The Vols finally hit the court this week and it’s a season of milestones.
Yes, it’s the 10th anniversary of this site, but that’s not what I’m talking about! Head coach Rob Patrick is three wins away from career victory #400, a milestone he could potentially reach this weekend with three matches on the schedule. But there’s one bigger than that too.
The missing years, 1958-1972
This is the 60th season Tennessee has fielded an intercollegiate women’s volleyball team. The Vols are the oldest program in the conference by far, with Auburn being the only other team to field a team prior to the 1970s.
And Tennessee is nineteen wins away from their 900th recorded program win. However, this milestone is not so cut and dried. While Tennessee has had a volleyball team since 1958, results are almost non-existent until 1973, and complete season records are not available until 1978.
So while the 900th officially noted win may occur this year, there are many seasons worth of wins and losses not accounted for in the record books. Which begs the question as UT fields its 60th volleyball squad: what happened during those first years between 1958 and 1972 where there is seemingly a black hole of information?
While there were some female sports teams representing the school in the very early 20th century, they disappeared in the 1920s. Women’s intercollegiate sports at Tennessee began in earnest in 1958 with a volleyball team. A professor of physical education at ETSU, Connie Mynatt-Axamethy, organized a tournament in nearby Johnson City. Students at UT 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 at the University of Tennessee. The team returned to campus with the first place trophy.
The next year, Wells recruited Nancy Lay from the University of Richmond to Tennessee to do her post-graduate work and help grow the fledgling program. Women’s athletics at Richmond were far ahead of those in Knoxville, so it was probably clear to Lay how much work needed to be done. She wasted no time, taking over volleyball in 1959, 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.
Volleyball at Tennessee, 1962
Before we continue, it’s important to understand the thinking of some women’s athletic educators of the time — though keep in mind this is a very brief summary without a lot nuance. Men’s athletic programs similar to how we know them today were well established by this point: think player scholarships, big money, boosters, and an ultra-competitive culture. A growing number of collegiate women’s athletic supporters were calling for parity with the men. But a significant number of traditional supporters were staunchly against it. Not because they were against equality for women, but because they believed that money and the competitive culture it bred had been bad for men’s sports. They wanted to keep the focus for women on education, health benefits, group participation, and building a love of sport. Wins and losses were of little concern in this view of women’s athletics. With no scholarships and no recruiting, educators would be able to focus on teaching the student-athletes already at their university who wouldn’t have to compete for playing time with more skilled players brought in from elsewhere.
As Tennessee took its first steps at building a program, its leaders, Lay and Hobson, were firmly in this old-school camp. And with the purpose of women’s sports being centered on education, enjoyment, and exercise, things like scores, records, and publicity were inconsequential to them. So it’s no surprise that the Tennessee records books have no data during any of the years they coached.
For the first decade of athletics for women things were run by members of the physical education department with whatever equipment was already on hand. With no budget, the teams had no uniforms and couldn’t travel very far. With no dedicated coaches not also doing other jobs, practices were scheduled whenever everyone could get together. And with these same constraints applying to other schools, scheduling was a haphazard affair.
Lay explained, “Usually, [for] the volleyball team, the big thing was the tournament at East Tennessee State, and then they usually played Carson-Newman, and Middle Tennessee State sometimes. There was no real schedule, as such, just pickup kinds of things, but people didn’t sit down [to schedule] even at the beginning of the year. They’d just call, and say, ‘Can we come?’ And then, of course, it got more structured as time went on. But in the early days, there was virtually no structure to it.”
Deb Dyer, a player on the 1967 and 1968 teams added, “At UT the volleyball program was just a small step up from intramurals. There was a sign-up sheet, and anyone could try out… I remember our road trips. We all chipped in to pay whoever drove — six or eight cars would go. I remember playing East Tennessee State in a seven-state regional tournament. We all stayed in dorms. I think that was the farthest we traveled. We always had to scrape money together to go… We got together for the fun of it — for the camaraderie — just to play. There were no scholarships of course. It was all about fun.”
In 1968, women’s athletics at Tennessee were moved from the physical education department to the Division of Student Affairs, home of the school’s intramural sports and student-run club sports and recreational leagues. While seen through 2017 eyes this may seem insulting, it was actually considered an improvement for awhile from those in charge of the teams. It took some of the administrative burden off the coaches and the physical education department and the club sports program provided a small budget and help with uniforms and equipment, funded by student fees.
With the relative popularity of women’s athletics starting to grow, new opportunities were becoming available. Educators around the state created the Tennessee College Women’s Sports Federation (TCWSF) to help facilitate competition among its members. UT was a charter member and volleyball coach Hobson was named to its organizational committee. Nationally, the Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (CIAW) was created by the Division for Girls’ and Women’s Sports (DGWS) and began hosting championships for women’s volleyball. This group later became the more widely known Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).
