Treading on territory it had not seen in seven years, the Lady Vol volleyball team's season came to a close Friday evening in the first round of the NCAA Championships. Tennessee suffered a stinging 3-0 (10-15,1-15, 8-15) loss to the Cougars of Washington State in the opening match of the Pacific Regional First round played on the campus of Penn State University in University Park, Pa.
UT finished its 2000 campaign with a 23-10 record.
Making the tournament was a huge step for this program, head coach Rob Patrick said. With as many younger players as we have, win or lose, this experience was going to benefit us. The next time we are in this situation we will be able to draw on this match and use it as a positive.
The Cougars took the lead in the match with a 15-10 victory in game No. 1.
Tennessee out-played Washington State in every statistical category but kills. The Lady Vols held a .380 to .367 advantage in hitting percentage, 20 to 18 margin in digs and out blocked Washington State 4-0 in the first frame.
In danger of registering their first love game since Sept. 9, 1999, when No. 3 Hawaii blanked UT, head coach Rob Patrick's squad scored its first point of the second frame when Janelle Hester and Lear combined to block a Kali Surplus attack. The point came after WSU had run-up a 12-0 lead. The Cougars would cruise to take game two 15-1. Washington State swung away at a .542 clip, slamming down 15 kills while committing only two errors. One point by Tennessee was the lowest single-game total for the Lady Vols this season.
The third-game battle see-sawed as the two teams traded points. The Cougars sealed the Lady Vols' fate with a 15-8 win in the final stanza.
Wilson posted a match-high 22 kills, hitting at a .486 clip. She also added six digs and four blocks in the losing effort. Lear paced the Lady Vols, registering 41 assists while the team hit .285 in the match. Sophomore outside hitter Kelli Scott contributed nine kills and seven blocks while her classmate outside hitter Jennifer Elliott anchored the defense with 11 digs.
After opening at 12-2, the best start for the Lady Vols in 25 years, the squad finished at 23-10. Twenty-three is the highest win total for the Lady Vols since 1988.
This season was a little more successful than I would have imagined in August, Patrick said. Then I start to think about the adversity the team faced and realize how special this year was.