Lady Vols Gear up for NCAA Tournament Opener at Clemson

Dec. 4, 2008

Tournament Central

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CLEMSON, S.C. - For the fourth time in five seasons, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (22-9) will take part in the NCAA Tournament, as it travels to the Palmetto State this weekend. The Lady Volunteers will open the competition against host Clemson (22-9) at 7 p.m. on Fri., Dec. 5 in Jervey Gym. The winner of that contest will take on either No. 18 and 12th-seeded Utah (24-5) or Furman (21-13) the next day at 7 p.m.

The Orange and White is 6-4 in NCAA Tournament matches under Head Coach Rob Patrick, including four victories in its run to the Final Four in 2005. Overall, UT is 10-9 all-time in the tournament.

Tennessee finished the 2008 regular season with a 22-9 overall record, including a 15-5 mark in Southeastern Conference action. Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick was honored with the league's coach of the year award, while sophomore Nikki Fowler was the only player to be unanimously voted onto the All-SEC First Team. The Big Orange is coming off a stunning, five-set road victory over then-No. 17 Kentucky last Friday. Fowler paced the squad with a season-high 24 kills, in addition to collecting seven digs, three blocks and a pair of assists.

Also reaching double-digits in kills were seniors Mindy Flynn and Milan Clarke and junior Farren Powe with 16, 14 and 10, respectively. Junior Kylie Marshall, meanwhile, just missed out on her second double-double in as many matches with eight putaways and 18 digs.

Leading UT in the digs category, however, was junior libero Chloe Goldman, who bounced back from her second-lowest dig output of the season to pace the Lady Vols with 22 scoops. Freshman Alyssa Hilby, meanwhile, topped the team with five blocks, while Flynn recorded four and Marshall and Powe both had three.

The winner of Saturday's match will travel cross-country to compete in the Seattle Regional, set to take place from Dec. 12-13. The regional winners will then advance to the National Semifinals and Final hosted by the University of Nebraska at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., on Dec. 18 and 20, respectively.


Clemson will be making its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance when it hosts Tennessee at 7 p.m. this Friday. The Tigers earned an at-large bid after finishing the regular season with a 22-9 record, including a 14-6 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Clemson also hosted an SEC squad in the opening round last season, taking out Alabama in four sets before losing in the second round to UCLA.

The Tigers are led by ACC Player of the Year senior Danielle Hepburn as well as all-conference team members juniors Kelsey Murphy and Lia Proctor.

During her four-year career at Clemson, Hepburn has won numerous awards, including three All-ACC selections and two AVCA Honorable Mention All-America nods. The native of Miami, FL has broken school career records for total blocks, block assists, blocks per set and hitting percentage this season and her current .397 hitting figure would better her own single-season mark from a year ago. Hepburn leads the 2008 squad in kills (450) and blocks (166), while her blocks per set average (1.47) ranks fourth nationally.

Murphy, meanwhile, has tallied 1,231 assists in 2008 while guiding the Clemson offense to a .267 team hitting percentage that is on pace to rank third in school history. Murphy moved into third place on Clemson's career assist list with 2,663 and leads the conference with a 10.89 assists per set figure this season. The junior setter has also totaled 124 blocks and 296 digs in 2008 to go along with a team-best 27 service aces.

Proctor, a junior outside hitter, ranks second on the team with 399 kills and third in the ACC with a 3.53 kills per set average. In her first season playing a full rotation, Proctor has also tallied 308 digs and 26 aces with 42 total blocks. She is hitting a .254 clip in 2008 to increase her career figure from .182 entering the season to a .210 percentage through regular season matches.

Despite dropping the first-ever contest between the two squads, Tennessee holds a 4-1 advantage in the all-time series.


The Mountain West Conference champion Utah volleyball team completed its regular season with a 24-5 mark and enters the NCAA Tournament as the nation's 12th seed. The Utes will face Furman at 5 p.m. on Friday.

After starting the conference season 0-2, MWC Head Coach of the Year Beth Launiere guided Utah to 14 consecutive victories in league matches to win its third MWC regular-season title in school history. Last weekend, the Utes won the Pacific Bankers Classic title with a pair of non-conference wins in Stockton, Calif.

Utah is led by MWC Co-Player of the Year senior Lori Baird. She was joined by four teammates on the All-MWC team as seniors Kathryne Haynie and Emillie Toone and sophomore Karolina Bartkowiak were selected as well.

