The 25th-ranked and second-seeded Tennessee volleyball team fell to sixth-seeded host Alabama in five games Saturday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals, 30-26, 18-30, 18-30, 31-29, 15-13. The Crimson Tide ended Tennessee’s nine-match winning streak.
“This was a very good volleyball match,” Tennessee coach Rob Patrick said. “We had a lot of opportunities to finish the match, but Alabama played very aggressively on those points and did not allow us to.”
The Lady Vols have only one more chance to make their case for an NCAA Tournament at-large berth. They play eighth-ranked Notre Dame Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Irish Thanksgiving Classic in Notre Dame, Ind. The NCAA Selection Show will be broadcast live on ESPNews between 2:30-3:30 p.m. on Nov. 27.
Sophomore outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova set the match pace in kills with 18, hitting .277, while senior middle blocker Kristen Andre contributed 12 putaways and hit .276. Leading the Lady Vols in hitting percentage was junior middle blocker Sarah Blum, who hit .350. Senior setter Julie Knytych had 47 assists.
Defensively, senior libero Amy Morris tallied a match-high total of 24 digs, while Knytych had 12, junior outside hitter Kelsey Fautsch had 11 and freshman defensive specialist Chelsea Noble contributed 10. Blum led the match in blocks with eight.
“Alabama played very aggressively, especially in their serving and their hitting and did a good job of doing that consistently without making many errors,” Patrick said. “I was proud of the way our team played considering the great match that Alabama played.
“We just could not finish games one, four and five at the end, and that was due to Alabama’s play. My hat’s off to Alabama and their performance.”
The first game was close throughout as neither team would garner greater than a four-point lead and Alabama (23-8) never relinquished its advantage throughout the game. The biggest Crimson Tide leads came at 17-13, 28-24, 29-25 and 30-26.
After Alabama scored the first two points of the second game, Tennessee (20-8) rallied with four straight points for a 4-2 advantage. A 10-3 UT run later earned the Lady Vols a 23-14 lead on the way to a 30-18 win.
Tennessee kept its strong play going in the third stanza. The Lady Vols sandwiched two Crimson Tide tallies with 3-0 and 4-0 runs to claim the game by an identical 30-18 score.