 22, 1996 at the SEC Championships in Columbia, S.C.
MSU features a four-pronged attack with a quartet of players averaging over two kills per game. Leading the team is junior Cristina Jucan with 3.57, while senior Jamie Joyner is just behind her at 3.26. With 246 and 235 total kills, respectively, those two players have accounted for 46.5 percent of the Bulldogs kills this season.
Defensively, senior libero Megan Lukasek tops the squad with 312 total digs and a 4.33 digs per game average. Those marks are good enough to rank her seventh in the SEC.
Mississippi State also utilizes a deadly serving game. With 2.04 service aces per game, the Bulldogs lead the league. A pair of MSU players are among the top 10, as Jucan is seventh with an 0.42 average and senior Eva Kriegel ranks fifth at 0.50.
Last Time Versus the Bulldogs
On Sept. 16, the Lady Vols ran their winning streak over the Bulldogs to 15 matches with a 3-1 victory in Knoxville thanks to four players with double-digit kills. The win was UT’s first of the SEC season and saw Nikki Fowler and Farren Powe combine for 27 putaways. Fowler also posted a double-double with 10 digs, while Powe hit .458 for the match.
After opening its season with a 3-6 record, Alabama has used its victory over UT in Knoxville on Sept 14, as a springboard for success, going 7-3 over its last 10 contests. The Lady Vols holds a 23-11 advantage in the all-time series with Alabama, but have dropped four straight to the Lady Razorbacks, dating back to Nov. 19, 2005, when it defeated Tennessee at the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Pacing the Crimson Tide offense is senior Brigitte Slack, who is fourth in the conference with 11.64 assists per game. Her primary option this season has been classmate Crystal Hudson. The 5-11 middle blocker ranks fifth among all league performers with a .359 hitting percentage and 4.00 kills per frame. Fellow senior Bridget Fuentez has also been solid offensively with 3.53 putaways per game.
Freshman Mary Catherine Aune provides another weapon for the Tide, as she tops the SEC in service aces per game with 0.58. On defense, junior libero Amy Pauly tops the team with 394 digs. Pauly’s digs per game average of 5.12 is fourth in the conference and is the main reason Alabama leads all SEC teams with 18.04 digs per game.
Last Time Versus the Crimson Tide
The Orange and White will be seeking revenge for a 3-0 loss suffered earlier this year at the hands of the Crimson Tide on Sept. 14. In that defeat, freshman Nikki Fowler posted her first career double-double with 17 kills and 11 digs, while sophomore Leah Hinkey hit at a team-best .308 clip with 11 kills and just three errors in 26 swings. On defense, second-year libero Chloe Goldman dug up a team-high 16 Crimson Tide attacks, while fellow classmate Jena Berg added her fourth double-double of the season with 44 assists and 13 digs. Despite having dropped four straight decisions to Alabama, UT still holds a 23-11 advantage in the all-time series between the two squads.
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 92.7 percent of the team’s assists, 78.6 percent of its digs, 70.0 percent of its aces, 54.1 percent of the squad’s blocks, 47.3 percent of its kills and 46.8 percent of UT’s total attacks.
Fowler Making an Impact
Despite the fact that she is just 18 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 the opening weekend of 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.
She has continued her solid play as of late, leading the squad to a thrilling, five-game victory over then-No. 18 LSU on Oct. 12 with a team-high 20 kills. Fowler also had 12 digs to notch her fifth double-double, before recording her sixth just two days later with 14 kills and 10 digs against Ole Miss.
For the season, Fowler leads the team with 202 kills, 609 attacks and 259.0 points, is second on the squad with 63 blocks, 53 assists and 23 aces and fourth in digs with 163.
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 2.69 mark in her other 14 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 against the Lady Razorbacks mark the highest total 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 third in the SEC with 5.20 digs per game.
She has led UT in the dig category a total of 17 times this year, missing out in only the initial contest of the campaign against No. 1 Nebraska.
Six 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, 28 at Georgia, 27 against Arkansas, a career-high 37 versus No. 18 LSU and 25 at Louisville.
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.
Nothing Getting By Goldman
While Goldman has been terrific all season, her most impressive stretch has come during the team’s last three contests, during which she has amassed an amazing 85 total digs and a 6.07 digs per game average.
In her best effort of the season, the Monterey, Calif., native accumulated 37 digs to lead the Lady Vols to a thrilling, five-game victory over No. 18 LSU on Oct. 12. The only UT player to have more in a single match was former SEC Defensive player of the Year Amy Morris who collected a school-record 42 against Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005. That mark also ranks as the most by any player in the SEC this season.
She followed that astounding performance with 23 digs in five games against Ole Miss and 25 more on the road at Louisville. For her efforts, she was named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week for Oct. 8-14.
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 91 blocks and a .280 hitting percentage. She is also second on the team with 193 kills, 439 attacks and 253.5 points and third with 13 aces. Hinkey currently ranks sixth in the conference with 1.30 blocks per game as well.
Although Flynn has missed the team’s last five contests due to injury, she still stands in third on the squad with 55 blocks and is fifth 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 1.23 per frame.
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.
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 702-466-16 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 218-117 record (.651). 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.