Nov. 29, 2010
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team had a total of four players earn All-Southeastern Conference accolades on Monday afternoon, highlighted by two first-team honorees and the first SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year in Lady Volunteer history.
Already the only UT volleyball player to ever be named ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-District three times, senior Nikki Fowler added SEC Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year laurels to her already impressive résumé, sharing the honors with Kentucky's Lauren Rapp.
Fowler also claimed a spot on the All-SEC First Team for the third consecutive year, joining junior Kayla Jeter who did so for the first time in her career. Senior Leah Hinkey was tabbed to the league's second team, while Kelsey Robinson earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman Team.
"I'm very happy and proud to see these four players receive such recognition from the rest of the coaches in our conference," UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. "It is a testament to the work ethic and desire to improve that each of them brings to practice every single day. I also think that all four of them would all tell you that they owe some of this recognition to their teammates who have helped them perform at such a high level all season."
A marketing major with a 3.80 cumulative GPA, Fowler is a two-time AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and has now been named to the All-SEC First Team in each of the last three seasons after claiming the league's freshman of the year award in 2007.
"Nikki defines student-athlete at the very highest level," Patrick said. "She has represented the University of Tennessee in the absolute best way possible and I am extremely proud of what she has been able to accomplish during her four years here. I have no doubts at all that she will be successful in whatever venue she decides to pursue following her volleyball career.
"It makes it much easier for us as coaches to make academics important within our program when you have someone like Nikki who buys in to it every day. She is a fantastic role model and mentor for our younger players both in the classroom and on the volleyball court."
Arguably the best all-around player in UT volleyball history, Fowler ranks in the top 10 in seven career categories, including total attacks, kills, digs and blocks, is seventh all-time on the SEC career attacks chart and has won more SEC Player of the Week awards than any other player in league history with eight to her name.
Over the course of her four-year career at Rocky Top, Fowler has notched a double-double in 41.5 percent of her collegiate contests, with 51 in 123 career matches. In 2010, the Dallas, Texas, native leads the Lady Vols with 366 kills (3.52/set) and 883 attacks (8.49/set), ranks second with 308 digs (2.96/set), fourth with a career-best .301 hitting percentage and fifth with 56 blocks (0.54/set). She finished the regular season ranked sixth in the SEC in kills/set.
A 5-11 outside hitter, Jeter has established herself as one of the top offensive weapons in the SEC over the past two years. She currently ranks second on the squad and 10th in the SEC with 320 kills (3.02/set) and is hitting at a stellar .303 clip, good for third on the team. The Solon, Ohio, product also leads UT with 17 solo blocks and is third with 73 total putbacks
Jeter took over a six-rotation role 13 matches into the season, becoming a primary passer for the Big Orange. She sports a .970 reception percentage with just 11 errors in 369 total attempts and has nearly doubled her previous career high with 171 digs (1.61/set) this season. Over the course of the regular season, Jeter hit .300 or higher in 16 matches, over .400 in eight contests and over .500 on four occasions. An All-SEC Second Team member last year, she has led UT in kills 10 times so far this season and topped the Lady Vols with 235 kills (3.36/set) in their 30 SEC matches.
The recipient of her second postseason accolade from the SEC after being named to the 2006 All-Freshman Team, Hinkey is playing the best volleyball of her career as a senior. A 6-1 middle blocker, she is hitting at a team-leading .370 clip, which ranks fifth among all SEC players. She also sits third in the league and tops UT with 124 blocks (1.17/set) and places second on the squad with 18 aces and fourth with 207 kills (1.95/set).
For her career, Hinkey ranks second all-time at Tennessee with a career average of 1.24 blocks/set, third with 576 total blocks and 10th with a .285 hitting percentage. The Glenwood Springs, Colo., native needs 45 kills to reach 1,000 for her career.
Robinson has stepped right in and taken over a six-rotation role as an outside hitter for the Lady Vols as a true freshman. In her first year at Rocky Top following a prep career in Bartlett, Ill., she has started all 27 matches in which she has played and leads UT with 20 service aces. She tops the team with 337 digs as well and her 3.59 digs/set rank ninth among all SEC players. She is the only freshman in the top 10 in that category.
Despite missing most of three matches due to an ankle injury and playing libero for five contests while recovering, Robinson also ranks fifth on the Lady Vols quad with 169 kills (1.80/set). During those five matches as UT's libero, she averaged a stunning 5.22 digs/set. In the 10 matches since she returned to outside hitter, she has averaged 2.33 kills/set and 3.73 digs/set. Overall, Robinson has tallied four double-doubles this season, five matches with double-digit kill totals and 19 contests with double-digit digs.
The 19th-ranked Lady Vols will enter the 2010 NCAA Tournament this week with the highest national seed in school history at No. 11. The Big Orange will travel to Bloomington, Ind., for the first and second rounds of the tournament which will be held at University Gymnasium, Dec. 3-4.
Tennessee (24-6) will open the tournament against Alabama A&M (16-10) on Friday before Miami (Fla.) (23-8) squares off against Indiana (21-11). The winner of both contests will advance to a second-round showdown on Saturday night for the right to move on to the NCAA Regional in Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 10-11.
2010 SEC POSTSEASON AWARDS
Player of the Year: Kelly Murphy, Florida Libero of the Year: Stephanie Klefot, Kentucky Freshman of the Year: Desiree Elliott, LSU Co-Scholar-Athletes of the Year: Nikki Fowler, Tennessee; Lauren Rapp, Kentucky Coach of the Year: Mary Wise, Florida
All-SEC First Team Lauren Bledsoe, Florida Kelly Murphy, Florida Callie Rivers, Florida Lauren Rapp, Kentucky Angela Bensend, LSU Desiree Elliott, LS Regina Thomas, Ole Miss Nikki Fowler, Tennessee Kayla Jeter, Tennessee
All-SEC Second Team Kayla Fitterer, Alabama Jasmine Norton, Arkansas Morgan Johns, Auburn Cassandra Anderson, Florida Kristy Jaeckel, Florida Valentina Gonzalez, Georgia Stephanie Klefot, Kentucky Michele Williams, LSU Ashley Newsome, Mississippi State Leah Hinkey, Tennessee
Raymariely Santos, Arkansas
Camila Jersonsky, Auburn
Chanel Brown, Florida
Whitney Billings, Kentucky
Desiree Elliott, LSU
Juliette Thevenin, South Carolina
Kelsey Robinson, Tennessee