The Lady Vols volleyball team continues to roll, winning its sixth and seventh consecutive matches in a row over the weekend.
Head coach Rob Patrick's 500th career match with Tennessee (20-6, 13-4 SEC), the Lady Vols were tested early and often Friday night by the Auburn Tigers (17-10, 8-9) before finally taking the match in five sets Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"It's gone by really fast," Patrick said. "I've had an incredible administration that's supported us, and we've had some absolutely incredible players that have sacrificed and come here and put in a tremendous amount of work, so those are the things I think of, of 500 matches."
A back-and-forth match all night, the Lady Vols lost the first and third sets, 25-23 and 31-29 respectively, before finally knocking the Tigers off balance to take the game after five sets.
"I was relieved that we were able to continue to stay in it, one of the teams was going to break down at some point, and it could've been us. I was really relieved that we didn't," Patrick said. "We wanted to get the kills, we've got these big strong hitters that have been very successful over their careers and to be dug over and over again, it gets a little frustrating."
Five Lady Vols managed to reach double digits in kills for the night and the team was led by senior Leslie Cikra, who tied a career-high kills with 20. Cikra had a memorable night hitting .425 and only recording 3 errors to go with her kills.
"I probably haven't scored that many kills since my freshman year, but we switched up the lineup a little bit and with Tiff (Baker) out, (I) had to make the adjustment and come in and play left side," said Cikra. "It was good to kind of get in the groove tonight, and it was fun."
Cikra's performance was aided by an impressive overall effort spread among the rest of the team with junior Kelsey Robinson recording 15 kills and 13 digs with redshirt-senior Kayla Jeter also recording a double-double with 12 kills and 13 digs. Junior Ellen Mullins chipped in with 28 digs to back up her third nomination as SEC Defensive Player of the Week.
Tennessee continued to tear through the late SEC season, taking down LSU in straight sets Sunday afternoon on Senior Day.
Seniors Leslie Cikra, DeeDee Harrison, Jasmine Brown and Kayla Jeter were all honored before taking to the court. Tennessee (21-6, 14-4 SEC) swept LSU (12-16, 8-11), 25-20, 25-19, 25-21.
"We're all in a really good rhythm, it's that time of the season we always get better at the end of the season," said Cikra. "We just tried to be business like, get our job done, and it was an awesome way to send us out."
Tennessee received another big game from Cikra, who led the team with 17 kills and 16 digs against the Tigers after recording a career high in kills with 20 in a win against Auburn on Friday. Robinson chipped in with 11 kills, while Jeter came up with nine kills and junior Ellen Mullins added 38 assists and 10 digs.
"The game Friday was really low energy, we had low energy, Auburn had low energy and the crowd was kind of low, so it was kind of a really weird atmosphere, we had to get ourselves going," said Jeter. "And in this game we all kind of got behind the fact that it's Senior Day and it's Sunday, excited, families here, just got out there and got the job done."
Although LSU kept the score close in the third set, the match was never in question for Tennessee as they only allowed the Tigers to only lead twice through all three sets.
"We did a great job of putting a block in front of their hitters, the block really was steering the ball to those diggers," said Patrick. "That had a lot to do with us being able to be so successful and defending them."
For the four seniors, they are closing in on being the first senior class to finish their careers with 100 wins since 1984.
They will attempt to reach this milestone record when they will host Texas A&M on Wednesday and Mississippi State on Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
With the wins, Tennessee has won twelve of the its last thirteen matches and is positioning themselves for a favorable seeding in the NCAA tournament.