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UT Returns Home To Host Georgia, Auburn

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Fresh off its longest road swing of the season, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (8-12, 3-9 Southeaster Conference) will look to right the ship as it returns home for a pair of league contests. The Lady Vols will play host to Georgia at 7 p.m. in Stokely Athletics Center on Friday, Oct. 26 before Auburn makes the trip to Rocky Top for a 1:30 p.m. contest two days later.

The Orange and White will attempt to return to the win column after dropping a pair of tough matches on the road last weekend. Despite senior Yuliya Stoyanova’s 22nd career double-double (first of the season) and sophomore Jaye Loyd’s first, UT was unable to pull out a victory at Mississippi State, falling in five, 30-28, 26-30, 17-30, 32-30, 12-15. Stoyanova posted season-highs in both kills (17) and digs (20) in the loss, while Loyd recorded a career-high 27 assists to go along with 10 digs. On Sunday, Oct. 21, the Big Orange traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where it was taken down in three frames, 21-30, 28-30, 17-30, by Alabama. Once again, Loyd surpassed her personal-best with 30 assists, while fellow classmate Leah Hinkey totaled a team-best 11 putaways.

Over the squad’s last five matches, sophomore libero Chloe Goldman has been nearly unstoppable. The Monterey, Calif., native has put together one of the most dominant stretches in school history, averaging 5.59 digs per game with 123 total digs over that span. She has reached the 25-dig plateau four times in the past three weeks, including a 37-dig performance against No. 18 LSU that put 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.

Through the first two-thirds of the 2007 campaign, freshman Nikki Fowler and sophomore Leah Hinkey have generated the majority of the squad’s offense, combining for 40.1 percent of its total kills with 218 and 212, respectively. Fowler also leads UT with 673 attacks, while Hinkey has hit at a team-high .282 clip. On defense, Goldman has served as a stabilizing force, leading the team in digs in all but two matches. She also ranks fourth in the league with 5.15 digs per game, while Hinkey is eighth in the SEC with 1.19 blocks per frame.

Scouting Georgia

In its first year under head coach Joel McCartney, Georgia has improved by leaps and bounds after finishing 6-25 overall and just 2-18 in conference play in 2006. Led by, arguably, the most dynamic hitter in the SEC in junior Maria Taylor, the Bulldogs have already surpassed their win total from last season with a record of 14-8 and 5-7 in league action.

With an average of 4.80 kills per game and 379 total kills, Taylor currently leads the SEC. She also ranks ninth with 1.18 blocks per frame and 10th with 0.39 service aces per game. Also featured in the Bulldog offense are junior Mara Martin and freshmen Erika Clark and Britta Buethe. Martin paces the attack with 11.30 assists per contest, placing her sixth in the conference. Clarke and Buethe, meanwhile, have recorded 218 and 221 kills, respectively, on the year. Defensively, freshman Lindsay Gehan has provided solid net play for the Bulldogs, accumulating 1.43 blocks per game, good enough for fourth in the SEC.

Despite losing to UGA earlier this season, Tennessee still holds a firm grip on the all-time series with a 33-22 advantage.

Last Time Versus the Bulldogs

The Orange and White will be seeking revenge for a hard-fought, five-game loss, 30-25, 23-30, 30-28, 26-30, 12-15, suffered earlier this year at the hands of the Bulldogs on Sept. 23. The defeat snapped an eight-match win streak UT had put together against UGA, dating back to the 2003 campaign. Sophomores Jena Berg and Chloe Goldman each put forth strong defensive efforts, collecting 24 and 28 digs, respectively. Berg also had a then-career-best 56 assists, while fellow second-year Lady Vol Leah Hinkey led the team with 14 kills and a .393 hitting percentage.

Scouting Auburn

On Sunday, the University of Tennessee will go for the season sweep of its series with Auburn when the two teams square off at 1:30 p.m. in Stokely Athletics Center. UT holds a 21-11-1 advantage in the all-time series with the Tigers, including its current string of 13 consecutive victories.

Currently 10-13 on the season heading into this weekend, the Tigers are in the midst of a four-match losing streak and have dropped 10 of their last 11 contests.

Auburn will look to sisters Sara and Rachel Shanks to provide the offensive fireworks. Just a freshman, Sara Shanks paces the Georgia attack with 9.25 assists per game, the eighth-best average in the league. The elder sibling, senior Rachel Shanks is also found among the conference leaders with 3.56 kills per frame. The Tigers will also utilize the strong serving of senior Whitney Jacobs as it attempts to get its offense going. Jacobs’ average of 0.39 service aces per game ranks ninth in the SEC.

A solid defensive squad, Auburn’s freshman libero Liz Crouch has recorded team-highs with an average of 3.92 digs per game and 278 total digs, while junior Jessica Glover, Rachel Shanks and senior Jelena Sekulic are just behind her with dig totals of 270, 244 and 240, respectively.

Last Time Versus the Tigers

On Sept. 21, the Lady Vols ran their winning streak over the Tigers to 13 matches with a 3-1 victory, 27-30, 28-30, 25-30, 27-30, in Auburn, Ala. Sophomore Leah Hinkey led Tennessee to the win, tying her career high with 16 kills. She also led the squad with seven blocks, while fellow classmate Chloe Goldman paced the team defensively with 19 digs. With the triumph, UT improved its all-time record against AU to 21-11-1.

Super Sophomores

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 92.5 percent of the team’s assists, 76.3 percent of its digs, 68.1 percent of its aces, 53.7 percent of the squad’s blocks, 47.0 percent of its kills and 46.3 percent of UT’s total attacks. The group has also hit at a .194 clip, surpassing the team average of .177 and the .163 mark put up by the other seven players on the squad.

