Monday, August 13, 2018

2018: The 60th anniversary of volleyball at Tennessee


2018 marks the 60th anniversary of volleyball at the University of Tennessee! In 1958, ETSU organized a tournament in nearby Johnson City. Students at Tennessee learned about it and convinced a teacher in the school’s Department of Physical Education to take them — making Jean Wells the first volleyball coach in program history. (Serendipitously, Tennessee will again head to Johnson City this season to play ETSU!)

UT is the oldest program in the conference by far, with an unbroken string of teams dating back to 1958. Auburn fielded a team starting in 1967 (but dropped it for four years in the 1980s). Every other SEC school claims a start date in the 1970s or later.

Volleyball was also the sport that jumpstarted women’s athletics at Tennessee. In 1959, Wells recruited Nancy Lay to help grow the fledgling program. She wasted no time, taking over volleyball that year, starting up basketball in 1960, and tennis in 1963. Lay along with fellow teacher Jo Hobson spent most of the 1960s coaching the three women’s teams. Lay led the volleyball squad from 1959 to 1964 while Hobson held the reins from 1965 to 1972.

You can read all about the first 15 years of Tennessee volleyball history and those three coaches in one of my previous articles, The hidden history of UT volleyball. Today, we’ll finish up that piece by taking a look at the coaches behind those next 45 years.

1973-1974: KAYE HART

hartKaye Hart graduated from Utah State in 1965. She was the the women’s athletic director at Southern Utah, the assistant athletic director and head women’s basketball coach at Midwestern College, and a coach at New Mexico State. She was a leader in the push for passage of Title IX. She led the UT volleyball squad from 1973 to 1974.

Hart’s first team came out strong, winning 19 matches in a row. They won the TCWSF state championship and lost in the finals of the AIAW regional championship. They entered the AIAW national championship tournament with a 36-3 record. The team went 2-3, losing in their final match to defending and eventual national champion Long Beach State. Their final record was 38-6 — UT wouldn’t have that few losses again until 2004. Tennessee didn’t do as well in Hart’s second season, posting a recorded 8-14 record (with many match results missing).

After leaving Tennessee Hart was Temple University’s women’s athletic director, Utah State’s associate athletic director then acting athletic director, and Austin Peay’s athletic director. She worked extensively with the NCAA on various committees over the years. She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Women Leaders in College Sports in 2014. Hart passed away in 2015 at the age of 72.


haleDiane Hale was a four-year player for UT from 1971 to 1974. After the departure of Hart, she moved from the court to the sideline as the new head coach for the 1975 season.

In the team’s first tournament, at Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee played in the first five-set format match in program history. Later in the season, they started out strong in the state tournament, had two chances to win the title, but fell short in both finishing in second place. They ended the year 17-8-6.

From Knoxville, Hale went on to become the head coach at Iowa State for two seasons, then Memphis State for nine years. While there she founded Memphis Juniors, the longest running club in town. She eventually moved away from volleyball and is currently the director of a government department in the state of Georgia.


jodylambertJody Lambert played basketball and volleyball for Marshall. She went to Eastern Kentucky as an assistant coach while working on her masters degree. Then took over the UT head coaching position in 1976 while working on her doctorate in physical education.

While records for this year and most of the previous ones are incomplete, 1976 featured the first recorded instance of UT being invited to a tournament held by a fellow SEC school. Among other teams, Tennessee played homestanding Georgia, Mississippi State, Auburn, and (eventual conference member) South Carolina. The Lady Vols didn’t advance far in the state tournament, losing two of three matches. Their final recorded record was 22-13-4.

1977-1978: BUD FIELDS

budfieldsBud Fields has been a fixture of Knoxville volleyball since the 1950s. He played on and coached YMCA teams for over a decade, earning multiple All-Southern honors. He helped bring the national championship to Knoxville twice. In 1971, USA Volleyball honored him with their Leader In Volleyball Award. He founded the University of Tennessee men’s club team and coached it for almost two decades. In 1977, he was named head coach of the women’s varsity squad.

UT hosted the first women’s volleyball event using the “SEC” label in 1977. Six teams competed, with Fields’ squad taking 2nd place. At the state championship, the Lady Vols went undefeated to claim the title. UT has incomplete data but has it as a 7-11-3 record his first season. (I have more, but still incomplete, data on 1977 and list it as 18-19-5). In 1978, Tennessee went 20-14-3 and came in 2nd at the state tournament.

Despite the fact that he “would like very much” to have continued as coach, Fields was let go when the administration decided to move the women’s volleyball head coaching job from a part-time to a full-time position. He continued to coach the men’s club team for a few more years. They won several regional championships and placed as high as 9th in the country. He was an official photographer for USA Volleyball for over two decades. Fields was honored with the Frier Award in 1997, the highest honor USA Volleyball can bestow. Again in 2000 they recognized him with the Kennedy/Johnson Heritage Award for his contribution in preserving volleyball archives. In 2003, he was inducted into both the YMCA Hall of Fame and the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame. In 2011, he was named to the Lady Volunteer Hall of Fame. Two men’s club tournaments at UT are named for him. And you can still find him in the stands at Lady Vol matches!

