Nov. 30, 2009
By Cameron Harris, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Although Nikki Fowler's history-making, three-week reign as Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week came to an end on Monday, the award didn't have to travel far to reach its new recipient as University of Tennessee sophomore Kayla Jeter claimed the honors for the first time in her career. The Solon, Ohio, native was also named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week following a dominating performance in UT's victory over No. 10 Kentucky last Wednesday.
The 5-11 outside hitter was nearly unstoppable in the Orange and White's heart-pounding, 3-2 triumph over the Wildcats, blasting out a career-high 23 kills, while hitting at a scorching .422 clip (23-4-45). She also added a pair of blocks, a dig and an ace to the winning effort.
The victory marked the Lady Vols' second over a top-15 squad in the span of five days and gave them a school record 16 conference wins in 2009. Wednesday's triumph also marked the 750th in program history and gave UT a 12-1 record at home in 2009, tying the 2004 squad for the most home victories during a single season.
After not reaching double-digits in kills in the first 26 matches of her career, including the first seven matches of the 2009 campaign, Jeter has now accomplished the feat in 16 of her last 24 contests. Since conference play began on Sept. 18, she has increased her kills per set average by over a kill per frame, going from 1.85 to 2.88, and her hitting percentage by nearly 100 points (.157 to .256).
Jeter finished the regular season ranked ninth and 10th in the SEC, respectively, with an average of 3.27 kills per set and a .287 attack average in league matches. She also finished second on the Lady Vol squad with a total of 328 kills this season, trailing only Fowler's total of 431 putaways.
The hard-hitting right-hander becomes the 14th player in school history to take home SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Since its emergence on the volleyball scene in 2004, Tennessee players have won more weekly accolades for their offensive performances than student-athletes from any other school with a grand total of 18. That number is three more than Florida players have claimed during that span and nine more than both Georgia and LSU.
The Lady Vols will open up the postseason portion of their schedule this weekend when they host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament in Thompson-Boling Arena, Dec. 4-5. Following a 5 p.m. meeting between No. 11 and 13th-seeded Minnesota and Louisville on Friday, the Big Orange will square off with Duke at 7 p.m. in a rematch of a 2006 NCAA Tournament First Round contest. The winners of both matches will then advance to a second-round showdown at 7 p.m. on Saturday.