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NO. 25 LADY VOLS LOOK TO RETURN TO WINNING WAYS
Sarah Blum

Sarah Blum

Oct. 19, 2006

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The No. 25 University of Tennessee volleyball team (15-5, 6-4 SEC) will attempt to return to the win column this weekend after dropping consecutive Southeastern Conference matches for the first time since 2003 last week. The Big Orange will open the weekend with a 7 p.m. CDT contest at Arkansas before moving on to Baton Rouge, La., to face No. 12 LSU in the SEC Match of the Week. The 3:30 p.m. CDT showdown will be broadcast live on SEC-TV.

Senior Sarah Blum currently sits just eight blocks away from becoming only the second player in UT history to reach 600 career putbacks. The Tulsa, Okla., native currently ranks third in the nation and first in the SEC with an average of 1.79 blocks per game. Blum's efforts extend to offense as well, as she is third on the team with 230 kills and 3.24 kills per game, while her .327 hitting percentage leads the squad. Senior Kelsey Fautsch and junior Yuliya Stoyanova are the only two Lady Vols to have accumulated more putaways than Blum, with 257 and 253, respectively. Stoyanova's team-best 3.89 kills per game average is tied for fifth in the SEC.

Arkansas (10-8, 3-7 SEC) enters Friday night's contest in the midst of a five-match SEC losing skid. In the squad's most recent action, the Lady'Backs dropped a heartbreaking five-setter last Sunday on "the Plains" to the Auburn Tigers, 30-17, 28-30, 32-34, 30-24, 15-17.

UA is being paced offensively by senior outside hitter Denitza Koleva, who has registered 263 kills for an average of 3.81 kills per game to currently stand eighth in that category in the SEC. Defensively, junior Ashley Miller leads the team with 341 digs (4.94 digs per game) to rate second in the league, while redshirt freshman Destiny Clark (1.38 bpg) and senior Amy Allison (1.25 bpg), rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in the league in blocks per contest heading into this weekend's action.

The Lady Vols are just 7-12 all-time against Arkansas, but have won the last four in the series including a four-game victory, 32-30, 30-28, 24-30, 30-24, in Knoxville earlier this season.

Currently tied with Alabama for the Western Division lead in the SEC, the No. 12 LSU Tigers (16-3, 8-2 SEC) have fallen on some hard times lately with two defeats in their last three matches. To be fair, those losses have come to the co-West leading Crimson Tide and, most recently, against SEC overall leader Florida (26-30, 22-30, 22-30). The Tiger attack is being headed by sophomore outside hitter Marina Skender with 253 kills for an average of 3.72 kpg. Overall, four Lady Tigers have registered more than 200 kills to date. Senior setter Daniela Romero paces the offense with an SEC-best 13.21 assists per game. Defensively, senior libero Kassi Mikulik has tallied 311 digs (4.57 dpg) to rate fourth overall in the SEC. Skender has also been the most effective server in the league, with a conference-best 0.72 service aces per contest, good for fourth in the nation as well.

UT is 15-26 all-time against LSU and has dropped the last two match-ups in the series including a five-set thriller in Knoxville back on Sept. 15 (30-26, 37-35, 20-30, 22-30, 11-15).

Lady Vols Ranked No. 25: The Tennessee volleyball team has been ranked No. 25 in the nation, according to the most recent CSTV/AVCA Top 25 Coaches Poll. The Lady Vols, who advanced to the NCAA National Semifinals for the first time in school history in 2005, return four starters and nine letterwinners from that record-breaking squad, including Second Team All-SEC performer and State College All-Regional MVP Sarah Blum as well as AVCA Honorable Mention All-American Yuliya Stoyanova.

Lady Vols On TV: The No. 25 Tennessee volleyball team is one of only two teams scheduled to make a pair of appearances on SEC-TV this season. UT will be featured on television a total of three times this year.

The Lady Vols will first hit the SEC-TV airwaves on Oct. 22 at 4:30 p.m. when they travel to Baton Rouge, La., to take on LSU. Tennessee will next be seen on CSS in a 2 p.m. match-up at South Carolina on Nov. 12. UT will also host Florida at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17 in a match that will tape-delayed and air on SEC-TV on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m.

FOX Sports Net South, Fox Sports Net Southwest and the Sunshine Network comprise SEC-TV and will air a total of eight matches in 2006.

No Place Like Home: Although the Lady Vols' 22-match home-winning streak was snapped in a five-game loss to LSU on Sept. 15, Stokely Athletics Center continues to provide a strong home-court advantage. Since the beginning of 2004, the Big Orange are a combined 35-2 (.946) at home, with marks of 15-1 in 2004 and a perfect 13-0 last year, including wins over No. 4 Florida and No. 17 Minnesota. Prior to the loss to the Tigers, the last team to defeat Tennessee in Knoxville was No. 8 Florida on Oct. 22, 2004.

