Monday, August 18, 2014

More preseason updates

We’re less than two weeks away now so expect updates to be coming in more regularly!

  • Tennessee has posted a new practice report updating how things are going after their first official week on the court. The story also has head coach Rob Patrick’s thoughts on the just launched SEC Network and some discussion with newcomers Kelsey Bawcombe and Claudia Coco on how they’re adjusting to their new team.
  • The Lady Vols had their first scrimmage of the season on Saturday. (Which for the first time in my memory they finally decided to publicize!) I wasn’t able to go to this one but hopefully a lot of other fans were able to take advantage of the opportunity to get an early look at the team. You can visit the team’s Instagram account (listed on the sidebar) to see some photos.
  • Coach Patrick and the team participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge that’s been spreading across the web raising money for ALS research. Check out the video on the team’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
  • In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been slowly but surely updating behind-the-scenes things around here for the new season. The roster and schedule pages are done. The stats page is being readied with former players being moved to make way for new players to be added. The SEC pages are finished while the all-time records section is being updated. And some new features are being added. For example: there is now a listing of all of Tennessee’s Senior Aces; the season match-by-match stats now show highs and lows; and the season player pages now show the statistical leaders. And more is on the way!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Kendra Turner

turnerNext up in our series is Kendra Turner, a 6’1″ outside hitter from LaPlace LA. She played volleyball (and basketball and track) at Riverside Academy. She played club for Southern Swing and Louisiana Volleyball.

During her junior year she averaged 19 kills per match. She was the All-District MVP and was named to the All-New Orleans Area team. In the Louisiana tournament, a switch of just five points in the semifinals would have had her team playing in the state championship game.

Her senior season was more impressive. She averaged 25 kills per set. She was the Preseason Player of the Year in her region, again the All-District MVP, and added All-Area MVP and All-State honors. PrepVolleyball named her a High Honorable Mention on their High School All-American list. And her team almost played for it all again, falling in the semifinals where a switch of just four points would have had them in the title game.

Turner on her decision to play at Tennessee: “I’m very excited. At Tennessee, they care for their athletes and they make sure we’re up on classwork before we get on the court. I really like the coaches, and I feel like they can push me even more… When I watch (Tennessee) on TV, they really compete. I like the school and the academics. The campus is so nice.”

High school coach Chelsea Lucas-Nicholas on Turner: “I tell people all the time, you see the finished product, and she’s not even finished yet”; “Her determination was big. The way she was committed to the younger girls, leading them — she matured”; “She’s always hit the ball hard, but she really grew into a passion for it this year. When you have that skill and desire together, it’s powerful”; “She wants to be the best player… she can be. She’s prepared.”

Coach Patrick on Turner: “Kendra is going to bring a tremendous amount of athletic ability to our volleyball team. She is a strong, powerful, six-rotation outside hitter, one of those rare volleyball athletes that can control the ball in the back row as well as terminate in the front row. We are very excited about the potential that Kendra brings to our program and she will be able to provide firepower on the right and outside hitting positions on our team.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

NCAA, SEC preseason news
  • The AVCA has released the first Coaches Poll of the season. Four SEC teams made the list: #10 Florida, #15 Missouri, #19 Kentucky, and LSU receiving votes at an unofficial #32. The Lady Vols will face off against those opponents seven times during the season, as well as unofficial #31 Iowa State.
  • The SEC coaches are predicting Florida will win the conference this year, in their annual preseason poll. The Gators were a unanimous pick to win it all. Kentucky came in second, with defending champion Missouri in third — making it a sweep for the East at the top. Tennessee was picked 11th.
  • The coaches also announced their Preseason All-SEC Team. Florida led with three selections, while Missouri was the only other school with more than one pick.
  • Repeating what I’ve already said this week, be sure to check out UT’s social media accounts. Lots of cool news and photos posted already in just the past few days, including two cool team shots.

Friday, August 8, 2014

UPDATED: Start of season news
  • Three weeks from today the first game of the year takes place, but the season has started in a sense now that the Lady Vols have begun their official practices.
  • The team has also updated the roster on their website, in case you don’t want to wait for my newcomer updates!
  • Technically start of season news, just not for UT: my daughter’s middle school team is renting out a local pool in west Knoxville on August 22nd and is selling $5 tickets to raise money. If you live in the area come check it out!


