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BATON ROUGE, La. – Sophomore libero Chloe Goldman moved into first-place on the University of Tennessee single-season digs chart, but it was not enough to overcome a powerful LSU team which defeated the Lady Vols in three games, 30-17, 30-22, 31-29, Sunday afternoon at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La. With a team-high 21 digs in the match, Goldman moved her season total to 510, surpassing the previous record of 506 set by former Lady Vol Amy Morris in 2005.
“I was disappointed in our team’s effort and focus in the first two games of this match,” UT head coach Rob Patrick said. “We did not play defense at a high enough intensity level to be successful against a team as athletic as LSU. We have to address our setting situation so that we can run our entire offense, which we are running at about 40 percent effectiveness right now.
“Chloe played a very brave match, as she is limited athletically with some injuries that she is battling through,” Patrick said. “This record is a direct result of how hard she plays each and every match. Amy Morris was one of, if not the best libero I have ever seen play. I would never have thought that I would be blessed to have another defensive player as outstanding as her. If there is one person who deserves this record, it is Chloe because of the heart and desire she plays with at all times. I am very proud of her and she has not even scratched the surface of her full potential.”
Sophomore Kylie Marshall also put together a solid defensive match, reaching double digits in digs with 12. Offensively, the Orange and White was led by freshman Nikki Fowler and sophomore Leah Hinkey who each pounded out 11 kills in the contest. Hinkey added team highs with a .304 hitting percentage and five blocks as well, while Fowler contributed seven digs, four assists and a pair of putbacks.
Much like its match against Ole Miss on Friday night, the Orange and White accumulated an early deficit and was unable to recover before falling 30-17. Before the Lady Vols even knew what hit them, they found themselves trailing 7-2, forcing Patrick to burn his first timeout in an attempt to get his team organized. Straight out of the break, Marshall blasted a shot just inside the back line. After LSU moved up by six with scores on the next two plays, Tennessee was able to cut its deficit to three with a three-point run. Fowler sparked the spree with a tip over the Tiger block attempt, before a roll-shot by junior Milan Clarke followed an LSU attack error. That would be as close as the Big Orange would get though, as the Tigers responded by winning four straight points and 15 of the next 19 scores en route to the victory.
The LSU offense continue to be too strong for UT to handle in game two, as the Tigers claimed a two-game lead with a 30-22 triumph. The Orange and White got off to a strong start but could not hold on. On the first play of the set, Hinkey blasted a laser down the right-side line. She then joined forces with fellow sophomore Jena Berg to block a Tiger attack before Marshall served an ace and an LSU swing landed wide to give UT a quick 4-0 lead.
The Lady Vols advantage would not last long, however, as the Tigers returned the frame to an even 6-6 score shortly thereafter. Senior Yuliya Stoyanova got the lead back for Tennessee with a cross-court shot from the left-side, but LSU then caught fire and won eight points in the following nine plays to go ahead 14-9. A Patrick timeout halted the Tigers’ momentum and allowed his squad to move back within two with a three-point rally that included sharp kills by Hinkey and Fowler. Unfortunately for fans of the Orange and White, LSU regained its form and cruised out to a nine-point advantage at 25-16 and the two squads traded the final 11 points to account for the final score.
Despite controlling most of the third game, Tennessee was not able to withstand a late spurt by LSU, eventually dropping a hard-fought, 31-29 decision and the match three games to none. With the scoreboard reading 5-3 in favor of the Tigers, the Lady Vols embarked on an eight-score spree to take their largest lead of the afternoon at 11-5. UT took advantage of five unforced errors by LSU during that span and got a pair of putaways by Hinkey and a block by Hinkey and Berg. A timeout by Tiger head coach Fran Flory, however, stopped the Big Orange in its tracks and allowed her squad to regroup.
After LSU fought back to within three at 18-15, Tennessee attempted to put the set out of reach, going on a three-points run which included a blast by Fowler and a block by Hinkey and Marshall. The Tigers had other ideas, however, answering right back with four straight scores to cut the UT lead to two at 21-19. After the two squads traded the next three points, LSU went on another tear, this time for five scores, which gave it a 25-23 advantage.
The Lady Vols refused to give up, as Fowler pounded out kills on the next two plays to knot the score back up at 25-all, but LSU responded with two scores of their own to put the Big Orange in a precarious position. After the following three points were split between each team, a Brittnee Cooper kill gave the Tigers two chances at clinching the match. The Lady Vols continued to show their resolve, however, as a Hinkey blast and a block by Hinkey and Berg put the game at a 29-29 deadlock. That would mark the end of the road for Tennessee, however, as consecutive kills by Lauren DeGirolamo gave LSU the sweep.
The Orange and White will next return home for a season-long, three-match homestand. First up for the Lady Vols is No. 10 Florida, which will make the trip to Rocky Top for a 7 p.m. showdown on Nov. 9 at Stokely Athletics Center. That contest will be followed by a 1:30 match up with South Carolina two days later, before UT hosts a mid-week showdown with border-rival Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 14.