1979-1986: BOB BERTUCCI

bobbertucciBob Bertucci attended Springfield College in Massachusetts from 1970 to 1974. His volleyball team went 85-14-3 during his career, including earning a spot in the 1971 Final Four. He was a team captain and two-time MVP. He graduated in 1974 with a degree in health and physical education. He played and coached at the YMCA in New York City for awhile, before founding the women’s volleyball program at Army in 1978. His first team at West Point made it the the AIAW district championship and he was named Eastern Collegiate Volleyball League Coach of the Year. He headed south to Tennessee in 1979.

Bertucci got results immediately. In his first season the team went 34-11, came in 2nd in the SEC Tournament, won the state tournament, and moved on to the region championship. Tennessee made their first recorded trip to the west coast, playing teams outside the southeast and midwest for the first time.

His next two seasons were milestone years for the Lady Vols and volleyball in general. In 1981, after winning the school’s first official SEC Championship, Tennessee was invited to the first ever NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament. The field only contained 20 teams that initial year, and UT was the only SEC member. Tennessee faced off against Purdue and lost 0-3.

In 1982, the Coaches Poll was started. The Lady Vols defeated the first ranked team they ever faced, #15 Penn State 3-1. After coming in 1st in tournaments in Memphis, Louisville, and Raleigh, and then defeating four of the next six ranked teams they faced (including their first top ten win, over #7 Arizona), UT found themselves ranked for the first time ever — #15 in the sixth poll of the season. They went on to win the SEC Championship again and again were invited to the NCAA Tourney, this time hosting. The field was increased to 28 teams, with the Lady Vols again the only SEC representative. With the defeat of their sixth ranked team of the year, UT advanced in the tournament for the first time. A run-in with #5 USC, ended the run. Tennessee set two Tournament records in 1982 that still stand today: Beverly Robinson’s 11 aces against Northwestern, and the two teams’ combined 20 aces. The Lady Vols finished the season ranked #14 in the country with a 31-7 record.

Bertucci’s next two seasons were very similar to the last. Tennessee started the 1983 season with a win over #9 Arizona State. They went undefeated in three separate tournaments held in Knoxville. UT came up just short in the SEC Tournament championship match and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They ended the year ranked #14 with a 31-10 record.

The 1984 squad lost some early matches which knocked them out of the rankings for the rest of the year. But they fought back, winning Bertucci’s and the school’s third SEC Championship in four years, made another second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and ending up with an impressive 25-11 record. Bertucci was named the SEC Coach of the Year.

Things started to go downhill in his last two seasons. In 1985, the team had their first losing season in years with a 12-24 record, and placed in fifth in the SEC Tournament. They missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its existence. In 1986, it looked like he had the Lady Vols turned around, winning their first 11 matches in a row. But the team went 12-13 in their last 25 matches, and again came in fifth in the SEC Tournament.

Bertucci resigned at the end of the 1986 season, “for personal and business matters”, in a move that surprised everyone. After leaving Knoxville, he moved back north to Rutgers-Newark running both the men’s and women’s teams. He made it to another men’s Final Four and was named the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Coach of the Year three times. He then spent 16 years at Temple, where he led the team to four conference championships and a Sweet Sixteen berth. He earned three Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year awards. In 2011, Bertucci took the head coaching job at Lehigh, where he continued the amazing success he has had at every stop. After not having a winning season in eight years, his first squad went 19-10. His teams earned a spot in the conference postseason tournament six of the seven years he was there. And, once again, he picked up a Coach of the Year award in 2014, this time from the Patriot League. He resigned at the end of 2017. He has almost 800 career wins.

Bertucci is involved in many other volleyball pursuits outside the college ranks, including working with USA Volleyball, writing books, creating training videos, and running his popular volleyball camps. He has been named to the Springfield College Athletic Hall of Fame, the Staten Island Sports Hall of Fame, and the YMCA Volleyball Hall of Fame.

1987-1990: SANDY LYNN

sandylynnSandy Lynn was a two-time All-American player from Utah State and a member of the 1978 AIAW National Championship team. After graduating she was hired as an assistant coach at Texas in 1981, where she helped the Longhorns to that years’ AIAW National Championship. She coached Illinois State from 1982 to 1986, leading the team to four NCAA Tournaments, four conference tournament titles, and three regular season championships. She took the helm at Tennessee in 1987.

While her first season was an 18-18 effort, the schedule featured five teams ranked in the top ten — the most such teams faced by a UT squad until the 2005 Final Four year. Tennessee earned a 3rd place conference finish. In 1988, the Lady Vols improved to 23-12 and second place in the league. Lynn was named the SEC Coach of the Year. The team didn’t fare as well overall in 1989, with a 13-15 record. However UT did have a winning record in the SEC, and tied for third in the conference.