  • UT has posted a photo gallery and a video from today’s practice.
  • If you’re not following the official team Facebook and Twitter accounts be sure to do so using the links in the sidebar — lots of cool updates coming now that the team is back in action!
  • One more quick plug: Adults in Knoxville that want to play some volleyball next Saturday, be sure to check out this tournament.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Sabrina Tavakoli

tavakoliWith just over three weeks until the first serve, today we continue our series on the new players you’ll see on the court this coming season.

Sabrina Tavakoli is a 5’7″ setter from Centennial High School in Corona CA. She played on the varsity squad all four years of her career and was a team captain the final two. She was a three time scholar-athlete and a three-time team MVP as well.

Tavakoli earned All-Big VIII honors all four seasons, the first two on the Second Team and the last two on the First Team. She was also named a Most Hustling Player for three seasons and Big VIII Hustling Player of the Year her final year.

She played club at Mizuno Long Beach, where her teams placed in the top 15 at the Junior National Championships three times, including a 7th place finish this year. She was also part of her club’s beach team and earned a silver medal at Junior National Championships.

PrepVolleyball noted that Tavakoli was a “fine setter” who leads her squad’s “fast offense” which “can give teams fits”.

According to her school paper, Tavakoli chose Tennessee for the volleyball program, academics, and to be part of the “best conference for all sports”. She described her style of play to a local media outlet as “quick and risky. I love to run a fast/quick offense that messes the other side of the net up, also sometimes very risky because I like to try new things or pull off unexpected plays while playing the game”.

Coach Patrick said of Tavakoli: “Sabrina is a very athletic, quick and strong volleyball player who will come in with a lot of experience. She plays for one of the top club teams in the country at Long Beach Mizuno and has been trained by two All-American setters in Joy McKienzie-Fuerbringer and Sabrina Hernandez. She already sets a high level of offense and we expect her to compete for playing time when she sets foot on campus.”

Saturday, August 2, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Kelsey Bawcombe

bawcombeWith less than a month until the season begins I should probably be churning these out faster, especially considering how many newcomers there are this year!

Next up in our series is Kelsey Bawcombe, a 6’2″ outside hitter from Temecula Valley High School in Temecula CA.

During her final year playing for the Golden Bears the six-rotation player led her team with 323 kills, had a stellar .433 hitting percentage, and dug up 165 balls.

Bawcombe was an all-area selection the past two seasons, earning Southwestern League Second Team honors her junior year and First Team honors her senior year. In addition, she also picked up recognition from the media, being named to the All-Inland and the All-Valley Teams.

She played beach with CBVA and club at 951 Elite (the same club as current Lady Vol Lexi Dempsey). Twice her teams finished near the top at the Junior Olympics, finishing third and fifth.

This past season PrepVolleyball named her to their annual Senior Aces list of the top 250 recruits in the country. While only the top 100 are ranked, the site noted Bawcombe was among 25 players who just missed that cut. In addition to that accolade, PrepVolleyball has also singled out Bawcombe for praise previously noting that she is “very good” and “awfully impressive”.

Coach Rob Patrick on Bawcombe: “Kelsey… is someone who is going to come in and be one of our best six rotation skill players. She’s one of the top hitters in the California Interscholastic Federation, and she’s has great back court skills as she used to be a libero earlier in her career before she hit a growth spurt. We’re excited about having someone coming in with her type of ball control, not just in her passing and defense, but also the type of things she will be able to do in the front row hitting the ball. Because of her high skill level, she’ll be able to attack the ball in a lot of different areas to be effective at the college level.”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Four first-year Lady Vols earn SEC academic honors

Four Lady Vols have earned recognition by the conference in this year’s SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll. Congratulations to Ashley Mariani, Bridgette Villano, Lexi Dempsey, and Carly Wishlow. With four players honored, UT matches the school high for players on the list originally set in 2008-09. Only two schools placed more volleyball players on the list this year. With the seven upperclassmen named to the 2013 Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll earlier this year, eleven of the sixteen players on Tennessee’s roster earned academic notice from the conference.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Claudia Coco

coco2Later than intended but today we start looking at the newcomers to the 2014 Lady Vols team. First up is Claudia Coco, a 5’4″ defensive specialist from Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek GA. Coco joined Tennessee for the spring semester, getting a jump start on her collegiate career.

