Paced by a balanced offensive attack and a stellar defensive effort by sophomore Chloe Goldman, the UT volleyball team (9-12, 4-9 Southeastern Conference) picked up its first win in two weeks and its first sweep since Sept. 1, defeating Georgia (14-9, 5-8 SEC), 30-24, 30-25, 30-27, Friday evening at Stokely Athletics Center. Goldman registered the school record for a three-game match with 31 digs in the victo ry.
“I am extremely proud of our team’s play tonight,” UT coach Rob Patrick said. “They have been playing and practicing very hard lately and really deserved to get this win. Our team could have easily fallen into a losing mode, but they were strong mentally and put some tough matches behind them. Our players deserve all the credit for coming in and doing all of the extra work needed to get this victory.
“If you look at our season up to this point, Chloe probably is our MVP,” Patrick said. “Part of the reason she was able to be so successful tonight, was that our block did a fantastic job of channeling the ball to her. Chloe also did a terrific job of controlling her digs better than she has in the past.”
The Lady Vols utilized a three-pronged attack on offense, getting double-digit kills from freshman Nikki Fowler, sophomore Leah Hinkey and senior Yuliya Stoyanova. Fowler pounded out a team-high 16 kills, while Hinkey and Stoyanova each recorded 13.
In addition to Goldman’s record-setting performance, the Lady Vols also got solid defensive efforts from sophomores Jena Berg and Kylie Marshall, as well as Stoyanova and Hinkey. With 46 assists and 14 digs, Berg notched her 14th double-double of the year, while Stoyanova recorded her second of the season and 23rd of her career with 11 digs and 13 kills. Marshall tallied 12 digs and Hinkey paced the squad in the blocks category with seven putbacks.
The Lady Vols never trailed in the initial frame of the match and held the Bulldog offense in check, taking the early advantage with a 30-24 victory. UT put together a pair of four-point runs, as well as a three-point spree during the set, while Georgia was never able to string together more than a pair of scores at any one time.
Leading by two at 5-3, Tennessee jumped out to a five-point advantage with its first four-point run of the game, sparked by a pair of kills by Marshall and closed out by a sharp putaway by Fowler. The Bulldogs kept the set close until a second UT spree moved the score from a two-point margin to five at 20-15. During that run, Tennessee got kills from Fowler, Hinkey and Berg, before Georgia coach Joel McCartney was forced to burn his first timeout.
Once again, Georgia kept the game within reach, shrinking the Tennessee lead to three at 26-23. A pair of kills by Hinkey and a sharp block by Berg and Hinkey moved the score to game-point. A service error simply delayed the inevitable, as Hinkey finished off UGA with yet another blast for a kill.
Despite Georgia holding the early lead in game two, Tennessee was able to rally back for a 30-25 triumph and a two frame advantage heading into the intermission. Trailing 8-7, the Lady Vols took advantage of three consecutive Bulldog miscues to regain the lead. After back-to-back Georgia scores a Stoyanova slam put UT ahead for good.
Georgia attempted to mount a rally shortly thereafter, rattling off scores on three straight plays. With the scoreboard reading 20-17, the Lady Vols put together a quick response, as Fowler smashed a shot from the right side, Hinkey, Berg and Marshall combined for a triple block and Hinkey tipped a kill over the block. UGA was not able to recover when Tennessee finished the set with another streak, capped off by a sharp putaway by Marshall.
A late comeback by the Lady Vols in the third game sealed Georgia’s fate, as UT earned the sweep with a 30-27 victory.