Her final year was more disappointing at 12-17 overall and 4-4 in the SEC. However, there was a bright spot. Lynn went to the administration with the idea of bringing a national postseason event — the Women’s Invitational Volleyball Championship — to Knoxville to help expand the the Lady Vol brand. She said, “A lot of people around the country look at Tennessee as a basketball school. We need to build a volleyball reputation… I think this is a real first step”. She also hoped it would eventually have a direct impact on the team itself. Potential recruits would be on hand, coaches from around the country would be in town, and Lynn hoped they would “go home and spread the volleyball word about Tennessee”. The Lady Vols and nineteen other teams from around the country descended on Stokely Athletics Center to end their seasons. You can read all about the tournament in a previous article I wrote about the event.

She resigned in early 1991, and decided to move on from volleyball. She said, “I plan to pursue other opportunities… I’m looking for a different type of challenge. I am at the point and the age in my life, where I need a change after 10 years of coaching”. Sandy Lynn died in 2001 in a hiking accident near Carlsbad, New Mexico at the age of 44.

1991-1996: JULIE HERMANN

juliehermannJulie Hermann played volleyball at Nebraska from 1981 to 1984. She was an All-Big Eight player and helped her team to four conference championships, four NCAA Tournaments, and two top five finishes. She served as an assistant coach at Georgia and Wyoming. Her first head coaching position was at Northern Arizona. A year later, Tennessee came calling.

She had a rough start in Knoxville. The team went 12-17 in 1991, but boosted that to 13-14 in 1992. A highlight of that second season was defeating #16 Kentucky — the first win for the Lady Vols over a ranked opponent since 1983!

Hermann’s steady improvement reached a head in 1993. UT started the season 0-3, but then rattled off 17 wins in the next 25 matches. They were rewarded with Tennessee’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 1984. The team finished the year 18-13.

Unfortunately, that was the peak for her time on Rocky Top. The team fell to 10-20 in 1994. Then 7-25 in 1995 — notable also as the only year in program history where the team went winless in conference play. Her final season came in 1996, when the team ended her tenure with a winning season at 17-16.

While her Tennessee peak may have been a few years behind her, Hermann’s career trajectory was on its way up. She spent 15 years at Louisville as Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director. In addition to all her responsibilities managing 20 sports, she helped move the Cardinals from the small time to a power conference — working on the transition from Conference USA to the Big East and then from the Big East to the American Athletic Conference. That experience didn’t go unnoticed. When Rutgers was preparing to make a transition to the Big Ten Conference and found themselves in need of a new Director of Athletics, they turned to Hermann, making her one of a handful of female athletic directors in the FBS side of Division I. During her career she has served on many boards and committees, including for the NCAA, NACWAA, WMCA, and AVCA. Since leaving Rutgers, she is serving on the board of the Alliance of Women Coaches.

1997-2017: ROB PATRICK

robpatrickRob Patrick played football and volleyball at Miami University in Ohio, where he earned a degree in business with an accounting concentration in 1983. He reached the top four in USA Volleyball championships several times, winning three times in 1990, 1992, and 2006. He picked up USVBA All-America honors twice. From 1994 to 1996 he served as an assistant coach at Stanford, where the team went 92-6, won three conference titles, played in three Final Fours, and earned two national championships. He took the reins at Tennessee in 1997.

I’m not about to go through all the many accomplishments of Rob Patrick over his two decades at UT. I’ve written about them plenty already! You can read all about his hiring and first season here. You can read about the breakthrough 2004 32-2 season here. You can read about the historic 2005 Final Four season here. And you can check out a look at his impressive career in numbers here.

But here are a few quick bits: longest serving coach in program history; 16 winning seasons in 21 years; 9 NCAA Tournaments; 409 wins; 16 players earning an All-America honor; 2 SEC championships; 2 Sweet Sixteen appearances; 1 Final Four appearance; 6 top 25 finishes; 3 SEC Coach of the Year awards; 2 Region Coach of the Year awards; 2 national coach of the year awards.

After retiring from Tennessee after 21 years, Patrick said, “this is the proper time for me to move on to other opportunities”. That includes getting back to his pre-volleyball roots in finance — “which will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and two young daughters”.


everackhamEve Rackham was UNC’s setter from 1999 to 2002 and helped lead the team to four NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet Sixteen appearance. She earned First Team All-ACC and First Team AVCA All-Region honors in 2002. She graduated with a degree in journalism and mass communication in 2003. She spent a year as an assistant at Colgate, three seasons in Greenville with East Carolina (arrrgh!), and a year at Florida International. She returned to her alma mater as an assistant coach in 2009. In her nine years with the Tarheels, the team went 210-77 and went to seven NCAA Tournaments. In 2014, she was named AVCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year.

As we look back and remember and celebrate the last 60 years of Tennessee volleyball, Rackham is preparing to lead the Lady Vols as they move towards the next 60 years. I am very much looking forward to seeing where she — and the rest of the Tennessee staff and players — will take us!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2018 Preseason Coaches Poll released

The AVCA has released the preseason edition of the 2018 Coaches Poll. Tennessee will play six matches against teams currently ranked in the top 25, three out-of-conference games and three SEC games: the Lady Vols face #5 Kentucky twice and #7 Florida once, and #14 San Diego twice and #22 Michigan State once. In addition, three other matches are against teams currently receiving votes in the poll: two matches against #28 Missouri and one match against #36 LSU.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Three weeks until the start of the 2018 season!