The Cougars were Area Champs during three of Coco’s years on the high school squad and advanced deep into Georgia’s state tournament in each of her four seasons — they played for the title her freshman and senior years and made it to the final four and final eight in her sophomore and junior seasons. Over her career Coco had an astounding 2,754 digs — a state and national high school record! She averaged 5.40 digs per set. During her senior year, those numbers were 935 digs, for 6.60 per set. She also accumulated career numbers of 166 aces (0.30 per set), 379 assists (0.70 per set), and 2,000 receptions (4.00 per set).

Coco’s list of high school awards is almost too long to list here! So here are the highlights. She was named All Area four years in a row. She made All State in 2012 and 2013. Last year she was the Georgia Defensive Player of the Year and a Georgia Senior All-Star. She was named a PrepVolleyball national “Defensive Dandy” every season of her high school career. And for her final season she was named to four All America teams: Max Preps (First Team), Prep Volleyball (First Team), USA Today (Third Team), and Under Armor (Honorable Mention).

Coco played club for A5 in Roswell GA, where her squads came in third at the AAU Open National Championships the last two years. She also earned AAU All America honors.

Here’s what people have said about her:

  • High school coach Jennie Blevins: “Claudia is an amazing athlete with an incredible work ethic. She works very hard to make every pass perfect and is very consistent. No matter what, she will work hard to get the job done.”
  • PrepVolleyball: “Her defense repeatedly frustrates and denies the opposing teams’ best hit. Spot-on defense, great reading, anticipation, consistency, speed and tremendous tenacity are Coco’s trademarks. She is a fearless defender who can take over a match. She is not afraid, has a tremendous work ethic and really likes to compete.”
  • Club coach Mike Webster: “Her dedication to the development of her craft is the reason why our team has grown so much over the course of this season.”
  • Club coach Karen Brown: “Claudia’s desire to be great as a teammate and her drive to win is more important to her than any stat, medal or award.”
  • Club coach Blair Boyle: “Claudia is an athlete with an immense passion for the game. Claudia is disciplined and determined. She takes pride in her role as a libero. She pushes herself to work harder each time she steps on the court. She pushes her teammates to be their best and always knows no matter how hard she works, there is more she can do to make herself better. As we all know, liberos don’t get much recognition. This is a libero you cannot help but stop and watch play.”
  • High school coach Jennie Blevins (on Coco breaking the state digs record): “This accomplishment really just puts us on the map even more as a strong volleyball program, which Claudia has played a huge part in molding the past four years. She is also showing all the other girls that if you work hard, you can obtain the ‘unobtainable’ goal.”
  • PrepVolleyball: “A great pure defender, Coco is very competitive and a strong worker. She has no fear of the big moment.”
  • UT coach Rob Patrick: “I’m very excited about Claudia joining our program as she’s a player who is homegrown in the Southeast playing for the very successful A5 volleyball program. She’s one of the top liberos in the country as she broke the official Georgia all-time digs record and the unofficial national record. She’s a tremendous defensive presence who will bring a great passion and competitiveness to our team. She is someone who will continue the great lineage of defensive players that Tennessee has had.”

And here’s what Coco had to say about her decision to become a Lady Vol: “I absolutely loved what I saw at Tennessee from the team and the coaches, it’s close to home and they have a great journalism and broadcasting program, which is what I want to do. I’ve always considered myself a decisive person and once I decided on Tennessee, I just wanted to make it official.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Volleyball facility to be named for Cronan

cronanAfter three decades on the job, long time Tennessee women’s athletic director Joan Cronan is in her final few days on Rocky Top. Last week the school announced it would be naming the soon to be completed volleyball practice facility in her honor.