While there are huge gaps in the UT history books, especially before 1973, it’s in 1968 that we can find the first known record of what the volleyball team was doing — but it’s just a small scrap. From November 22-23 the team was in Carrollton GA at the West Georgia Invitational. No results are available.
In 1969, we get few more details. The team played Carson-Newman in Jefferson City on November 12th. Three days later they played in the ETSU Invitational where they defeated the home team, UT Chattanooga, and Carson-Newman, while losing to Mississippi State College for Women and West Georgia.
On November 21st, Tennessee competed in the first TCWSF state volleyball tournament in Nashville. They defeated Southwestern 2-0 (15-12, 15-3) but lost to eventual champion Tennessee Tech 2-1 (10-15, 15-3, 18-16). They finished in third place.
1970 was a banner year for the team. October 30-31 they competed in the Appalachian State Invitational in Boone NC. November 6-7 they were in Johnson City for the ETSU Invitational. And November 13-14 they visited Carrollton GA for the West Georgia Invitational.
On November 19th, Tennessee participated in the second TCWSF state volleyball tournament, this time hosting in Knoxville at Alumni Gym. The team swept the field — defeating UT Chattanooga, Milligan, MTSU, Southwestern, Tennessee Tech 2-0 (15-3, 14-12), and Southwestern again 2-0 (15-13, 15-3) — to claim the championship.
1971 featured a little controversy and a major milestone. The team defeated Memphis State 2-1 (11-15, 15-9, 15-3) on their way to claiming the MTSU Invitational title, held from October 22-23 in Murfreesboro; participated in the Appalachian State Invitational held October 29-30; and came in second at the ETSU Invitational held November 5-6. On January 15, Tennessee hosted the Smokey Mountain Classic at Alumni Gym.
But UT caused some commotion in Tennessee volleyball circles when they decided to skip the TCWSF state volleyball tournament and instead attend the West Georgia Invitational held November 12-13. The team was hoping to get chosen to attend the national DGWS Championships and concluded that their resumé would look better if they could defeat the tougher competition in Carrollton GA rather than their fellow state schools in Memphis. Tennessee won the West Georgia tournament. But the TCWSF was concerned enough about a school skipping their state tourney to reach nationals that they suggested to the national governing body that the state tournaments be made part of the qualifying procedure — a move that was in fact incorporated the next year.
Knoxville News Sentinel, February 5, 1972
Tennessee did earn an invite to the DGWS Championship, making the 1971 squad the first women’s athletic team to represent UT at a national championship competition. But they had to put some work in off the court to get there. Hobson noted the team had to “sell concessions… wash cars and all sorts of stuff like that” to raise the money to make the trip. The tournament was held in Miami from February 3-5 with 28 teams in attendance. Tennessee’s pool consisted of UC Santa Barbara, George Williams College, New Hampshire, Oklahoma State, South Florida, and defending national champion Sul Ross State. Unfortunately, not much is known about how the team did other than that they lost to Sul Ross State 2-0 (15-7, 15-9). UCLA went on to win the title.
1972 is the last season for which the Tennessee record books have no match data. It was also Hobson’s last season at the helm. The team came in second at the West Georgia Invitational November 3-4, losing to the home team. They also came in second at the ETSU Invitational, held November 10-11, again losing to West Georgia but defeating the Mississippi State College for Women.
At the TCWSF state volleyball tournament, held November 16-18 in Cookeville, along with other unrecorded matches, UT was swept twice by Memphis State (15-0, 15-3; and 15-5, 15-10) before finally defeating them in the finals to claim the championship (15-6, 15-10). That earned the team a spot in the AIAW Region II Tournament, held in Knoxville at the Phys Ed Building from December 8-9, where they would play for a berth in the national championship tournament. Tennessee swept their pool on December 8th, defeating Eastern Kentucky 2-0 (15-11, 15-5), UNC Greensboro 2-1 (15-2, 7-15, 13-9), Coker 2-0 (15-9, 15-13), and Eastern Mennonite 2-0 (15-1, 15-9). That put them in the semi-finals the next day, and with two teams earning a spot to the national tourney, UT just needed a win vs Winthrop to get there. Unfortunately, they lost 2-0 (15-13, 15-10). They also dropped the third place match to Memphis State 2-0 (16-14, 15-7) ending the regional in fourth place.
AIAW Region II Tournament, December 8-9, 1972
At this point in the record book, things change dramatically. From no results for 15 years, the 1973 season has score details for 44 matches. Five years later, in 1978, complete season records become available for every year to the present day. What changed after 1972? Title IX, which required schools to provide equitable opportunities for men and women to participate in sports, including when it came to scholarships, recruitment, equipment, scheduling, travel, facilities, publicity, and support services. Obviously, this was a complete game changer and moved women’s athletics from the “sports for all” model to a more competitive version.