Baird, who ranks 14th in the nation with 1.41 blocks per set, led the MWC with 1.60 blocks per set, finished fifth in kills at 3.11 per set, sixth in aces per set (0.28) and seventh in hitting percentage (.339). The middle blocker from Murray, Utah, is tied for second place in school history with 571 block assists and is third in school history with 621 career total blocks.

Haynie has posted a team-high seven double-doubles in 2008 and now has 19 in her career. She became the 11th member of Utah's 1,000-kill club against UNLV on Oct. 9 and now stands eighth in school history with 1,126 career kills.

With a hitting percentage of .394, Toone has a chance to break her own single-season record of .396 set in 2006 and would become Utah's career record holder at .345. She is second in school history with 623 career total blocks and is tied for second with Baird at 571 block assists.

Bartkowiak was solid on the attack and at the net this season with 2.02 kills per set to go along with a 0.76 blocks per set. She finished fourth in conference play with a .356 hitting percentage.

Tennessee is undefeated in four all-time matches against Utah, including a thrilling, come-from-behind victory at the AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb., last season.


Furman, which enters the NCAA Tournament with a 21-13 record, earned an automatic bid to the competition after defeating College of Charleston in the Southern Conference Tournament.

The Paladins feature two players that earned All-Southern Conference honors, as seniors Alison West and Nicole Palazzo were both tabbed to the second team.

West, an outside hitter from Roswell, Ga., earned second-team honors for the second consecutive year. West leads the Paladins with 395 kills, 3.03 kills per set and 425 total digs and is second on the team with 3.22 digs per set.

Palazzo, a middle blocker from Grayson, Ga., has earned all-conference honors in each of her three years as a Paladin. Palazzo is first on the team with a .316 hitting percentage and also leads the team with 132 total blocks and 1.03 blocks per set.

Furman has three other players that have all recorded at least 200 kills as well, with sophomore Katherine Hall recording 271 and freshmen Kelly Kirby and Alexis Shaffer pounding out 207 and 202, respectively.

Other statistical standouts for the Paladins include sophomore Brooke Ellison and freshman Carolyn Nicoletti. A 5-8 libero, Ellison holds the team lead with an average of 3.74 digs per set having recorded 370 digs in 99 total frames. Nicoletti, meanwhile, ranks third on the team with 263 scoops and 2.77 digs per set.

As a team, Furman stands as one of the toughest serving squads in the nation, having recorded 203 aces for an average of 1.57 per set. West paces the squad with 49 aces, while junior Kelsey Salava and Ellison have served 38 and 32, respectively.

The potential UT-Furman showdown on Saturday would mark the third-ever meeting between the two squads. UT won both previous contests, downing the Paladins in straight sets in both 1989 and 1993.


For the second time in his career, Tennessee Head Coach Rob Patrick has been named the SEC Coach of the Year. He also took home the honors following the 2004 season.

With a 22-9 overall record, Patrick has now reached the 20-win plateau in six of his 12 seasons at Rocky Top. The Big Orange finished its SEC schedule with a 15-5 record, tying the school record for most conference victories in a season.

Patrick, who has also been named the national coach of the year on two occasions, earning the distinction from in 2004 and Volleyball Magazine in 2005, led the Lady Vols to a third-place finish in the SEC this season, marking the third time that they have finished in the top-three in the past five seasons. Tennessee finished tied with Florida for the league championship in 2004 and the 2005 squad earned a second-place finish en route to a berth in the NCAA Final Four.


In addition to Patrick's honor, the SEC also recognized the stellar play of sophomore Nikki Fowler this season, making her the only unanimous selection on the 2008 All-SEC First Team.

Coming off SEC Freshman of the Year and All-SEC Freshman Team honors in 2007, Fowler finished the 2008 campaign ranked second in the conference with 3.80 kills per set. For the year, she leads UT in kills (408), kills/set (3.61), attacks (1082), points (471.5) and points/set (4.17). She is also second on the squad with 22 aces, third with 265 digs (2.35/set) and fourth with 76 blocks (0.67/set). Fowler has reached double-digits in kills in 21 of 31 matches, leading the team on 21 occasions. She currently ranks third in the UT career record book with 9.57 attack attempts per set and eighth with 3.44 kills per set during her two years at Rocky Top.