Cronan was the UT women’s basketball coach from 1968 to 1970. She moved on to lead the athletic department of College of Charleston, growing the school into the top women’s athletics program in the country at the time according to the American Women’s Sports Foundation. She also served a stint as their volleyball coach. She came back to Knoxville to lead Tennessee’s women’s athletics in the 1980s, and helped turn the Lady Vols into the most respected program in the nation. In 2011, she was named the interim UT athletic director for both men and women, making her the first woman in SEC history to oversee an entire athletics department.

The Daily Beacon spoke with junior Kalyn Helton: “This is another step up for our volleyball program and we are honored for our new practice facility to be named after someone who has had such a great impact in women’s sports… This new practice facility marks a new era in Tennessee Volleyball.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Schedule for 2014 announced

Tennessee’s 2014 schedule was released last week. While the pre-SEC schedule seems a little softer than what fans have come to expect over the years, it’s probably a good thing for a young team that needs to build experience and confidence, while hopefully staying healthy. And there are several teams on the list you’d be wise not to look past. Here are some quick notes about the schedule:

  • The Lady Vols will begin the season on August 29th in Boone NC vs Tennessee Tech. Since 1978, the team is 28-8 in season opening matches. Under head coach Rob Patrick the team is 13-4.
  • In total there will be 32 games during the regular season: 13 at home and 19 on the road, and 18 SEC and 14 out of conference.
  • The team will play 10 matches on the road before local fans get to see them at Thompson Boling Arena on September 18th vs Austin Peay. That’s the latest date for a home opener since 2001, when the 9/11 attacks cancelled UT’s tournament making the September 21st match vs LSU the first game in Knoxville that year. The team is 29-7 since 1978 in home opening matches. Under coach Patrick they are 14-3.
  • The non-conference slate consists of Appalachian State, Austin Peay, Coastal Carolina, Cleveland State, Evansville, Iowa State, Kennesaw State, Loyola University Maryland, Memphis, Mercer, Montana State, Nebraska-Omaha, Northern Illinois, and Tennessee Tech.
  • The SEC season will begin September 26th at Arkansas. With only 18 conference matches between 12 other SEC teams, we no longer get a full round robin. This season UT will play these teams twice: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, and Texas A&M. They will play these teams only once: Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and South Carolina.
  • Nine of Tennessee’s opponents this coming season made the NCAA Tournament last year, and UT will play 15 games versus them: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa State, Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, and Texas A&M.
  • The Lady Vols will face three in state opponents this season: Austin Peay, Memphis, and Tennessee Tech. In recorded games since 1973, UT is an impressive 134-27-4 against Tennessee schools, while coach Patrick is 23-2.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Back on the job!

OK, I usually don’t post as much during the offseason, but this was a big absence even for me! If you follow me on Twitter you’ll already know what’s been taking up all my free time. In April I volunteered to coach a middle school team and helped set up and launch a new website. I was out of town for a large portion of May. And for the first half of June I’ve been getting a major update to another of my websites rolling. Things are finally getting back to normal here. Other than taking the kids to some occasional day camps, the rest of the summer should be much less hectic. Which means I can spend a lot more time on the website I get the most enjoyment out of working on! News updates are on the way and then we’ll start profiling all the new Lady Vols hitting the court in just a few months.

Friday, March 7, 2014

March update

While we fans have to suffer from volleyball withdrawal, the team itself in keeping very busy!

lear98– Tennessee has announced former Lady Vol Erica Lear has been named assistant coach. Lear played in Knoxville from 1998 to 2001 and still holds several school assists records. Coach Rob Patrick said about her: “I’m very excited to have Erica come back to the Lady Vol family and bring her many talents to our program. She is someone who understands what Tennessee volleyball is about, and I’m confident that she will be able to impart Tennessee volleyball to our current and incoming players. She understands how special it is to be a part of the Lady Vol family. She was one of the most instrumental recruits I’ve ever had, and was one of the main reasons we were able to turn the fortunes of the Tennessee volleyball program around when she came to play here in 1998.”

