Led by a Chicago-area native, the Tennessee volleyball team took home the Blue Demon Invitational championship with an unblemished 3-0 record after downing host DePaul, 3-0 (30-25, 30-28, 30-24) on Saturday night.
With its third win in a row, UT improved to 10-2. Earlier in the tournament, the Lady Vols defeated IUPUI, 3-1, and Miami (Ohio), 3-0.
The Lady Vols continued to play consistent offense (out-hitting DePaul .352 to .248), as well as solid defense (out-digging the Blue Demons 42-31).
Sophomore setter Julie Knytych made a stellar return to her hometown, claiming tournament MVP honors with averages of 13.3 assists, 2.8 digs and 1.40 kills per game.
Posting a .394 hitting percentage, Knytych's precise setting also helped UT amass a team hitting percentage of .370 at the tournament, one of the highest in program history. Against DePaul, Knytych tallied 40 assists and 11 digs.
"I was really proud of Julie Knytych this weekend for leading us to one of our highest team hitting percentages ever," UT coach Rob Patrick said.
Also earning all-tournament nods for the Lady Vols was sophomore middle blocker Kristen Andre and sophomore outside hitter Amy Morris.
After taking the first two games, Tennessee didn't waste much time building a lead in the third. The Lady Vols used a three-point run to take a 15-9 advantage, before eventually winning by a count of 30-24. The Lady Vol offense continued to heat up, registering a .438 hitting percentage. Morris led the way for UT in the final stanza with six kills and four digs.
"We played our best match of the tournament tonight," Patrick said. "In turn, DePaul played their best match of the tournament against us. I was happy that we played so consistently in a match being played at such a high level. DePaul presents a big block, but our passing allowed us to negate that blocking presence because Julie Knytych was able to distribute the ball evenly to our hitters."
After returning from the Windy City, Tennessee will open Southeastern Conference play against the state of Mississippi this weekend. The Lady Vols will take on Ole Miss at 7 p.m. Friday, and then Mississippi State comes to town for a 2 p.m. Sunday match.