Oct. 26, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (15-7, 6-6 Southeastern Conference) returns home for the first time in nearly three weeks as it opens a season-long four-match home stand. The Big Orange will first be in action Friday night when it takes on Mississippi State (14-8, 5-7 SEC) at 7 p.m. in Stokely Athletics Center. Following that match-up, the Lady Vols will welcome Ole Miss (14-9, 5-7 SEC) to Knoxville for a 1:30 p.m. showdown Sunday afternoon.
Senior Sarah Blum will attempt to become just the second person in UT volleyball history to record both 600 blocks and 1,000 kills for her career as she currently sits just six kills away from accomplishing the feat. The Tulsa, Okla., native has already reached 600 blocks, doing so in the Lady Vols match at LSU last Sunday. The only other person to reach both marks was Robin Maine who tallied 1,230 kills and 664 blocks during her career that spanned from 1980-1983. Blum currently ranks fifth in the nation and first in the SEC with an average of 1.73 blocks per game in addition to being third on the team with 252 kills and 3.23 kills per game and leading the squad with a .319 hitting percentage.
Senior Kelsey Fautsch and junior Yuliya Stoyanova are the only two Lady Vols to have accumulated more putaways than Blum, with 280 and 270, respectively. Stoyanova's team-best 3.91 kills per game average is fifth in the SEC. Defensively, sophomore Chelsea Noble and freshman Kylie Marshall pace the team's effort with the squad's top two dig totals of 229 and 219, respectively. Marshall has played exceptionally well at the libero position as of late, collecting a career-high 26 digs at LSU on Oct. 22.
The Bulldogs enter Friday night's contest in the midst of a three-match winning streak in which they have recorded victories over South Carolina, Ole Miss and Alabama. They are currently tied for third place in the SEC Western Division.
Sisters Orshi and Eva Kriegel lead the team offensively from the outside hitter and setter positions. Orshi has knocked out a team-high 271 kills and 3.66 kills per game this season, while Eva paces the attack with 11.00 assists per game, the ninth-highest average in the SEC. She is also a force when serving, having posted the second-most aces in the conference with 46. Defensively, junior Megan Lukasek's average of 3.90 digs per game places her seventh among all conference performers.
Earlier this season, the trio of Blum, Fautsch and Stoyanova guided UT to a four-game victory, 30-28, 23-30, 30-26, 30-28, over Mississippi State in Starkville on Sept. 24, as all three posted double-doubles in the match. The three combined to total 40 kills, 32 digs, and 16 blocks in the win.
After squaring off with Kentucky on Friday night, Ole Miss will head south to face the Lady Vols on Sunday. The Rebels are also currently tied for third in the Western Division with a 5-7 conference record after sweeping Alabama last Friday.
A pair of upperclassmen, junior Katie Kramer and senior Jaclyn Toohey have proven to be one of the SEC's most formidable offensive duos, as they rank fourth and sixth in the conference with 3.99 and 3.90 kills per game averages, respectively.
Sophomore setter Rachel Kieckhaefer is also a premier weapon on offense, as she is averaging 12.16 assists per game to rank fourth in the SEC. On defense, junior defensive specialist Tara Langley leads the team with 285 digs and 3.65 digs per game.
The Lady Vols have already defeated the Rebels once this season, handing them a 3-1 loss, 30-27, 30-26, 24-30, 30-23, on Sept. 22 in Oxford, Miss. Blum pounded out 20 kills and had nine blocks while senior Annie Sadowski tied her career high with 21 digs in the contest. Tennessee's .315 hitting percentage in the match ranks as its fourth-highest so far this year.
No. 30 in the R(K)PI: The Lady Vols are ranked 30th in the Rich Kern Percentage Index, a simulation of the RPI ranking system used by the NCAA to select and seed teams for the NCAA Championship. They also place fourth in the South Region.
The Big Orange has played a challenging schedule to date as it has suffered four of its seven losses against foes ranked in the top 11, including No. 6 Southern California, No. 8 Florida, and two to No. 11 LSU. The other three setbacks came to No. 31 Arkansas, No. 57 Kentucky and No. 61 Alabama, while the Big Orange has earned wins over No. 24 Louisville and No. 31 Arkansas.
Lady Vols On TV: The University of 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 first hit the SEC-TV airwaves on Oct. 22 when they traveled to Baton Rouge, La., to take on No. 12 LSU in the SEC Match of the Week. 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. 7 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 206-102 record (.669). 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). Patrick's squad needs one more win this season to extend that streak to eight.
Return to Sender: The University of Tennessee currently finds itself ranked 15th among Division I teams with an average of 3.23 blocks per game. Only five other teams among the top 25 have accumulated more total blocks than the Lady Vols' 501. Blum paces the squad's effort as she was ranked first in the SEC and fifth in the nation with 1.73 blocks per game. Utah tops the list with an average of 3.88 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 181 more kills in order to reach the top-10 of the all-time list. This season, she leads the team with 3.91 kills per game and is second with 270 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 six more putaways before she accumulates the total. She is currently third on the team with 252 kills and a 3.23 kills per game average.
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 270, only 10 behind senior Kelsey Fautsch's total of 280. Her average of 3.91 kills per game leads the team and is 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 3.69 kills per game, the third-highest mark ever 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 .319 hitting percentage, 16 solo blocks, 135 total blocks, 1.73 blocks per game and 336.5 points. Blum has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week twice this season. 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 only 64 behind Robin Maine's all-time career-record of 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 1.50 is the best in school history. Blum is found in sixth place on the career hitting percentage list as well, having tallied a .307 average.
Fantastic Fautsch: Over the last two seasons, UT is 28-6 (.824) 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 18 of the 21 matches in which she has played. She currently leads the team with 280 kills this year and is fourth with 182 digs.
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 947 total assists (11.69 per game). That mark places her sixth in the conference. She also leads the squad with 229 digs (2.83 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 94 blocks and 152 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.
Hinkey has recorded the fifth most kills on the team (142) as well as the third highest block total (86).
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 (110) 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, 219 digs, eight blocks and a team-high 18 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 12-3. In those matches, they average 63.86 digs, while their opponent is able to record just 55.66. When they are out dug, however, their record falls to 3-4 as they are only able to post an average of 56.14 digs to their opponent's 62.28.
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, 11 of their 15 flights have either been delayed, cancelled or, in two instances, both. They have suffered through approximately 23 hours of delays in just seven road trips and have been postponed an average of almost an hour and 30 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.