For just the fourth time in school history, Tennessee has taken part in three consecutive five-set matches. Unlike the other three times when it went dropped at least one match during the stretch, however, the Big Orange has earned victories in all three contests, downing South Carolina at home and Auburn and then-No. 17 Kentucky on the road. UT also played in three straight five-set matches in 1986, 2001 and 2002.


When Tennessee arrives in Clemson, there will be no need for introductions for Lady Vol assistant coach Gregg Whitis as he served as the recruiting coordinator for the Tigers from 2003-05. During his time at Clemson, Whitis was responsible for signing multiple top-25 recruiting classes which included at least five players currently on the Tiger roster.

The UT-CU connections don't end there, however, as current Clemson Head Coach Jolene Jordan Hoover served as an assistant coach at Tennessee from 1987-88 during Sandy Lynn's tenure. In fact, Hoover was at Rocky Top for two of the Lady Vols' four all-time victories over the Tigers.


If Tennessee is able to advance past Clemson on Friday, it would set up a potential showdown with 12th-seeded and No. 18 Utah on Saturday. The Lady Vols would most assuredly be looking to repeat their performance from the AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb., last season where they picked up a thrilling, five-set victory over the Utes, 10-30, 30-25, 23-30, 30-23, 18-16, in front of a UT single-match record crowd of 11,076.

Then-junior Milan Clarke and freshman Nikki Fowler topped the team with 16 and 10 kills, respectively, while libero Chloe Goldman recorded 23 digs.


The Lady Vols were 4-5 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament this season, earning wins over Dayton and Louisville, splitting with Kentucky and LSU, falling to Illinois and dropping two decisions to Florida.

Sophomore Nikki Fowler, junior Chloe Goldman and freshman Alyssa Hilby were particularly effective in those matches. Fowler averaged 4.36 kills and 2.81 digs per set, while hitting at a .259 clip with 157 kills and just 47 errors on 425 swings. Goldman and Hilby, meanwhile, led UT with 4.89 digs per set and 1.22 blocks per frame, respectively.


After a disappointing 2007 season, UT has turned it around in 2008, doubling its win total from 11 to 22 in just one year. That ties for the third-largest turnaround in NCAA Division I during the 2008 campaign.

Austin Peay8-2522-11+14
Coastal Carolina15-1727-9+12
Miami (Fla.)14-1726-6+12
Wake Forest8-2319-13+11
Sacred Heart9-2018-12+9
Arkansas State12-1921-12+9
Fla. International19-828-6+9
North Florida4-2612-20+8
UC Davis4-2412-17+8


The Lady Vols have won 12 of their last 13 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 led the Lady Vols to a school-record tying 15 conference victories, which ties 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.


During their 12-1 run, the Lady Vols have definitely picked up the pace offensively, hitting at a 288 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 4.11/set over the past 13.

Junior Farren Powe alone has raised her hitting percentage 66 points, moving from .263 to .329. During the 12-1 run, the Mobile, Ala., native has tallied a stellar .431 percentage with 95 kills and just 17 errors in 181 swings. She also ranks second on the Lady Vol squad with 42 blocks, trailing only freshman Alyssa Hilby's 48 putbacks during that stretch.


For the first time since the 2006 season, the University of Tennessee has found its way back into the Bison/AVCA Coaches Poll, receiving votes on three different occasions. UT earned 14 votes in this week's poll after picking up seven votes on Nov. 24 and 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.


Four different members of the UT roster have earned a total of eight SEC weekly honors this season, led by sophomore Nikki Fowler's three league offensive player of the week nods.

The Dallas, Texas, native became just the sixth player in SEC history to win the offensive award three times when she picked up the honor on Dec. 1 after leading UT to a five-set victory over then-No. 17 Kentucky in the team's regular-season finale. Fowler also won the honors on Sept. 2 after posting an MVP performance at the Marquette Kickoff Classic and on Oct. 20.

Junior libero Chloe Goldman has also been recognized on three different occasions, claiming SEC Defensive Player of the Week laurels on Sept. 15, Sept. 22 and Nov. 10. Only Florida's Elyse Cusack has earned the honors more often, doing so four times this year.

Freshman Kelsey Mahoney became the third Lady Vol to win an SEC award in 2008, being named the freshman of the week on Sept. 20 after leading UT to victories over ETSU, Ole Miss and Arkansas.

Junior Farren Powe, meanwhile, rounds out the Lady Vol award-winning quartet, as she was tabbed the SEC Offensive Player of the Week and Lady Vol Athlete of the Week on Nov. 3 after helping UT to sweeps over Georgia and LSU.

