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UT Drops 5-Game Heartbreaker at MSU

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STARKVILLE, Miss. – In its third five-game match in the last seven days, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (8-11, 3-8 Southeastern Conference), dropped a heartbreaking decision to Mississippi State (9-11, 4-7 SEC), 30-28, 26-30, 17-30, 32-30, 12-15, Friday night at the Newell–Grissom Building in Starkville, Miss. Senior Yuliya Stoyanova recorded her first double-double of the year, posting season-highs with 20 digs and 17 kills, all of which came in the fourth and fifth games.

“As a team, we have to learn how to take matches more seriously sooner,” UT head coach Rob Patrick said. “We have a tendency to only start fighting when we are too far behind to come back. We have to stop playing like a young team. I’m very disappointed in this match, because I thought we had taken some great strides in the last week.

“I thought Jaye (Loyd) did a tremendous job of coming into a difficult situation and setting our offense,” Patrick said. “She put up some very hittable balls for our offense and was one of the main reasons we stayed in this match as long as we did.”

Sophomore Kylie Marshall also continued her solid play, notching her second double-double in the last four matches. The Puyallup, Wash., native tied her season-high with 11 kills, while collecting her most digs of the year with 19. Defensively, sophomore libero Chloe Goldman surpassed the 20 digs mark for the fourth consecutive match, tallying 25, while fellow classmate Jaye Loyd and freshman Nikki Fowler each reached double-digits in the category with 11 and 10, respectively. Loyd also added a career-high 27 assists for the first double-double of her career.

It took a little while for Tennessee to shake off the rust in the initial game, but it found its stride midway through the frame and utilized a pair of lengthy runs to propel itself to a 30-28 triumph. Trailing 11-15, sophomore Farren Powe sparked a four-score spree with a sharp putaway. Back-to-back MSU miscues followed, before Powe and Fowler joined forces for a strong block that tied the set at 15-all and prompted a timeout from Bulldog head coach Tina Seals. Her squad quickly responded with scores on the next four plays, but the Lady Vols were not done yet.

Kills by sophomore Leah Hinkey on consecutive plays marked the beginning of a seven-point run that also featured an ace by Fowler and a block Berg and Hinkey and brought the score to 23-19 in favor of the Big Orange. The two squads then proceeded to trade the next 13 points until a Mississippi State miscue gave UT four attempts to win the game. As it would turn out, the Orange and White would need all four chances, as the Bulldogs thwarted their efforts on three straight occasions. With the scoreboard now reading 29-28, Marshall ended the set with a cross-court laser from the left-side.

A furious Lady Vol rally fell just short in game two, as the Bulldogs narrowly outlasted UT, 30-26. MSU dominated for the first portion of the set to the tune of a 26-13 advantage. From that point on, however, it would take everything it had to hold off a surging Lady Vol squad. A pair of unforced errors by Mississippi State got the ball rolling for the Orange and White which then received a blast by senior Joselyn Johnson and an ace by junior Laurén LaFlamme. After another miscue by the Bulldogs and a timeout by Seals, junior Milan Clarke got a kill to cut the deficit to seven at 19-26.

MSU took two of the next three points, but Tennessee had one last run in it, rattling off five straight to move within three at 25-28 and force Seals to burn her second timeout. A Bulldog kill out of the break brought them to game point, but Johnson kept UT alive with a tip over the block. An attack error on the following play, however, gave the set to Mississippi State and tied the match at one game each as the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms.

In the third game, UT put itself in an early hole from which it could not recover once again, eventually falling 30-17. After a Hinkey smash tied the score at nine, the Bulldogs went on a tear in which they won 19 of the next 22 points. A four-point Tennessee run moved the score to 28-16, but it proved to be too little, too late. The Big Orange could not get anything going offensively in the frame, mustering only eight kills and getting out-hit by MSU, .271 to .062.

Utilizing a dramatically different lineup in the fourth game, the Orange and White was able to claim a dramatic 32-30 win to send the match into a fifth and final frame. The two squads battled to a 17-17 tie before the Bulldogs jumped ahead with a five-point run. The Lady Vols did not give up, however, fighting back to a 27-27 deadlock. A Stoyanova smash from the left side gave UT its first advantage since the 5-4 mark and a chance to put the game away.

Following a Mississippi State timeout, it got a kill by Eva Kriegel to knot the score back up. Another Stoyanova blast put her team back ahead, but MSU responded with a pair of scores to go up 30-29. Down and seemingly out, the Orange and White battled back, however, getting two more putaways by Stoyanova and an ace by Loyd to win the set. After being held without a kill through the first three frames, Stoyanova recorded 10 in the fourth game alone.

Mississippi State never trailed in the fifth set but it had to hold off yet another Lady Vol rally to win the game 15-12 and the match three games to two. After trading the first six points with Tennessee, the Bulldogs took advantage of three consecutive UT miscues to go ahead 6-3 and force Patrick to call a timeout to steady his troops. The tactic worked as Marshall split two back-row defenders and Stoyanova smashed one straight down off the MSU block to move the Big Orange to within a single score at 5-6. Just three plays later, however, the Bulldogs embarked on a spree in which it won seven of eight point to take a commanding 14-7 lead.

Facing a daunting seven match-points, the Lady Vols did not fold. Instead, they got five straight scores of their own, including three kills by Stoyanova to make it 12-14 and prompt Seals to use her second timeout of the set. On the first play out of the break, however, Christina Jucan knocked out a kill that dashed UT’s hopes of a comeback and ended the match.

The Big Orange will return to the court this Sunday when it travels to Tuscaloosa, Ala. First serve for the Lady Vols’ contest against Alabama is set for 1:30 p.m. CT at the Coleman Auxiliary Volleyball Extension.



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