Despite an opportunity to shake off its SEC struggles, the Tennessee volleyball team's woes continued after falling short this weekend against Auburn, 3-0, and Georgia, 3-1.
Tennessee (6-16, 1-10 SEC) began the weekend searching for its first home win of the conference season. The Lady Vols have struggled this season, earning only two wins since Sept. 13. However, the team looked to turn their fate around with two weekend games at home.
The Auburn Tigers (15-8, 6-5 SEC) thought otherwise. They beat the Lady Vols in three sets (25-22, 25-17, 25-14) and held Tennessee to a .073 hitting percentage on Friday night for their first win in Knoxville since 2007.
Despite the loss, sophomore Lexi Dempsey finished with 20 assists and 11 digs, marking her 15th double-double of the season. Freshman Ashley Mariani also made a large contribution to the team's effort with a team-high eight kills.
The most notable event of the evening came on a dig. Ellen Mullins, senior libero of the Lady Vols, entered the SEC record books by breaking into the top 10 for all-time career digs.
"It's really special," Mullins said. "I couldn't do it without my teammates or my coaches. I'm all about them. I'm also really proud of myself. I've worked hard to get to where I am now."
Mullins' current career dig total is 1,694. She is ninth all-time as of now, needing only 10 more digs to move to eighth and 55 to crack the top five.
The Lady Vols looked to rebound on Sunday as they faced the Georgia Bulldogs (17-7, 7-5 SEC). Georgia had not fared well in Knoxville in the past, losing every match on the road against UT since 2001.
Despite the history, Georgia was able to prevail in Knoxville in four sets (25-20, 15-25, 25-15, 25-19). UT recorded more digs than Georgia, but the Bulldogs won every other statistical category. Tennessee freshman Jamie Lea recorded a team-high 10 kills in the loss.
Although the team lost, Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick was encouraged by the team's effort.
"We got better from our match on Friday, and I like that," Patrick said. "The thing that has been pretty consistent is defensively we are doing a good job of trying to handle what our opponents are doing. We served well and got them out of system as much as we could."
A consistent problem in Patrick's mind that he saw again against Georgia is the amount of errors his young squad makes.
"We really made a few too many unforced errors, but that is something we will continue to work on," Patrick said. "It was less than on Friday, so I was happy about that, but we still have to continue to give ourselves more chances to extend the rallies."
Patrick admitted the lack of depth in certain positions does affect his team, but he said he believes his Lady Vols have the potential to win matches down the stretch if the squad cuts down on its errors.
The Lady Vols will have another shot at their first conference home win of the season when they take on Ole Miss Friday night. The game starts at 7 p.m. inside Thompson-Boling Arena.