The Tennessee volleyball team opened SEC play with a three-game sweep of Arkansas in a battle of defending division champions Friday night in Fayetteville, Ark.
Coming off back-to-back losses to Ohio and Purdue last weekend at West Lafayette, Ind., the Lady Vols cruised to a 30-27, 30-24, 30-26 win over the Lady Razorbacks.
In the match, junior outside hitter Kelsey Fautsch had the highest hitting percentage by a Lady Vol this season, and sophomore middle blocker Joselyn Johnson had a career-high seven blocks.
“The people who have not played as much this season, such as Joselyn and Milan (Clarke), played extensively tonight and really gave the team a boost,” Tennessee coach Rob Patrick said.
Tennessee (7-3, 1-0 SEC) controlled the match throughout behind the offense of Fautsch, who had a .667 hitting percentage for the match after hitting .158 and .071 in her last two matches. Yuliya Stoyanova hit .421.
UT jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the first game, strengthened by a 7-0 run and three kills by Johnson in the first nine rallies. Arkansas (7-5, 0-1 SEC) responded with its own 10-4 run to tie it at 14-14.
The game continued to be close, but with the score tied at 20, the Lady Vols went on a 5-0 run before completing the 30-27 win. In the game, Fautsch hit 1.000.
“I was very pleased with the consistency of our play in all phases of the game,” Patrick said. “I thought our hitters did a great job of taking some big swings at the ball and still being consistent. I was real happy to see Kelsey be successful from our right side attack.”
In the second game, neither team could push its lead to greater than two points until a 5-0 Lady Vol run earned UT a 14-8 lead. The advantage would be extended to 11 at 27-16 before Arkansas roared back to come within five at 28-23.
Senior middle blocker Kristen Andre hit 1.000 in the second game and finished at .533 for the night.
“We almost take it for granted that Kristen (Andre) is going to hit .500 every match,” Patrick said. “She’s been our one steady force our entire season so far.”
Senior setter Julie Knytych also recorded her 1,000th career dig in the second game.
“People such as Julie have really improved in their individual digging and that really helps our team,” Patrick said. “She also did a great job of running our offense.”
The third game was competitive throughout. Neither team enjoyed greater than a one-point advantage for most of the game before the Lady Vols finally pulled away for the win.
“I was very pleased with the defense that we played,” Patrick said.
Kill leaders included Stoyanova (17), Fautsch (15), Andre (9) and Johnson (9). Knytych added 46 assists to the winning cause.
Three Lady Vols recorded double-digit totals in digs. Senior libero Amy Morris had 17, Knytych contributed 16 and Stoyanova had 13. Johnson set a career high in blocks with seven, while Knytych added five and Fautsch had three.