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Volleyball Gears up for Weekend Road Trip to Alabama, Mississippi State
Michaela Hanakova

Michaela Hanakova

Oct. 23, 2008

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Coming off a week in which it claimed victories over three different teams, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (13-8, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) will begin the second half of its SEC schedule on the road this weekend, as it will travel to square off with Alabama (10-8, 3-6 SEC) at 7 p.m. CT on Oct. 24 and Mississippi State at 1:30 p.m. CT on Oct 26.

Last week, the Orange and White opened its slate with a 3-0 road sweep over in-state rival East Tennessee State on Tuesday before taking out Ole Miss, 3-0, and Arkansas, 3-1, on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Against the Bucs, UT got a big boost offensively from senior Milan Clarke who posted a career-high .812 hitting percentage with 13 kills on 16 attacks with no errors.

Just a few days later, sophomore Nikki Fowler followed her example, setting a personal-best against the Rebels with a stellar .480 attack average (14-2-25). The Dallas, Texas, native then closed out the week with a sensational, 20-kill, 11-dig performance against the Razorbacks to earn her team-high sixth double-double of the season and 17th of her young career.

As a team, Tennessee hit at an amazing .344 clip for the week, paced by the efforts of SEC Offensive Player of the Week Nikki Fowler and the league's freshman of the week, Kelsey Mahoney who led the team with 68 assists over the course of the three matches.

Following its contests this weekend, Tennessee will return to Rocky Top to take on Georgia and LSU. The Big Orange will host the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 31 in Thompson-Boling Arena before taking on the Tigers at 1:30 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 2.

SCOUTING ALABAMA

The Lady Vols will open the second half of their SEC schedule on Friday at Alabama. Crimson Tide Head Coach Judy Green's team fell in three sets against Georgia last Friday before dropping a hard-fought five set match at LSU on Sunday.

Alabama (10-8, 3-6 SEC) is one of the nation's best serving teams, ranking first in the SEC and 17th in Division I with an average of 1.79 aces per set. Sophomore Mary Catherine Aune is fourth nationally with an average of 0.60 aces per set.

Offensively, UA is powered by junior outside hitter Brooks Webster's conference-leading 3.93 kills per set average. Sophomore Calli Johnson, meanwhile, ranks sixth in the SEC with a hitting percentage of .336. Webster posted a team-best 27 kills last weekend with 11 against UGA and 16 versus LSU, en route to hitting .241.

Senior libero Amy Pauly leads a defensive unit that ranks fifth in the conference in digs per set (14.12). She has 269 digs on the year (4.01 per set) while Webster sits at second on the team with an average of 2.97 per set. Pauly recorded 33 digs last weekend.

Tennessee holds a 24-12 advantage in the all-time series after snapping a five-match losing streak to the Tide earlier this season by way of a 3-1 victory, 25-17, 25-17, 24-26, 25-18, on Sept. 21 in Knoxville.

UT senior Milan Clarke led all performers in that contest with 15 kills, while junior Kylie Marshall and sophomore Nikki Fowler both reached double-digits in kills as well with totals of 12 and 11, respectively. Junior Chloe Goldman paced the team's defensive effort with 25 digs. She was followed closely behind by Fowler, Marshall and junior Michaela Hanakova who had 20, 12 and 10 digs each.

SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE

Tennessee will close out its weekend schedule on Sunday at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs (6-14, 1-8) enter the match on a six-match losing streak, including four-set home losses to LSU and Georgia a week ago.

Junior outside hitter Ioana Demian leads the squad with an average of 2.88 kills per set. The Baia Mare, Romania, native had 30 kills in last weekend's matches and posted a double-double against LSU with 16 kills and 10 digs.

As a team, the Bulldogs rank second in the conference and 43rd nationally with an average of 1.57 aces per set. Defensively, Mississippi State is powered by sophomore libero Kayla Woodard, who averages 2.87 digs per set (2.90 per set in conference play) and junior defensive specialist Dorey Gray (2.22 digs per set).

UT Head Coach Rob Patrick holds a career record of 6-1 at the Newell-Grissom Building in regular-season play and the Lady Vols are 34-7 all-time against the Bulldogs.

Tennessee has already defeated MSU once this season, claiming a 3-0 decision, 25-20, 25-13, 25-14, in Knoxville on Sept. 19. Sophomore Nikki Fowler led the UT effort with 10 kills, while junior Chloe Goldman tallied 18 digs and freshman Alyssa Hilby posted a team-best six blocks. As a team, the Big Orange hit at a .255 clip while holding the Bulldogs to a -.050 attack average.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

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 top the conference in digs (15.79/set), are second in assists (12.94/set), third in both kills (13.62/set) and opponent hitting percentage (.179) and fourth in hitting percentage (.240).