We’re just 21 days away from the first serve of the 2018 season! Here are some news tidbits and statistical trivia to tide you over until then!


  • The Lady Vols have announced Heather Gearhart will be joining the squad as volunteer assistant coach this year. The hire completes the main portion of Eve Rackham’s coaching staff. Like three of the other four members of the new staff, Gearhart also has ties to the University of North Carolina — as a player from 2012 to 2015.
  • Volleyball tickets should go on sale next week, on August 7th, at and the Tennessee ticket office. Courtside seats will again be available as well for $250 for the year. Email Associate Director of Fan Experience Rocky Kundert ( for details.
  • Tennessee is putting out a call to former players for an upcoming Alumni Weekend, scheduled from August 31st to September 2nd.


  • Tennessee is 46-7 all time in the month of August. Their very first match in the month was in 1990. They only played in seven August matches prior to the rally scoring era beginning in 2001. Since then, they’ve played in August every season except 2004.
  • The Lady Vols’ first match of 2018 is on August 24th. That ties the earliest start of the season in program history. The team has played two previous matches on that date, both losses to ranked teams: vs #1 Nebraska in 2007 and vs #12 Florida State in 2012.
  • In the last two decades, three players have worn the #21 jersey: Carlie Kearney in 2004, Lauren LaFlamme from 2005 to 2008 (she wore the reverse #12 her true freshman year), and Britney Vallez in 2016. Good luck to Tennessee newcomer Danielle Mahaffey who will wear the number this season!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thirty days to 2018 season!

We’re just 30 days away from the start of the season! As you may have noticed from the sidebar, the site has been updated with information for 2018. To kickstart the final month of the offseason, here are a few things of interest I noticed while getting the schedule, roster, and SEC pages ready.


Make sure to always check the schedule before heading to a game this year. Match times are all over the map!

Friday home games start at 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, and 8:00. Sunday home games start at 1:30, except for a 5:00 outlier. UT has three Wednesday matches at home, and all three start at different times – 5:00, 7:00, and 8:00! Tennessee ends the regular season on a Saturday at 3:00.

While there are ten weekends of SEC play, the Lady Vols will only have a single conference match on Friday at home this year. TV dictates a lot of these time and date changes, of course. But I’m personally a bit bummed about only getting one Friday night of volleyball in Knoxville over the last ten weeks of the season.


Tennessee will have four instate players on the roster this year. In only five other seasons since 1980 has the program had so much local talent: 1980, 1981, 2010, 2011, and 2012. The team made the AIAW Regional Championship in that first year and the NCAA Tournament in every one of those other years. And two of UT’s five SEC Championships came during those seasons as well.

In addition to the other people I’ve already mentioned having left the squad, Olivia Schwamberger is not listed on the roster.

Madison Coulter, a six-rotation player and one of only five players to take over 400 swings last season, is now listed as a defensive specialist. Not counting libero Brooke Schumacher, Coulter had the second most digs in 2017.


The conference will welcome four new head coaches this year: Eve Rackham here at Tennessee, Tom Mendoza at South Carolina, Julie Darty at Mississippi State, and Laura “Bird” Kuhn at Texas A&M.

In addition, coaches at Georgia, Arkansas, and Mississippi are in their second, third, and fifth seasons in the league. Meaning over half the SEC has had coaching turnovers in the past five years!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Summer 2018 Updates
  • Tennessee has revealed their schedule for the upcoming season.
    • UT has 10 matches against 7 teams that made the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
    • The Lady Vols will face three in-state opponents, the most since 2014.
    • The team is heading to California for the first time since 2006. Their last match in the state was a 3-1 loss to USC. However, in the rally scoring era UT is 7-2 in matches played in the state.
    • Tennessee will play San Diego in back to back matches. The last time the Lady Vols played a non-conference opponent twice in the same year was 2005, when they lost to Missouri in the first month of the season before defeating them in the NCAA Tournament on their way to the Final Four. The last time the team scheduled a non-conference opponent twice in the same regular season was 1995, when they played both St. Mary’s (CA) and Arizona State in back to back days.
  • UT was projected to finish 10th in the conference in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
  • Tennessee has announced the addition of Brooklynne Villano to the team. An incoming sophomore transfer from Jacksonville State, the outside hitter is the sister of former Lady Vol Bridgette Villano.
  • The probably final roster (barring any unannounced walk-ons) is online at the official Tennessee website, and consists of a total of 17 players: 3 seniors, 5 juniors (one a fourth year redshirt), 5 sophopmores, and 4 freshman.
  • With the season arriving next month, updates here will start coming more frequently. So be sure to start checking back often!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 2018 Updates
  • PrepVolleyball named Tennessee’s incoming recruiting class the 28th best in the nation, and 4th best in the SEC. “The 2018 class will help lay a foundation for the future and looks to impact the program right away. Each player will fill a need and add high-level club experience to the Lady Vol roster.”

    Since 2003, when the recruiting ranking started, Tennessee has been ranked or an honorable mention every season except 2004.

