Nov. 26, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - One day after earning its program-record fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament bid, the University of Tennessee volleyball team had a pair of players earn All-Southeastern Conference accolades on Monday morning.
Junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson picked up her second-straight First Team All-SEC honors, while sophomore outside hitter Tiffany Baker garnered Second Team All-SEC accolades for the second-consecutive season.
The duo led the Lady Vols to a third-place finish in the league this season with a 22-7 overall record and a 15-5 mark in conference play. Behind the pair, Tennessee earned its eighth NCAA Tournament bid in the past nine seasons and 14th postseason nod in program history.
"I'm excited that Kelsey and Tiffany were recognized by the coaches in our conference for the contributions they've made to the success of our team this year," said head coach Rob Patrick. "They've both had an impact on the game in all phases - serving, blocking, hitting, passing and defense - so they were really touching the ball for our team quite a bit this season. They really put us in a great position to have the success that we did this year."
After becoming the school's first SEC Player of the Year in 2011, Robinson led the Big Orange in almost every offensive statistical category and finished the regular season ranked second in the conference in points per set (4.91) and third in kills per set (4.28). A six-rotation player, Robinson also ranks 14th in the SEC in digs per frame (3.44).
The junior led the league in double-doubles (21) for the second-straight season and finished the year with the highest single-match kill total in the SEC. She put down a career-best 29 kills in a five-set victory over then-No. 10 Iowa State on the opening weekend of the season.
"Kelsey has just been a workhorse for us since she got here," said Patrick. "She has an impact in the game in all facets. She's our top point scorer, leads the conference in double-doubles and that's something to be said - with her impact of kills in the front and back row with digs - she not only scores us points, but allows us to defend and gives us more opportunities for her teammates to score."
"She's a force at the net with her blocking - she had her best blocking year ever," Patrick said. "Then she's also done a fantastic job with such an offensive and aggressive serve of really putting teams on their heels defensively."
The 6-foot-4 captain, Robinson did a number on the Tennessee volleyball record books this season. With her first kill of the third set at LSU (10/10), the junior became one of just 18 lady Vols in program history to eclipse the 1,000-career kill mark. Just nine days later, she posted nine digs at Texas A&M, making her just the fifth Tennessee player in school history to record 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. Entering the postseason, her 3.61 career kills per set average currently sits in fourth place in the UT record books. Since 2001, Robinson is also the only Tennessee player to record five 20/20 matches.
The Bartlett, Ill., native led UT in kills per set (4.28), service aces (21) and points per set (4.91), while ranking second on the squad in digs per set (3.44) and third in total blocks (69) in 2012. Entering NCAA Tournament play, Robinson ranks 28th in the nation in points per set and 35th in the country in kills.
Baker, a native of Carrollton, Texas, earns Second Team All-SEC honors for the second-straight year after also garnering All-Freshmen Team accolades in 2011. In 2012, the sophomore upped her season averages immensely in kills, kills per set, hitting percentage, aces, digs per set and points per frame. She finished the regular season ranked 14th in the SEC in kills per set (3.06) and points per set (3.50), while her attacking clip (.271) ranks 19th in the league.
"Tiffany is somebody that has really come a long way from the beginning of her career here," said Patrick. "She's somebody that improved in every facet of her game. She had to really learn some of the nuances of the outside hitter position, which she didn't play much during her high school and club careers. A lot of the work we've done with her is getting her more consistent in the back row with passing, digging and serving and she's really put a lot of work into those areas. Then to become such a consistent hitter on the outside is something she's really worked on. She gets us kills without a lot of errors and that's something that has helped us be successful this season."
"She's very well deserving of her recognition in that area," Patrick said. "She has one of the highest hitting percentage of any outside hitter in the conference and has the second highest kills and points per game of any underclassmen. That says a lot about her progression from her freshman to sophomore year."
Only a sophomore, Baker leads the conference's underclassmen outside hitters in hitting percentage and ranks second in the category amongst outside hitters in the SEC overall. She also ranks third among underclassmen in kills per set and second in the league in points per frame.
The 6-foot-4 outside hitter ranks second on the squad in total kills (288), kills per set and points per set, and is third in hitting percentage (.271). She has four double-doubles on the season and hit .350 or better in eight matches this campaign (min. 12 attacks). Baker's season was highlighted by a stellar match in College Station, Texas, where the sophomore recorded 15 kills and just one hitting error on 22 attempts. She finished the match with a .636 attacking line and led the Lady Vols to a 3-0 sweep of SEC West Champion Texas A&M in her home state.
Tennessee will make the short trip to Louisville, Ky., for the opening rounds of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. UT will play Big Ten foe Michigan (23-22) on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. ET at the KFC Yum! Center - the site of the 2012 NCAA Final Four and National Championship in mid-December. The winner will move on to play the winner of Belmont (18-16) and 10th-seeded host Louisville (29-3) on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET for the right to advance to the NCAA Regional in Berkeley, Calif.
For more information about the Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team, visit UTSports.com/volleyball and follow @LadyVol_Vball on Twitter. Remember to use the hashtag #TNVB for all things related to Big Orange volleyball.
2012 SEC POSTSEASON AWARDS
Player of the Year: Chloe Mann, Florida
Libero of the Year: Stephanie Klefot, Kentucky
Freshman of the Year: Ziva Recek, Florida
Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Amanda Anderson, Arkansas
Coach of the Year: Mary Wise, Florida
First Team All-SEC
Roslandy Acosta, Arkansas
Taylor Brauneis, Florida
Chloe Mann, Florida
Ziva Recek, Florida
Tangerine Wiggs, Florida
Whitney Billings, Kentucky
Lisa Henning, Missouri
Kelsey Robinson, Tennessee
Alisia Kastmo, Texas A&M
Lindsey Miller, Texas A&M
Second Team All-SEC
Kayla Fitterer, Alabama
Jasmine Norton, Arkansas
Sarah Bullock, Auburn
Camila Jersonsky, Auburn
Betsey Smith, Florida
Stephanie Klefot, Kentucky
Molly Kreklow, Missouri
Whitney Little, Missouri
Juliette Thevenin, South Carolina
Tiffany Baker, Tennessee
Allie Sawatzky, Texas A&M
SEC All-Freshmen Team
Liz Fortado, Arkansas
Ziva Recek, Florida
Jasmine Eatmon, Georgia
Sara Schwarzwalder, Kentucky
Nakeyta Clair, Ole Miss
Ty Laporte, Ole Miss
Roxanne McVey, Mississippi State