Only SEC Champion Florida can top the Lady Vols with five players winning a total of 12 awards. Kentucky can match the number of players that earned accolades with four, but they fall short in total awards as they combined to win just six.


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 were a fixture at the top of the SEC statistical rankings this season and finished the year rank among the top five teams in nearly every major statistical category in league play. The Lady Vols topped the conference in digs (15.93/set), kills (13.89/set) and assists (13.10/set), finished second in hitting percentage (.257) by a single point and ranked third in both opponent hitting percentage (.168) and blocks (2.36/set).

Individually, UT was well represented on the SEC charts, led by junior Farren Powe's league-best .412 hitting percentage in conference action. She finished 41 points higher than the any other player in the league, as Belita Salters from South Carolina was second with a .371 attack average.

Junior Chloe Goldman, meanwhile, was third the SEC in digs with 4.71/set, while sophomore Nikki Fowler ranked second with an average of 3.80 kills/set.

Freshman Kelsey Mahoney was found on the assists chart where she ranked 10th with 6.53 assists/set. Fellow classmate Alyssa Hilby rounded out UT's presence on the leaderboards with an average of 1.16 blocks/set which placed her fourth in the league.


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 (408), kills/set (3.61), total attacks (1082), attacks/set (9.58), points (471.5) and points/set (4.17).

The 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Fowler has led the Lady Vols in kills in 21 of their 31 regular-season matches, accumulating double-digit totals in 22 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.


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 243-134 (.645).

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.


The much heralded UT rookie class is already beginning to make an impact on the court this season with three different freshman earning starting nods during the regular season.

Setter Kelsey Mahoney has started the last 19 matches and 21 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 25 starts.

Mahoney paces the team with 662 assists and 5.81 assists per set this season in addition to having collected a team-high 24 aces and a total of 180 digs. In 25 matches, Hilby has accumulated 85 kills and a squad-best 109 blocks, while Jeter has 26 kills, three aces, 31 digs and 14 blocks in 18 matches.


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 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.


On Sat., Sept. 27, Lady Vol Assistant Coach Katie Noble returned to her alma mater, Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa., where she was officially inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame.

A member of four straight NEC Tournament championship teams and subsequent appearances in the NCAA Tournament, Noble is the only two-time NEC Player of the Year (2001, 2002) in Robert Morris volleyball history. She held the Colonial career record for kills with 1,418 before it was eclipsed in 2005 and also ranks third in career attack percentage (.280) and block assists (203), fourth in games played (463) and fifth in solo blocks (133).

In 2001, Noble, a native of Mentor, Ohio, and a graduate of Mentor High School, helped lead RMU to a school record 30 victories.

Five of the six members of the 18th class of inductees, including Noble, were enshrined into the Robert Morris Athletic Hall of Fame at halftime of RMU's football game against Monmouth, Sat., Sept. 27, at Joe Walton Stadium.


Against East Tennessee State on Oct. 14, UT senior outside hitter Milan Clarke recorded one of the most impressive offensive performances by a Lady Vol in recent memory, tallying an amazing .812 hitting percentage with 13 kills and no errors on 16 swings. Clarke's attack average marked the best by a UT player since Trinia Cuseo hit at a stellar .833 clip (15-0-18) against Florida on Nov. 18, 2000.

With her .812 attack average, the Santa Monica, Calif., native, now holds the third-highest single-match hitting percentage by any player in the Southeastern Conference this season, surpassing the previous high of .786 (12-1-14) set by Florida's Kristy Jaeckel versus Pacific on Aug. 30. Only Kentucky's Queen Nzenwa and South Carolina's Belita Salters have better marks, having hit .867 (13-0-15) and .857 (12-0-14) against Alabama and Arkansas, respectively.

Prior to her offensive display against the Bucs, Clarke's previous career high for hitting percentage (min. three kills) was .600 (3-0-5) against Gardner-Webb earlier this season at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic on Sept. 12.


After spending 10 seasons in Stokely Athletics Center, the Lady Vol volleyball team made the short move down to the Tennessee River to play in Thompson-Boling Arena for the 2008 campaign.

The Big Orange brought with it the tradition of home-court dominance that it displayed in Stokely, where it amassed an impressive 98-34 (.742) record following a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed prior to the 1998 season. In 2008, the Orange and White won 11 of its 14 contests in TBA.