  • The previous article also notes that Emma Schriner, who graduated early and joined the team in the spring, will transfer and not be joining the team in the fall.
  • Congratulations to high school junior and future Lady Vol Maddie Bryant who was named to PrepVolleyball’s Defensive Dandies list of the nation’s top full-time defensive players. “She is fearless, covering the court incredibly well with an uncanny ability to read the opposition like no one else.”
  • Teams are starting to release fall schedules, but Tennessee is not one of them yet! But we can start extrapolating it based on schedules from other teams. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

    at Dayton, 7:00pm

    vs Ohio State, 10:30am (at Dayton)
    vs Evansville, 4:30pm (at Dayton)

    vs Kentucky

    vs Alabama

    at Kentucky

    at Texas A&M

    at Mississippi

    vs Florida

    vs Mississippi

Monday, April 30, 2018

April 2018 updates
  • Coach Eve Rackham has hired her second assistant coach after Tyler Adams was introduced last month. Gavin Watt will be coming to Knoxville after spending a season at North Carolina as a volunteer assistant. Prior to that, Watt spent four years as an assistant coach at Lehigh University under former Tennessee head coach Bob Bertucci. Bertucci coached the Lady Vols from 1979 to 1986 and is the UT coaching leader by winning percentage (.666).
  • Congratulations to Callie Williams who was named to the VOLeaders Academy Class of 2018-19. The program teaches student-athletes how to have “a positive influence on their teams, the campus community and the rest of the world”.
  • The team had three weekends of spring volleyball matches this month. In the first they faced Ohio State, Bowling Green, and Lipscomb, winning 5 out of 6 sets played. In the second weekend they played Kennesaw State, Chattanooga, and West Florida, again winning 5 out of 6 sets played. And in the final weekend of play they took on UNC Greensboro, Wake Forest, and North Carolina, winning 4 out of 6 sets (both losses being by tight two-point margins against the ACC teams).

    Rackham said, “This team has made so many improvements since January, and really embraced the challenge of getting a little better every time we get an opportunity to practice or compete. I think today was a great way to finish the spring and see where we are. There is a ton of work ahead but we made significant progress in individual development and team systems.”

Monday, March 12, 2018

March 2018 updates
  • Tennessee has officially announced the addition of the two players mentioned in last month’s update, Giana Pellizzon and Addisyn Rowe. Check the link for full bio info and quotes from the coach on each player.
  • Congratulations to former Tennessee assistant coach A.J. Bonetti on being named to the staff at Maryland!
  • Congratulations to former Tennessee assistant coach Nikki Dailey on being named to the staff at Virginia!
  • Congratulations to former Tennessee Director of Volleyball Operations Kevin Cardoza on being named assistant coach at the University at Albany!
  • Not much news to report, so I’ve been working on some other updates over on the Stats page:

    Tennessee Coaching Staff: View the former head coaches and assistants that have led the team over the years. Obviously the data gets a little harder to come by the further back you go, but here’s what I’ve been able to pull together. I actually had this page almost done right before UT announced the resignation of Rob Patrick, but decided to hold off until I could add info on the new coach.

    Historical Rosters: The Tennessee record book has an alphabetical list of (almost) every player to have worn the orange and white and the years they were on the team. This page takes that data and extrapolates a year by year roster of Lady Vol teams.

    Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame: Here are the six UT volleyball players and one coach in the school sports hall of fame. (Might be time to discuss potential additions to that last…)

    Facility Records: I’ve still got some work to do on this page, but a lot of info is there already. Here you can read a blurb about four facilities the team has called home over the years and view the match attendance records by building. Coming soon – team and player records by venue.

    Also of note, the Milestones page has been updated to keep track of new coach Eve Rackham’s records, though there is not much to see there yet! Can she reach that first 25 win milestone in her first season? (No pressure!)

Friday, February 9, 2018

February 2018 updates
  • UT head coach Eve Rackham is putting together her staff. Tyler Adams has been named an assistant coach for the Lady Vols. He held the same position at North Carolina for the past seven seasons along side Rackham. Whitney Miller has been named Director of Volleyball Operations.

    Rackham said of the new hires: “When putting together a staff, my hope was to find people that I not only completely trust, but who share my vision and comprehend the work ethic required at this level. There is no doubt Tyler is that person. He and I have been a part of championship teams together and understand the culture needed for success. I am looking forward to getting to work with him again… Whitney is the perfect fit for our Director of Operations position. She is proactive, detail-orientated, organized and not afraid of hard work. I also appreciate the positivity she approaches every day with and believe our players will find her to be a great role model.”

  • Eight Lady Vols have been named to the 2017 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. They are: Alyssa Andreno, Stephanie Buss, Mackenzie Cooler, Sedona Hansen, Breana Jeter, Asha Phillips, Brooke Schumacher, and Erica Treiber.

    Tennessee has placed at least five players on the SEC Fall Academic Honor every year since 1996 — a number no other league school can match. The team is one of only two schools to have placed a member on the team every year since the list’s inception in 1983. UT has had 196 honorees all-time, just two shy of leading the conference.