Chasing History

As the 2007 season begins to wind down, both senior Yuliya Stoyanova and sophomore Chloe Goldman are closing in on a pair of historic accomplishments.

With 1,255 career kills, Stoyanova needs just 19 more to surpass Michelle Piantadosi’s total of 1,274 and move into 10th place on the school’s all-time kills chart.

Goldman, meanwhile, ranks fifth on UT’s single-season digs list with 402 thus far this season. She would need 104 more digs over the team’s final 10 matches to take over the top spot, currently held by Amy Morris’ 2005 total of 506 digs. Goldman will also finish with the highest single-season digs per game average if she can hold onto her current average of 5.15.

It’s All About the Hitting Percentage

The Lady Vols’ struggles this season can be directly linked to its hitting percentage. In UT’s eight victories, it has amassed a .234 attack average with just 191 errors in 1,164 swings. In its 12 losses, however, the Orange and White has hit just .144 with 332 errors in 1,930 attacks.

The Big Orange has also posted a perfect 6-0 record when hitting over .200 as a team, as opposed to a 2-12 mark when hitting below that average.

Fowler Making an Impact

Despite the fact that she is just 20 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 219 kills, 673 attacks and 280.0 points, is second on the squad with 68 blocks and 25 aces, third with 57 assists and fourth in digs with 187.

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 fourth in the SEC with 5.15 digs per game.

She has led UT in the dig category a total of 18 times this year, missing out in only the initial contest of the campaign against No. 1 Nebraska and on the road versus Alabama on Oct. 21.

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 five contests, during which she has amassed an amazing 123 total digs and a 5.59 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 both Louisville and Mississippi State. 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 93 blocks and a .282 hitting percentage. She is also second on the team with 212 kills, 483 attacks and 274.5 points and third with 14 aces. Hinkey currently ranks eighth in the conference with 1.19 blocks per game as well.

Although Flynn has missed the team’s last seven 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 1.19 per frame.

Hinkey, Goldman and Fowler Impress at State Farm Illini Classic

While sophomore Leah Hinkey was the only Lady Vol to pick up State Farm Illini Classic All-Tournament team honors, she was not the only one to play at a high level at the competition, as fellow classmate Chloe Goldman and freshman Nikki Fowler were equally as impressive.

A day after setting a new career high with 16 kills against Creighton, Hinkey recorded the first double-double of her career with 10 kills and 10 blocks in a 3-1 victory over Marquette. In that same match against the Golden Eagles, Goldman and Fowler set personal bests and team season-highs with 27 digs and 17 kills, respectively.

Trio of Lady Vols Named to Comcast Lady Vol Classic All-Tournament Team

After the University of Tennessee volleyball team claimed its fourth consecutive title at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, it had three players named to the all-tournament team, including the MVP for the weekend’s competition. Sophomore Leah Hinkey was tabbed the Most Valuable Player, while junior Milan Clarke and sophomore Chloe Goldman each garnered all-tournament laurels.

Over the course of the tournament, Hinkey was one of four UT players to eclipse the .300 hitting percentage mark, blasting out a .509 average (32-5-53). She also finished second on the team in both kills (32) and aces (7) and third in blocks (9) and total attacks (53). For her efforts, she was also named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week.

The only player to be named to the all-tournament team in UT’s first two competitions this season, Clarke also had a spectacular tournament on the offensive side of the net, as she tallied a team-best 36 kills and 70 attacks. The Santa Monica, Calif., product registered a stellar .371 hitting percentage (36-10-70) to go along with six digs and six blocks.

Goldman, meanwhile, was the anchor of the Tennessee defense, collecting 4.56 digs per game and finishing with 41 total. She also played a crucial role in the passing game, passing at a .971 clip with only one reception error in 35 attempts.

Clarke, Hinkey Earn Weekly Honors

Junior Milan Clarke and sophomore Leah Hinkey were honored for their play at the AVCA Showcase Aug. 24-25. Clarke was awarded Lady Vol Athlete of the Week laurels after being named to the AVCA Showcase All-Tournament Team, while Hinkey was tabbed Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week following a 13-block performance against No. 21 Utah.

Clarke Named to All-Tournament Team at AVCA Showcase

Following a pair of strong performances against No. 1 Nebraska and No. 21 Utah, junior Milan Clarke was named the Lady Vols’ lone representative on the AVCA Showcase All-Tournament Team. The Santa Monica, Calif., product registered team highs in both kills (24) and attacks (69) on the weekend, while adding nine digs and six blocks as well.

Lady Vols Live on the Web

Fans of the Lady Vol volleyball team will be able to watch their favorite team in action this season, as a live video feed will be available for free on www.UTLadyVols.com for select Orange and White home contests. The next featured match will be Oct. 26, when Tennessee returns home to face Georgia.

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.

New Attendance Records

At the AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb., Tennessee played in front of the two largest crowds to ever see a Lady Vol volleyball team in action. For their match against No. 1 Nebraska, 10,158 fans were in attendance, breaking the previous high mark of 7,931 set at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 15, 2005, when UT took on Washington in the NCAA National Semifinals.

That record did not last for long, however, as 11,076 fans packed into the Qwest Center to watch Tennessee play Utah the next day.

No Place Like Home

Over the past three seasons, Stokely Athletics Center has provided a strong home-court advantage for the Lady Vols. Since the beginning of 2004, the Big Orange is 43-9 (.827) at home, with a 15-1 mark in 2004, a perfect 13-0 slate in 2005 and a 10-5 record in 2006.

Since Stokely Athletics Center underwent a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 1998 season, UT has amassed an 96-30 (.762) home record, including four wins in five NCAA Tournament matches that the Orange and White have contested on the court.

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 702-468-16 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 218-119 record (.647). 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.



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