Since Stokely Athletics Center underwent a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 1998 season, UT has amassed an 88-23 (.793) home record, including four consecutive wins in NCAA Tournament matches that the Orange and White have contested on the court.

Already 7-1 at home this year, Tennessee will host no fewer than six more matches in 2006. A showdown with No. 8 Florida will occur on Nov. 17.

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. Patrick is the second-winningest coach in Tennessee history, with a 206-100 record (.673). Bob Bertucci recorded a 229-115 (.666) 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 his last eight years.

With a winning mark in 2005, UT set the school record for consecutive winning seasons, besting the previous mark of seven (1978-84).

Winning the Close Ones: Patrick's squad has been finding ways to win almost all of its close games this season. In games decided by three or fewer points, UT has posted a record of 15-7 (.682), including wins in 13 of their last 18. In two-point games, they are 11-6 (.647) and 9-4 in their last 13.

Return to Sender: The University of Tennessee currently finds itself ranked 13th among Division I teams with an average of 3.22 blocks per game. Only five other teams among the top 25 have accumulated more total blocks than the Lady Vols' 467. Blum paces the squad's effort as she was ranked first overall in the nation with 1.79 blocks per game. Utah tops the list with an average of 3.87 blocks per game.

Stoyanova Reaches 1,000 Kills: Junior Yuliya Stoyanova became just the 15th person in Tennessee volleyball history to reach the 1,000 career kill mark. She did so in the first game of the Lady Vols' 3-1 victory on the road against Auburn on Sept. 29. Stoyanova needs 215 more kills this year in order to reach the top-10 of the all-time list. This season, she leads the team with 3.89 kills per game and is second with 253 total kills.

Blum Not Far Behind: Senior Sarah Blum is not far behind Stoyanova in the chase for 1,000 career kills as she only needs 28 more putaways before she accumulates the total. She is currently third on the team with 230 kills and 3.24 kills per game.

Sensational Stoyanova: Junior outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova started the 2006 season right where she left off in 2005, knocking out a season-high 19 kills against Miami University to help UT win the Comcast Lady Vol Classic Championship. Two weeks later she guided the squad to another tournament title, winning MVP honors at the Pitt Invitational. Stoyanova paced the team with back-to-back double-double performances in victories over Pittsburgh and Marshall. For her efforts, she was also awarded both SEC Player of the Week as well as Lady Vol Athlete of the Week.

The junior is second on the team in kills in 2006 with 253, only four behind senior Kelsey Fautsch's total of 257. Her average of 3.89 kills per game leads the team and is tied for fifth in the SEC.

During her sophomore campaign, she finished fourth in the conference with an average of 4.15 kills per game en route to First Team All-SEC and AVCA Honorable Mention All-American honors.

For her career, the Sofia, Bulgaria, native is averaging 3.68 kills per game, the third-highest average recorded at Rocky Top. She sits behind only Ariana Wilson (4.08 from 1998-01) and Tamala Brightman (4.32 from 1990-93) for the school record.

Finding the Perfect Balance: After three seasons of providing stellar defense for UT, senior middle blocker Sarah Blum has added offense to her game in 2006.

The Tulsa, Okla., native has put up terrific numbers on both sides of the court so far this season, leading the team with a .327 hitting percentage, 15 solo blocks, 127 total blocks, 1.79 blocks per game and 310.0 points.

Blum has now been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week twice within the last month. She first picked up the honor on Sept. 25 after leading UT to wins over Louisville, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. She posted totals of 48 kills, 23 blocks and hit .347 during that three-match span.

She earned the title once again on Oct. 9 after recording a .529 hitting percentage and collecting 29 kills and 11 blocks in a pair of victories over South Carolina and Georgia.

In the Lady Vols' season opener, Blum moved into second place on the UT career blocks chart after totaling 11 rejections. She surpassed Ariana Wilson's career mark of 466 and now sits behind only Robin Maine (664). She finished the 2005 campaign with a team-high 161, good for the fifth-best season in school history.

She has also recorded the top-three seasons in blocks per game during her tenure at Rocky Top, with marks of 1.53 in 2005, 1.42 (2004) and 1.39 (2003). Her career average of 1.51 is the best in school history. Blum is found in fifth place on the career hitting percentage list as well, having tallied a .309 average.

Fantastic Fautsch: Over the last two seasons, UT is 28-5 (.849) when senior outside hitter Kelsey Fautsch records 10+ kills in a match, including 13 victories so far this year.

After transferring from Nebraska prior to the 2005 season, Fautsch quickly became one of the Lady Vols most consistent performers. The senior outside hitter competed in all but one game in 2005 and posted double-digit attack totals in all but one match.