  • Congratulations to UT recruits Lily Felts and Emma Schriner who were named to the PrepVolleyball High School All-America Team! The state of Tennessee had the eighth most players on the list with five — three of whom are from Knoxville.
  • Best of luck to Keyton Kinley who will be leaving Knoxville for Norman to play for Oklahoma this fall.
  • Joining the five other players already announced for the 2018 recruiting class, is Giana Pellizzon who, according to her high school’s Twitter account, officially signed with the team this week. Santa Margarita High School won the California Division I State Championship last season.
  • While there is no official word yet, Marshall’s Addisyn Rowe (whom VolleyMob notes no longer appears on the Thundering Herd’s roster) could be transferring to Tennessee, according to Rowe led the team in blocking and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team last season.
  • Tennessee’s social media accounts celebrated National Girls & Women in Sports Day this week by posting team photos from the past. Included were the 1981, 1984, 1994, and 2017 squads.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rackham in the press

Here are a few of the press stories about new volleyball head coach Eve Rackham from over the past week.

“Eve Rackham plans to be herself as Tennessee Lady Vols volleyball coach”
Knoxville News Sentinel

“A ‘Ferocious Competitor’, Rackham was Destined to Lead”
UT Sports

“Rackham eager to bring volleyball back to championship level”
Daily Beacon

“UT tabs Eve Rackham as new volleyball coach”
Daily Times

“What They’re Saying About Eve Rackham”
UT Sports

“El Molino grad Eve Rackham picked to lead Tennessee volleyball program”
Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Friday, January 12, 2018

A look back at Patrick’s historic career in numbers

As Tennessee prepares for the future with new head coach Eve Rackham, let’s take a last look back at some of the amazing numbers put up by the man who led the Lady Vols the longest and most successfully: Rob Patrick.

I had hoped to get this piece done before UT hired a new coach and, while I knew this would be a faster search than the previous one, I thought I might have at least another week or two to finish. When head coach Julie Hermann left the team in February of 1997, it took UT until June to announce a replacement! That new hire was also a first time head coach who’d had success as an assistant and recruiter.

Patrick at Stanford, 1996

Patrick at Stanford, 1996

That volleyball program making the move to a new coach was in a very different situation. The team had had only 4 winning seasons in the previous 12 years and made one NCAA Tournament appearance. They’d been knocked out of the SEC Tournament in the first round eight years in a row. And an embarrassing lawsuit involving coaches had not gone UT’s way. After a search that seemed to take forever — or as the local paper headlined it at the time: “Lady Vols’ Coaching Search Goes On… And On” — the school announced the hiring of Stanford assistant coach Rob Patrick. The rest is Tennessee volleyball history. (If you want an in-depth look at his first season on Rocky Top, be sure to check out one of my previous articles.)

Here’s a far from complete look back at Patrick’s career by the numbers:

  • Patrick spent 21 seasons as the Lady Vol head coach. The previously longest tenured coaches were here for 8 years: Jo Hobson from 1965-1972 and Bob Bertucci from 1979-1986.
  • Patrick led the team to 16 winning seasons in 21 years. Only once did the team have back-to-back losing seasons (2013-14).
  • Patrick’s teams had 20-win seasons 11 times. Drop that threshold by one and Patrick’s teams had 19-win seasons 14 times in 21 years. (Put another way, of his 16 winning seasons he won at least 19 games every time but twice.)
  • Tennessee made 9 NCAA Tournaments during Patrick’s tenure. The team had been to 5 total in the years before his arrival.
  • Patrick won 409 matches, the most by far of any UT volleyball coach. His .621 winning percentage is second all-time behind Bertucci (.666).
  • 18 Lady Vols have won All-America honors all-time. 16 of them were on Patrick’s watch.
  • Tennessee has won 2 SEC Championships since 1997. Only Florida has won more (17) and only Missouri (2) can match.
  • Until last month when Florida got there, Tennessee was the last SEC team to make the Final Four — under Patrick in 2005. Tennessee is one of only three SEC teams to ever make it to the National Semifinals. LSU is the third, last reaching it in 1991.
  • At the time, UT was just the fifth different school in the eastern time zone to ever make a Final Four. Since 2005, only two other teams have joined that club.
  • Tennessee has finished in the top 25 of the Coaches Poll 8 times in school history. 6 of them came with Patrick squads.
  • Since PrepVolleyball started their list in 2004, 24 top 100 prospects have come to play for Tennessee — with three more on the way next season.
  • Since PrepVolleyball started their list in 2003, Tennessee has been ranked or named an honorable mention for having a top recruiting class every season except one (2004).
  • Tennessee has placed at least 5 players on the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll all 21 years of Patrick’s tenure — UT is the only league team to have done so in that time.
  • Patrick stands at #2 all-time in SEC history in wins by a coach at a single conference school. He also is the second longest serving coach at a single conference school. He’s one of only two coaches in league history to reach 400 wins. (Mary Wise is the other on all counts.)
  • Patrick is one of only two coaches to ever win the SEC Coach of the Year award three times (Mary Wise is the other with 12).
  • Patrick is one of only three SEC coaches all-time to win Region Coach of the year twice. (Mary Wise got it 8 times, Wayne Kreklow twice. Laurie Corbelli won it once with an SEC school and twice with two schools not in the SEC.)

