Nov. 22, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (20-9, 13-5 Southeastern Conference) will hit the road this weekend for its next to last match of the regular season. The Lady Vols will travel to the Plains where they will take on Auburn (6-23, 1-17 SEC) in the Student Activities Center at 1:30 p.m. CT on Sun., Nov. 23.
The Big Orange split a pair of SEC Eastern Division showdowns this weekend, falling in three sets to No. 12 Florida on Friday before bouncing back with a thrilling, come-from-behind triumph over South Carolina in five frames on Sunday. The win over the Gamecocks improved UT's record to 20-9 on the season, marking the sixth time during head coach Rob Patrick's 12-year tenure at Rocky Top that his team has reached the 20-win threshold.
Sophomore Nikki Fowler led the Lady Vols offensively over the weekend, pounding out a team-best 28 kills, including a season-high tying 22 putaways against USC. Defensively, junior libero Chloe Goldman topped the squad with 38 digs, while freshman Alyssa Hilby led the Big Orange blocking effort with 14 putbacks. In the victory over South Carolina, Goldman notched a match-high 24 digs in addition to tying her personal-best with three aces. Hilby, meanwhile, set a career-high with eight blocks in the match.
Following this Sunday's contest, Tennessee will finish off the regular season with a showdown against border-rival and No. 19 Kentucky. UT will make the short trip to Lexington, Ky., on Fri., Nov. 28 to take on the Wildcats at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. The Lady Vols will then await word in regards to their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Orange and White's fate will be decided during the NCAA Selection Show, which is scheduled to air between 10-10:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 30 on ESPNews.
In its only match this week, Tennessee will hit the road to take on an improving Auburn squad at 1:30 p.m. CT. Although the Tigers' record stands at 6-23 overall and 1-17 in SEC action, they have been playing much better as of late, as evidenced by the fact that they took a set off of league-leading Florida on the road and went to five sets against LSU and four frames at Georgia last week.
The bulk of the Auburn offense runs through senior Jessica Glover who boasts the highest kills per set average in the league at 3.69 during conference play. For the season, she tops the team with 377 kills, 912 attacks and 59 blocks. She also ranks second on the squad with 257 digs this year, good for an average of 2.32 per set. She trails only sophomore libero Liz Crouch in that category as she has 360 scoops this season.
Other offensive factors for Auburn include freshmen Kelly Fidero and Olympia Haney, sophomore Jonelle Wallace, who have recorded kill totals of 180, 157 and 175, respectively.
In Knoxville earlier this season, Glover and Haney tied for the team lead with 10 kills each in a three-set loss to the Lady Vols. Glover also notched a double-double in the contest with a team-high 12 digs, while sophomore Milena Bukinac finished just behind her with 11 scoops of her own.
In the all-time series between the two squads, the Big Orange holds a solid 22-12-1 lead over the Tigers, including wins in 14 of the last 15 matches. The lone Auburn win during that span came on Oct. 28, 2007.
LIKE BUTTER, THEY'RE ON A ROLL
The Lady Vols have won 10 of their last 11 matches, including nine straight from Oct. 14-Nov. 9. The nine-match winning streak, which was snapped by No. 12 Florida, ranks as the fourth-longest in school history and second-best run during Rob Patrick's 12-year tenure. The Big Orange record for consecutive victories is 22 set by the 1980 squad. UT also won 20 in 1973, 14 in 2004 and 11 in both 1986 and 1982.
In addition, UT claimed six straight sweeps during the run, tying the school record as the 1973 and 2004 teams also accomplished the feat. The Orange and White also won 19 straight sets which ranks as the second-most by a Patrick coached team. The record of consecutive set victories is 21, set in 2004. Finally, UT also won eight straight SEC matches which fell just one victory shy of tying the record of nine set in 2005.
PICKING UP THE PACE
During their 10-1 run, the Lady Vols have definitely picked up the pace offensively, hitting at a 298 clip as a team. In the 18 matches prior to their current streak, they posted just a .211 attack average.
The key has been the fact that UT has been able to significantly cut down on its hitting errors, going from 5.25 errors/set in the first 18 matches to just 3.97/set over the past 11.
Junior Farren Powe alone has raised her hitting percentage 64 points, moving from .263 to .327. During the 10-1 run, the Mobile, Ala., native has tallied a stellar .451 percentage with 79 kills and just 14 errors in 144 swings. She also ranks second on the Lady Vol squad with 33 blocks, trailing only freshman Alyssa Hilby's 38 putbacks during that stretch.