Individually, UT is well represented on the SEC charts, led by junior Chloe Goldman's 4.82 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 4.00/set. Freshman Alyssa Hilby is currently third with 1.19 blocks/set, while fellow classmate Kelsey Mahoney is tied for sixth in service aces (0.35/set). Junior Farren Powe ranks third on the hitting percentage leaderboard with an average of .377.

"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 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 second-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. Only Kentucky's Queen Nzenwa has a better mark, having hit .867 (13-0-15) against Alabama on Oct. 17.

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

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 (278), kills/set (3.61), total attacks (733) and attacks/set (9.52).

The 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Fowler has led the Lady Vols in kills in 16 of their 21 matches this season, accumulating double-digit totals in 16 contests as well.

A native of Dallas, Texas, she also tops the team in double-doubles for the second straight campaign with six in 2008, accomplishing the feat against Illinois, Dayton, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Alabama..

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 234-133 (.638).

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 21 contests.

Setter Kelsey Mahoney has started the last nine matches and 11 total this season at the setter position, while outside hitter Kayla Jeter has started two matches and middle blocker Alyssa Hilby leads all rookies with 15 starts.

Mahoney paces the team with 427 assists and 5.47 assists per set this season in addition to having collected a team-high 19 aces and a total of 121 digs. In just 15 matches, Hilby has accumulated 56 kills and a squad-best 68 blocks, while Jeter has 26 kills, three aces, 27 digs and 14 blocks in 14 matches.

NOBLE INDUCTED INTO ROBERT MORRIS HALL OF FAME

On Sat., Sept. 27, Lady Vol Assistant Coach Katie Noble returned to her alma mater, Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa., where she was officially inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame.

A member of four straight NEC Tournament championship teams and subsequent appearances in the NCAA Tournament, Noble is the only two-time NEC Player of the Year (2001, 2002) in Robert Morris volleyball history. She held the Colonial career record for kills with 1,418 before it was eclipsed in 2005 and also ranks third in career attack percentage (.280) and block assists (203), fourth in games played (463) and fifth in solo blocks (133).

In 2001, Noble, a native of Mentor, Ohio, and a graduate of Mentor High School, helped lead RMU to a school record 30 victories.

Five of the six members of the 18th class of inductees, including Noble, were enshrined into the Robert Morris Athletic Hall of Fame at halftime of RMU's football game against Monmouth, Sat., Sept. 27, at Joe Walton Stadium.

LADY VOLS ON TV

The University of Tennessee volleyball team made its first of two appearances on television on Sun., Oct. 12, when its contest against then-No. 9 Florida was featured on Sun Sports Television.

UT will be on television once again on Sun., Nov. 16 when South Carolina makes the trip to Rocky Top for a 1:30 p.m. contest. That match will be tape delayed and broadcast on FOX Sports Regional Networks at 3:30 p.m. that same day.

MOVIN' TO AN ARENA...DOWN BY THE RIVER

After spending 10 seasons in Stokely Athletics Center, the Lady Vol volleyball team has made the short move down to the Tennessee River to play in Thompson-Boling Arena for the 2008 campaign.

The Big Orange hopes that it can bring with it the tradition of home-court dominance that it displayed in Stokely, where it amassed an impressive 98-34 (.742) record following a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed prior to the 1998 season. So far so good for the Orange and White which has won eight of its first 10 contests in TBA this season.

Another tradition that UT hopes to continue at Thompson-Boling is that of record-breaking attendance. Tennessee had competed in TBA on two occasions prior to this season, setting the top two home attendance marks in the process, including a crowd of 3,311 that came to see the Orange and White take on Georgia on Oct 28, 2005. In 2008, the volleyball configuration at TBA provides seating for up to 7,000 Big Orange faithful.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER

The 2008 Lady Vol roster boasts a pair of freshmen with strong athletic pedigrees as the fathers of both DeeDee Harrison and Kayla Jeter are former stars in the National Football League.

Harrison's father, former Vanderbilt star Dennis "Bigfoot" Harrison, spent 10 seasons as a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. In addition, her brother, David Harrison, is currently a center on the Indiana Pacers roster in the NBA. Her father earned a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl in 1981, while her brother was named to the All-Big XII First Team and earned Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors at Colorado in 2004. In all, Harrison has 11 siblings, including five brothers and six sisters.

Meanwhile, Jeter's father, Gary, was an All-American defensive tackle for Southern California, a top-five draft pick and played in the NFL for 13 seasons with the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. During the 1985 season with the Rams, he was a teammate of and played on the same defensive line as DeeDee's father, Dennis.

 

 

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