In 2006, Fautsch has continued that trend, with double-digit kills in 17 of the 19 matches in which she has played. She currently leads the team with 257 kills this year and is third with 165 digs.

Replacing a Legend: Entering this season, sophomore setter Chelsea Noble faced the unenviable task of replacing UT's all-time assists leader Julie Knytych.

Although it will be difficult to match the enormous numbers put up by the two-time All-SEC performer, Noble has fared just fine, tallying a team-high 863 total assists (11.66 per game). That mark places her sixth in the conference. She also leads the squad with 205 digs (2.77 per game).

During her freshman campaign, the Vandalia, Ohio, native contributed 76 assists, good for second on the team. That mark includes a then career-high 28 assists, which she put up in the Lady Vols' dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over No. 7 Notre Dame on Nov. 26 last year.

Marvelous Mindy: Sophomore RS/MB Mindy Flynn has been one of the Lady Vols top performers this season, posting 90 blocks and 139 kills, good for second and fourth on the team, respectively.

The Louisville, Ky., native had a breakout performance at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic on Aug. 25-26, winning the tournament's MVP award. She was also named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week for her stellar performance.

Flynn tallied 25 kills with just one attack error in 53 attempts (.453 hitting percentage) over the course of the three-match tournament. Her 12 kills versus Miami University on Saturday marked a career-high. Earlier in the day, Flynn set another personal-best mark with an impressive .667 (10-0-15) hitting percentage in the Lady Vols' sweep of Centenary. In the Friday night match, Flynn registered three kills, six digs, and four block assists in the victory over Virginia. For the weekend, Flynn totaled 25 kills, seven assists, nine digs and 10 blocks in 11 games.

She had another standout performance at Kentucky on Oct. 11. The sophomore totaled career highs with 15 kills, 31 attacks and 10 blocks in the return to her home state.

Making Their Mark: The most heralded freshman class in Tennessee volleyball history, ranked among the nation's top 10 by several publications, has received plenty of playing time this season.

All seven newcomers have seen meaningful time on the court, while three, Leah Hinkey, Jena Berg and Kylie Marshall, have earned starting nods on more than one occasion.

Hinkey has recorded the fifth most kills on the team (125) as well as the third highest block total (78).

With the team moving to a 6-2 offense at times this season, Berg has become a valuable player for the Lady Vols as the team's second setter. Currently, she has the second most assists on the squad (104) and is sixth in digs (144). The Bristol, Wis., native is also sixth on the team in service aces with eight.

Fellow freshman Marshall has proven to be the team's most versatile player, as she has played well at a number of positions, including libero, defensive specialist and outside hitter. She has tallied 38 kills, 172 digs, eight blocks and a team-high 16 service aces this season.

Dig It Up: Tennessee's success this season can be directly linked to its defensive performance in each match. This year, when they out-dig their opponent, the Lady Vols are an outstanding 12-1. They average 60.6 digs in each victory while their opponent is able to record just 54.1. When they are out dug, however, their record falls to 3-4 as they are only able to post an average of 56.6 digs to their opponent's 63.6.

The Price is Right: Senior libero Annie Sadowski's parents traveled to Los Angeles simply to watch their daughter compete in the LMU/USC Hilton LAX Invitational. Little did they know that they would be the ones making history.

Vickyann Sadowski, Annie's mother, attended a taping of "The Price is Right" and came away with the single largest collection of prizes in the show's 35-year history. When all was said and done, she had won a combined total of $147,517 worth of prizes, including a Beachcomber hot tub, collection of digital cameras from DXG, a video arcade game featuring Joust and Robotron, a home theater system from JBL, $1,000 cash, a six-night stay at the New York Marriott Marquis, and three cars: a 2007 Saturn Sky, a Dodge Caravan and a Dodge Viper SRT Tech Convertible.

We'll Get There...Eventually: The Lady Vols have not had the best of luck when traveling this season. So far, 10 of their 11 flights have either been delayed, cancelled or, in two instances, both. They have suffered through approximately 22 hours of delays in just six road trips and have been postponed an average of almost an hour and 45 minutes for every flight.

The Big Orange's travel obstacles have not been confined to the air, however, as the team bus narrowly escaped a head-on collision with a couch (yes, a couch!) on Interstate 85 North as it headed from Auburn, Ala. to Atlanta, Ga. Thanks to the driver's evasive maneuvers, the bus sustained just minor damage on its side after clipping the tumbling sofa which had fallen off the bed of a truck driving immediately ahead of it.

The off-court travel issues have done little to faze the team, however, as it has amassed an 8-4 road record, including a tournament title and three SEC wins.


 

 

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