I think these numbers make the case rather forcefully that Rob Patrick is without question the greatest coach in Tennessee volleyball history. And a strong case can be made that, at this point, he may be the second most successful coach in SEC history as well. But coaches know full well when they sign up that job security in their profession is not something you can count on. The number that keeps you safe is not how many years you’ve been here, nor even total wins — but what have you won lately.

So, I’m not here to say the university was wrong if they wanted to consider other options. However, if they were thinking that and knowing his contract was set to expire at the end of the year, why wait until December? Why not give the fans a chance at giving this coach, the top coach in school history, a proper send off during the season? Yes, it might have been a bit of a distraction, and maybe the coach himself preferred it this way, so keep in mind this is all speculative on my part. But it seems to me an opportunity was missed that I hope gets corrected one day in the future.

I am excited about the future of Tennessee volleyball under coach Rackham! But the program has lost a big piece of its history without much fanfare, and so as the baton is officially passed let’s recognize and thank coach Patrick for his contributions to the Lady Vols over two decades.

In 1997, a 36 year old first time head coach came to Knoxville and told the local paper the most common thing he heard from potential recruits when talking about UT was they didn’t know much about us. “I feel like a preacher, going out and spreading the word about Tennessee”.

Now 21 years later, another 36 year old first time head coach is in town. But things are different this time. When she was asked about getting recruits to consider UT she said, “the good thing about Tennessee is that it’s a university everyone knows. It’s got a national brand and we can go anywhere… I know that this place will sell itself.”

Thanks for that coach Patrick. You’ve left some big shoes to fill — and I don’t mean those fancy white ones you used to save for big games! Tennessee will not be the same without you, and, thankfully, Tennessee is not the same because of you.

Kim Zenner, Rob Patrick, and Sherry Dunbar
1997 Lady Vol coaching staff

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rackham introduced at press conference

Tennessee’s new volleyball coach, Eve Rackham, was introduced officially here in Knoxville at a press conference this afternoon. You can watch a replay at the official website. Here’s what she had to say:

“I’m incredibly excited and honored to be the new head volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee. This is an amazing place with great people who have been so welcoming and warm. Knoxville is an unbelievable city. I’m just so excited to finally be here.”

“Tennessee volleyball is a program with great potential. Rob Patrick laid a foundation that I hope to build on and believe that we can. This is a great place and we’re going to do great things.”

“We have a great group of girls who are ready to get to work. I know they’re eager, they’re excited to improve. And I’m also just looking forward to building a championship culture where we can build strong women.”

On her plan: “I need to get in the gym with the kids and see where we’re at. We have a lot of work to do, I know. But I’ve also watched film of the girls and I have a good starting point. I need to get a staff in place. And we need to get to work. It’s going to take some time but I think we have the pieces here. Then it’s about recruiting and it’s about getting the highest level of athlete that we can to come to Tennessee and building from there.”

On being ready for this step up in her career: “When I started coaching I always knew I was going to be a head coach, so for me it was a matter of where and not if. So after this season I felt like I was going to look but I was only going to leave for the right place. And there was no doubt when this job came open that this was the place I wanted to be. Where I felt like you could be successful. Where I felt like the resources were there. And where they cared about female athletics and they wanted to see a program rise. And I felt like I could build on what was already there.”

On returning UT to a tournament-quality team: “I think the talent is here. Like I said, I’ve watched film. I know that the girls who are here have the talent to do it. And they were close last year. We had a 5-13 SEC record and there were five matches we lost in five. So if you turn that around and you win those matches, those really close ones, we’re 10-8 and the season looks a whole lot different. So we need to get to work. There’s some things we’ve got to change and some system things we need to work on. But in terms of the talent I think it’s here. And like I said, building from there with bringing in new recruits.”

On UT’s recruiting footprint: “The good thing about Tennessee is that it’s a university everyone knows. It’s got a national brand and we can go anywhere. I believe the best players in the state of Tennessee should come to the University of Tennessee. So that’s where we’ll look first. But I think we can reach out to the west coast, we can get players from the midwest, we can recruit it Texas, and in Florida. I’m not concerned about that. I know that this place will sell itself.”

On what she looks for in players: “The big thing for me first and foremost is I want kids with a ton of passion, who love to play. When I went to the facility yesterday to meet with the team the girls were in there and I thought that was a great first sign. I want kids who just love to play. And not, you know, when it’s the first day of preseason. I’m talking about on a Wednesday in October after a midterm. Are you still excited to play? So obviously there’s a certain talent level and a physical level we’re looking for. But when you talk about those intangible things, I want kids with a lot of passion, who want to compete, and they want to play hard, and they want to play for the team.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Tennessee hires Eve Rackham as next head coach

UT has announced the hiring of Eve Rackham as the new head coach for Tennessee volleyball today. Rackham has been the assistant coach at North Carolina since 2009, and was named the AVCA Division I Assistant Coach of the Year in 2014.