Another tradition that UT hopes to continue at Thompson-Boling is that of record-breaking attendance. Tennessee had competed in TBA on two occasions prior to this season, setting the top two home attendance marks in the process, including a crowd of 3,311 that came to see the Orange and White take on Georgia on Oct 28, 2005. In 2008, the Lady Vols averaged 438 fans, their highest total over the past three seasons. Against No. 12 Florida on Nov. 14, UT set the fourth-highest attendance mark in school history with a crowd of 1,095 in attendance.


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.


The 2008 Lady Vol roster boasts a pair of freshmen with strong athletic pedigrees as the fathers of both DeeDee Harrison and Kayla Jeter are former stars in the National Football League.

Harrison's father, former Vanderbilt star Dennis "Bigfoot" Harrison, spent 10 seasons as a defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. In addition, her brother, David Harrison, is currently a center on the Indiana Pacers roster in the NBA. Her father earned a spot in the NFL Pro Bowl in 1981, while her brother was named to the All-Big XII First Team and earned Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American honors at Colorado in 2004. In all, Harrison has 11 siblings, including five brothers and six sisters.

Meanwhile, Jeter's father, Gary, was an All-American defensive tackle for Southern California, a top-five draft pick and played in the NFL for 13 seasons with the New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. During the 1985 season with the Rams, he was a teammate of and played on the same defensive line as DeeDee's father, Dennis.


While the 2008 Beijing Olympics took place halfway across the globe, there was at least one connection that linked Tennessee volleyball to Olympic gold, as UT Head Coach Rob Patrick is a former coach of two-time beach volleyball champion Kerri Walsh.

During the 1996 season, Walsh was a freshman on the NCAA National Champion Stanford team on which Patrick was an assistant coach. That year, Walsh was named National Freshman of the Year and first team All-American after she and Patrick helped lead the Cardinal to a Pac-10 title and a victory over Hawaii in the national championship match.


The University of Tennessee volleyball team made its second television appearance of the season on Sun., Nov. 16, when South Carolina made the trip to Rocky Top for a 1:30 p.m. contest. The match, which Tennessee won in five sets, was tape delayed and broadcast on FOX Sports Regional Networks at 3:30 p.m. that same day.

UT's first appearance on television came on Sun., Oct. 12, when its contest against then-No. 9 Florida was featured on Sun Sports Television.


The University of Tennessee volleyball team opened its season in style, claiming the Marquette Kickoff Tournament title with three wins in two days on Aug. 29-30.

UT christened the campaign with a three-set sweep over in-state rival Chattanooga, 25-13, 25-14, 25-18, on Aug. 29, before taking out Houston in five sets, 25-12, 25-19, 20-25, 19-25, 15-10, and Marquette in four frames, 25-14, 22-25, 25-22, 25-21, the following day.

Sophomore Nikki Fowler took home tournament Most Valuable Player honors as well as SEC Offensive Player of the Week accolades after knocking out a team-high 41 kills over the course of the weekend, while senior Milan Clarke and juniors Kylie Marshall and Chloe Goldman earned spots on the all-tournament team as well.


Throughout the years, the University of Tennessee volleyball team has amassed a stellar 26-5 (.839) record in home openers, including a 3-0 triumph over Gardner-Webb this season. During the Rob Patrick era, the Lady Vols have been even better with an 11-1 (.917) mark in his 11 years at the helm. The lone loss during that span was to LSU on Sept. 21, 2001.


University of Tennessee sophomore outside hitter Nikki Fowler was named to the 2008 preseason All-Southeastern Conference team on Aug. 21. The poll was the first in the history of the conference and featured nine athletes.

Fowler was the only underclassman to make the squad, which also consists of seven seniors and one junior. Each SEC head volleyball coach voted for seven players and no ties were broken. The Eastern Division had five players recognized, while the West had four. LSU led all teams with three selections, and Florida had two.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Fowler became just the second player in UT history to garner a postseason player of the year award during her initial season at Rocky Top, being named 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year. She also earned a spot on the conference's all-freshman team.

The first SEC Freshman of the Year in Tennessee history, Fowler played a critical role in a number of areas for the Lady Vols during her rookie campaign, leading the Big Orange with 370 kills, 1,081 total attacks and 449.0 points and averaging a team high 3.27 kills per game and 3.97 points per game. She also stood second on the squad with 26 aces and 98 blocks, third on the team with 98 assists and 0.87 blocks per game and fourth with 281 digs and 2.49 digs per game.





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