What better way to welcome her back to the fold than to potentially embarrass her by pulling up photos from her freshman season! (In the team photo below she’s sitting on the far left.)

tnbvpf – The university has (finally!) broken ground on a new dedicated volleyball practice facility. This will be the first time in program history the volleyball team has had its own space. Patrick said, “This is something that has been in the works for a while. I really appreciate the administration, Mr. Hart and Mr. Gilbert working very hard over a long period of time to get this done. It’s really for the players. They have a place now to call home. It’s a place they can go and really feel like they can own. It’s going to make a difference in recruiting and the way we are able to train. I can’t thank my assistants enough or the players that came before for the obstacles they’ve had to overcome and still be able to be successful.” Photos, videos, blueprints and more can be found in a feature piece called “A Place to Call Home“.

– Lady Vol senior Ellen Mullins was one of over 240 athletes from around the country to participate in the Women’s National Team tryouts. She said, “I’m so excited to see all the girls I saw last summer. Everyone that was there last summer was so good and talented. I’m looking forward to seeing them and playing with the best that’s in Colorado Springs. I’m really excited to go.” Selections will be announced this month.

– Freshman Jamie Lea was named the Outstanding Female Athlete at the Black Cultural Programming Committee’s Annual African-American Image Awards. “It is such an honor to be recognized by my class and peers for this award. I thank God for blessing me with my talent, my teammates and coaches for helping me to achieve this award, and my family and friends for supporting me throughout my freshman season”, she said. She won the award over women’s basketball’s Isabelle Harrison and Andraya Carter, and track & field’s Amirah Johnson.

Hopefully my schedule for the next few months will be to post a news update like this the first week of the month and then a feature piece the third week of the month, so hopefully they’ll be new content here at least every other week! As always be sure to follow the official UT website and Twitter account for the latest info as it’s available.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

February update

Hard to believe it’s only been two months since the Lady Vols last took the court. It seems like it’s been much longer than that! And the seven month wait ahead of us until the new season seems so far away. Here’s a quick run down of some recent news.

- Good luck to UT assistant coach Alan Edwards who has left Knoxville for Beaumont, Texas, where he is the new head coach of the Lamar Lady Cardinals.

- Congratulations to the seven Lady Vols named to the SEC Fall Honor Roll: Whitney Heeres, Ellen Mullins, Nikki Brice, Brooke Speyerer, Megan Hatcher, Ashlyn Sunseri, and Jamie Lea. Tennessee is the only team in the conference to have had at least 5 players on the list every year since 1996.

- Tennessee has introduced their 2014 signing class: outside hitter Kelsey Bawcombe, middle blocker Iesha Bryant, defensive specialist Claudia Coco, and outside hitter Kanisha Jimenez Santiago. Head coach Rob Patrick said, “The 2014 Tennessee volleyball class is one that fills many needs for us and provides us with experienced depth that we were lacking this past season. All the players coming in have played volleyball on very successful high school and club teams during their scholastic careers and we always love bringing winners into our program. They will add physicality and a high level of volleyball experience, as well as some great ball control techniques that will allow us to play at a higher and more consistent level this coming year.” I’ll have much more about the recruits soon.

- Also new on the roster is a transfer from Long Beach State, setter Taylor Johnson.

- The university has announced starting in mid-2015 they will end their apparel and sponsorship agreement with Adidas and start a new contract with Nike.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Penn State wins 2013 National Championship

For the fifth time in the seven years I’ve been doing this site, congratulations go to Penn State on winning the national championship — and to Wisconsin on giving them such a tough match!

Also congratulations to all the former Lady Vols represented in the Sweet Sixteen this year: Kelsey Robinson and Mary Pollmiller at Nebraska, Tiffany Baker at Texas, and Kylann Scheidt at American.

The 2014 Final Four will be held in Oklahoma City — just a simple 850 mile drive west on I-40 from Knoxville…

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ellen Mullins, repeat All-American

Congratulations to Ellen Mullins who was named an Honorable Mention All-American for the second time in her career. Mullins is the 17th All-America honoree in school history and just the 7th to be recognized in multiple years. UT has had at least one player named an All-American in nine out of the last ten seasons. Prior to 2004, only two Lady Vols had ever been honored.