“I am honored to be named the new head volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee. While I will always cherish my time at the University of North Carolina, I could not be more excited for this opportunity. I look forward to building on the foundation of success laid by Rob Patrick during his 21 years… By accepting the coaching position at the University of Tennessee, I intend to help return the volleyball program to national relevance. Tennessee is a special place with top-notch facilities, tremendous school spirit, strong academics and a tradition of champions. These are all the elements for building a successful program and for helping our players develop as students-athletes and as strong women. I am confident recruits will see the opportunities available to them here, and I look forward to fostering a winning program the community can embrace.”

Welcome to Rocky Top, coach!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Looking back at the 2017 season

Thanks again for your patience as we finally get around to taking a quick look back at the 2017 season!

The Lady Vols went 12-15 this season, and I will admit this is the first time since I’ve been doing this I was surprised by the team’s W/L record. But I really think this year’s team was better than the final record shows. In fact, switching just 12 points — 12! — around in five different matches would have resulted in Tennessee having a 17-10 record.

South Carolina 1-3


2 points in the first set, 1 point in the third set 3-0


Auburn 2-3


3 points in the first set 3-1


Alabama 2-3


2 points in the fourth set 3-1


Texas A&M 2-3


2 points in the fifth set 3-2


LSU 2-3


2 points in the third set 3-0


Tennessee put up some good numbers this year. They had the most actual blocks since 2012 and held opponents to the fewest aces in that time as well. And this squad was the most low-error team UT has seen in the rally-scoring era: they had the fewest hitting errors, the fewest service errors, the fewest blocking errors, and the fifth and sixth lowest numbers in ball handling and reception errors. Add all their errors up this year and the team had over 100 fewer total errors than the next best team since 2001.

So why couldn’t the team get over the hump in 2017? They needed just a little more offensive firepower. The Vols had the fewest attack attempts and second fewest kills of any UT team since 2001. It just goes to show how good this team was in so many other areas that they were still on the cusp of a winning season despite those numbers.

The good news? Tennessee is only losing 25% of their 2017 kill production to graduation. Even better news? Four of the recruits expected to join the team in 2018 are hitters — and all were named PrepVolleyball Senior Aces. Whomever Tennessee hires as their next head coach has been left a strong foundation to build on in their first season.

Here’s a probably not complete list of some of the individual marks set this season:


Brook Schumacher had the 5th most digs in a match in program history vs UTSA with 36. She also had the 12th and 32nd most in two other matches. Sedona Hansen put up the 43rd most digs in a UT match with 27 vs Auburn.

Tessa Grubbs had the 36th most kills in a Tennessee rally-scoring era match with 23 vs LSU.

Erica Treiber hit .800 (8-0-10) in a three set match vs Wofford.

Callie Williams’ 55 assists vs LSU were the 46th most in a school rally-scoring era match.

Kanisha Jimenez and Callie Williams put down 5 aces each in two different matches this year, good for 8th best in since 2001.

Alyssa Andreno’s 11 blocks during the Western Michigan match were the 11th most by a Lady Vol since 2001. Treiber’s 10 vs Furman were the 17th most.


Treiber hit .326 this year, the 18th best number in a season at Tennessee all-time. She also made school record lists with the 18th best total blocks (131) and 8th best blocks per set (1.30).

Schumacher’s 463 digs in 2017 were the 8th most by a Lady Vol all-time. Her 4.58 digs per set was 5th best all-time.

Andreno had 1.13 blocks per set this year, the 24th best average all-time at UT.

Hansen’s 3.07 digs per set this season is the 25th best Lady Vol number all-time.


Treiber moved up to #8 on the UT career blocks chart with 369.

Hansen joined the school career top 10 list in assists with 1,652.

Schumacher is #12 so far in the Tennessee career digs list with 1,069.

As you can see despite a disappointing record, this is not a team to be disappointed in. While missing a piece or two that they really needed, these Lady Vols did their absolute best with what they had — putting up big numbers in their areas of strength, keeping their errors to historic lows, and coming so close to turning their season around despite their weak spots. I’m proud of this squad and am really looking forward to 2018 and seeing what these women can do with another year under their belts and with some new faces on the court to fill in some needs.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Updates coming soon

Sorry for the lack of updates in this major transitional period for the Tennessee volleyball program. In addition to the usual hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I’m taking care of some personal issues right now that are keeping me away from the blog. I’m hoping to back and writing again by late next week at the earliest. Again, apologies for disappearing but I should be back very soon! Thanks for your understanding.

UPDATE (12/22/2017): I’m basically back! As some of you may know I have a medical issue I deal with, and this month I had a scare that thankfully turned out to be nothing to worry about. I hate that it happened at such an impactful time — the end Tennessee’s season, the NCAA Tournament, and a coaching change. But now that my mind isn’t focused on other things I’m looking forward to writing about my thoughts on the 2017 campaign and about the legacy of the longest serving and winningest coach in UT history. And I’ll be doing that… after Christmas! Thanks again for your understanding!