THE CLEVELAND CONNECTION
The Lady Vol volleyball program continued its Cleveland connection by signing Chagrin Falls, Ohio, native Leslie Cikra to a National Letter-of-Intent for the 2009 season on Thursday. The 6-3 front-row player is ranked as the nation's No. 11-ranked recruit by PrepVolleyball.com and is the second player to come to Rocky Top out of the Buckeye State in the past two seasons, joining Kayla Jeter from Solon, Ohio. On Wednesday, Cikra was also earned a spot on the second team of the Under Armour All-American High School Volleyball Team, as announced by the AVCA.
Part of UT's success in recruiting out of the Cleveland area is the fact that both head coach Rob Patrick and assistant Katie Noble hail from the region. Patrick is originally from Garfield Heights, while Noble is a former Mentor standout.
LADY VOLS BACK IN THE POLLS
For the first time since the 2006 season, the University of Tennessee found its way back into the Bison/AVCA Coaches Poll on Nov. 10 as it received six votes to unofficially rank them 34th in the country. The Lady Vols were last ranked on Oct. 16, 2006, when they were voted as the 25th-best team in the nation.
FOWLER NAMED TO COSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT FIRST TEAM
Sophomore outside hitter Nikki Fowler has been named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District First Team, as announced by the College Sports Information Directors of America. The Dallas, Texas, native will move on to the national ballot where she attempt to become the program's second All-American in three years.
A business major, Fowler currently holds a cumulative GPA of 3.86. She is the fourth Lady Vol in as many seasons to earned academic all-district honors, following Jena Berg who earned second-team laurels last year. In 2006, Kelsey Fautsch claimed a spot on the first team en route to third-team All-America honors, while Kristen Andre was named to the second team in 2005.
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 (16.55/set), kills (13.97/set) and assists (13.17/set), rank second in hitting percentage (.259) and third in opponent hitting percentage (.166) and blocks (2.39/set).
Individually, UT is well represented on the SEC charts, led by junior Farren Powe's league-best .421 hitting percentage in conference action. Senior Mindy Flynn ranks just behind her in seventh with an attack average of .320.
Freshman Kelsey Mahoney can be found on the assists chart where she ranks ninth with 6.67 assists/set. Fellow classmate Alyssa Hilby rounds out UT's presence on the leaderboards with an average of 1.19 blocks/set which ranks her third in the league.
LADY VOLS EARNING THEIR FAIR SHARE OF WEEKLY AWARDS
Four different members of the UT roster have earned a total of seven SEC weekly honors this season. Junior Chloe Goldman is the most recent Lady Vol to accomplish the feat, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week accolades for the third time this season on Nov. 10.
Her award comes on the heels of junior Farren Powe being tabbed the league's offensive player of the week and Lady Vol Athlete of the Week on Nov. 3 after helping UT to sweeps over Georgia and LSU.
Sophomore Nikki Fowler was the first to be honored by the league, claiming SEC Offensive Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 2 after posting an MVP performance at the Marquette Kickoff Classic. She earned the same award on Oct. 20 and was named the Lady Vol Athlete of the Week on Sept. 15 as well.
Goldman's other two SEC Defensive Player of the Week awards came back-to-back as she took home the honors on Sept. 15 and 22. Freshman Kelsey Mahoney, meanwhile, rounds out the Lady Vol award-winning quartet, having been named SEC Freshman of the Week on Sept. 20 after leading UT to victories over ETSU, Ole Miss and Arkansas.
NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP FOR FOWLER
Nearly finished with her second season at Rocky Top, outside hitter Nikki Fowler has been able to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, leading UT in kills (368), kills/set (3.57), total attacks (990), attacks/set (9.61), points (425.5) and points/set (4.13).
The 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Fowler has led the Lady Vols in kills in 19 of their 29 matches this season, accumulating double-digit totals in 20 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 241-134 (.643).
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 10 of the last 11 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.
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.
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 29 contests.
Setter Kelsey Mahoney has started the last 17 matches and 19 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 23 starts.
Mahoney paces the team with 605 assists and 5.82 assists per set this season in addition to having collected a team-high 24 aces and a total of 170 digs. In 23 matches, Hilby has accumulated 81 kills and a squad-best 99 blocks, while Jeter has 26 kills, three aces, 27 digs and 14 blocks in 16 matches.