Nov. 27, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (21-9, 14-5 Southeastern Conference) will close out the regular-season portion of its schedule on Friday evening when it makes the short trip up I-75 to Lexington where it will take on No. 17 Kentucky (26-4, 17-2 SEC) at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.
The Lady Volunteers clinched sole possession of third place in the SEC last weekend with a hard-fought, five-set road victory, 23-25, 25-11, 25-18, 19-25, 16-14, over Auburn on Sunday afternoon. Junior Kylie Marshall led the Lady Vols with her third double-double of the season and fifth of her career, recording 14 kills and a team-high 14 digs in the win. The Puyallup, Wash., native also tallied three blocks and a pair of aces in the match.
Sophomore Nikki Fowler, meanwhile, paced the squad with 16 kills to go along with nine digs, four blocks and two service aces. Senior Milan Clarke also reached double-digits in kills with 13 of her own, while junior Farren Powe topped UT with six blocks. Freshman Alyssa Hilby finished second on the team with four putbacks and senior Mindy Flynn and Marshall had three each.
The Big Orange has been solid on the road this season, amassing an 8-4 record, including a 6-3 mark in league play. The six SEC road wins rank as the second most during UT Head Coach Rob Patrick's 12-year tenure, behind only the perfect 8-0 record that his 2004 squad put together en route to a share of the conference title.
Following the contest on Friday, 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 Sun., Nov. 30 on ESPNU.
SCOUTING NO. 17 KENTUCKY
The Lady Vol volleyball team will close out the regular season with a Friday night showdown against No. 17 Kentucky in Lexington. Tennessee will be looking to keep the Wildcats from becoming only the second team in the past 17 seasons to clinch a share of the SEC title with Florida, having accomplished the feat itself in 2004.
Kentucky, which has won its last four matches, including a 3-2 victory over the Gators on Nov. 16, features one of the most dangerous offensive attacks in the conference. UK has six players that have crossed into triple-digits in kills this season, led by sophomore Sarah Mendoza who has smashed out 358 putaways, good for an average of 3.31 kills per set, which ranks sixth in the SEC.
Just behind her is fellow classmate Lauren Rapp with 312 kills of her own. The 6-3 middle blocker is also hitting at a solid .304 clip. Only senior Queen Nzenwa has a better attack average for the Wildcats, having knocked out 256 kills on 526 swings with just 70 errors for a .354 hitting percentage.
Defensively, Kentucky is paced by junior libero BriAnne Sauer who has 451 digs (4.18/set) this season. Mendoza ranks second on the squad with 288, while junior setter Sarah Rumely and sophomore Laura Stokowski have tallied 240 and 206, respectively. Freshman Becky Pavan tops UK in the blocking category with a total of 130 putbacks. Nzenwa is right on her heels, however, having sent back 121 attacks of her own.
As a team, the Wildcats lead the SEC with an average of 2.85 blocks per set and 308.0 total putbacks. The stellar defensive numbers also equate to the league's lowest opponent hitting percentage of just .146.
ALL-TIME SERIES VS. THE WILDCATS
Tennessee trails Kentucky, 23-39, in the all-time series between the two squads. The Wildcats have won five straight matches over the Lady Vols, dating back to the 2006 campaign. UT's last victory over UK came on Nov. 6, 2005, when it tallied a three-set sweep in Lexington, Ky.
GETTING IT TURNED AROUND
After a disappointing 2007 season, UT has turned it around in 2008, jumping 10 wins from 11 to 21 in just one year. That ties for the fourth-largest turnaround in NCAA Division I during the 2008 campaign.
LIKE BUTTER, THEY'RE ON A ROLL
The Lady Vols have won 11 of their last 12 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.
For the season, Patrick has led the Lady Vols to 14 conference victories, which marks the second-highest total in school history behind only the 15-1 record put up by his 2004 squad. With a win over Auburn on Nov. 23, UT clinched sole possession of third place in the league, which stands as its third top-three finish in the past five seasons. The 2004 team finished tied with Florida for the SEC championship, while the 2005 squad earned a second-place finish en route to its NCAA Final Four appearance.
PICKING UP THE PACE
During their 11-1 run, the Lady Vols have definitely picked up the pace offensively, hitting at a 299 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 3.88/set over the past 12.
Junior Farren Powe alone has raised her hitting percentage 60 points, moving from .263 to .323. During the 11-1 run, the Mobile, Ala., native has tallied a stellar .426 percentage with 85 kills and just 16 errors in 162 swings. She also ranks second on the Lady Vol squad with 39 blocks, trailing only freshman Alyssa Hilby's 43 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 has found its way back into the Bison/AVCA Coaches Poll, receiving seven votes on Nov. 24 after claiming six on Nov. 10. 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.
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 (15.97/set), kills (13.97/set) and assists (13.78/set) and hitting percentage (.262) and rank in opponent hitting percentage (.165) and blocks (2.39/set).
Individually, UT is well represented on the SEC charts, led by junior Farren Powe's league-best .408 hitting percentage in conference action. Senior Mindy Flynn ranks just behind her in seventh with an attack average of .314.
Freshman Kelsey Mahoney can be found on the assists chart where she ranks 10th with 6.48 assists/set. Fellow classmate Alyssa Hilby rounds out UT's presence on the leaderboards with an average of 1.18 blocks/set which places 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 (384), kills/set (3.56), total attacks (1020), attacks/set (9.44), points (445.5) and points/set (4.12).
The 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Fowler has led the Lady Vols in kills in 20 of their 30 matches this season, accumulating double-digit totals in 21 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 242-134 (.644).
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 11 of the last 12 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.
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 30 contests.
Setter Kelsey Mahoney has started the last 18 matches and 20 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 24 starts.
Mahoney paces the team with 626 assists and 5.74 assists per set this season in addition to having collected a team-high 24 aces and a total of 174 digs. In 23 matches, Hilby has accumulated 81 kills and a squad-best 104 blocks, while Jeter has 26 kills, three aces, 28 digs and 14 blocks in 17 matches.