In October 1972, Women’s Physical Education Chair Helen Watson requested a meeting with the Chancellor to discuss what needed to be done to begin to get the school in compliance. “There are 8 sports clubs funded by the [Division of Student Affairs at the] aquatic center that are in actuality varsity teams for women… The coaches of these teams do not consider them to be sports clubs and find it impossible to operate within the current organizational structure. The money available for sports clubs is totally inadequate to operate a varsity program… The coaches are therefore recommending that intercollegiate teams for women be identified as such and that money be made available to conduct a reasonable program. The need for such programs is apparent and the Women’s Physical Education Staff would like to have an opportunity to administer intercollegiate athletics for women at the University of Tennessee.”
Knoxville News Sentinel, May 24, 1973
In May of 1973, the Chancellor announced that they had approved the formation of officially sanctioned varsity women’s athletics at Tennessee. Later that summer a budget was approved — $20,000. While small by men’s athletics standards it was an unheard amount for women at the time. But, as money tends to do, it seemed to be spent just as fast as it was received. Lay, now a somewhat de facto women’s athletic director, said that once salaries for coaches were worked out there wasn’t a lot to go around and that teams would have to decide what their priories were. “Volleyball has a budget of $1700 and most of the other sports got $1000 or $15000. They made the decision on how to spend it. Those with new uniforms won’t be going many places and those who play in T-shirts will be on the road more.”
And the changes continued. UT raised women’s funding, scholarships finally came to female student-athletes, and (after a bitter feud with the AIAW) the NCAA began sponsoring women’s championships. Old faces left. Lay headed the TCWSF for a year while helping to shepherd the UT program through its growing pains, but eventually she resigned when she felt things had moved too far away from her preferred vision. “I would get all these letters when it came out we were giving scholarships. It was just like buying a piece of meat, at least that was my perception… And I thought, ‘This ain’t for me. This is not my personality.’ I felt very strongly about it and I knew that I could never last…” New faces came on board too, including a 22-year-old with no coaching experience named Pat Head who took over the basketball squad, and a few years later, a former Tennessee basketball player and coach named Joan Cronan who became athletic director.
With recognition from the school, a usable budget, more publicity, and a new name, the accomplishments of future volleyball squads were much better documented. So while the officially recorded 900th milestone win might come this year, the somewhat unremarked upon efforts of the women from these first 15 seasons of Tennessee volleyball were the cornerstone that built the program, allowing the 60th squad of Volunteers to take to the court this week with a strong legacy backing them up.
Tennessee Volleyball, 1973
Sorry for the delay between posts. I went on vacation with the family right after my last post and got back in time to get the kids ready to return to school last week. Here are a few of the stories you might have missed since then.
- Tennessee has a report on the upcoming season.
- The team will make at least four appearances on TV this year. The Vols won their last two televised matches in 2016, and could make it their first three-match winning streak since 2012 with a win vs Arkansas.
TENNESSEE ON TV IN 2017 September 20 October 1 October 4 October 11
- The AVCA Coaches Poll has been released. The Vols will play six matches vs teams in the top 25: #4 Minnesota, #12 Florida (twice), #14 Kentucky, #15 Florida State, and #19 Missouri. The team will also face Texas A&M who are an unofficial #37 adding up the “others receiving votes”.
- John Adams, of the local Knoxville News Sentinel, warns that those still fighting for the restoration of the Lady Vols name and logo probably need to give up as the new chancellor and athletic director don’t appear interested in revisiting the issue.
The 2017 volleyball schedule has been released. The Vols play 15 games at home and 15 on the road. They’ll face six teams that made the 2016 NCAA Tournament. In addition to the 18 SEC games on the schedule, Tennessee will play: two teams from the Southern Conference, two from the Atlantic Sun, two from Conference USA, and one each from the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big 12, MAC, and MEAC. For just the fourth time in program history, UT will play no other teams from the state of Tennessee. Be sure to check out our interactive version of the schedule.
Time to catch up on some of the news from the offseason!
- Nikki Dailey was hired as a new assistant coach for Tennessee volleyball. Dailey was previously on the staff at ETSU, and played for Iowa. Erica Lear, whom she replaces, has moved on to Memphis Metro Volleyball.
- The Vols were picked to finish the conference sixth in a poll by the SEC coaches. That’s their highest finish since the league moved away from the divisional format in 2014.
- Tennessee had another great year academically. Fourteen players on the roster were named to SEC Honor Rolls. Kelsey Bawcombe, Stephanie Buss, Claudia Coco, Mackenzie Cooler, Bri Holmes, Breana Jeter, Taylor Johnson, Nora Reed, Erica Treiber, and Bridgette Villano were part of the 2016 Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll, while Alyssa Andreno, Tessa Grubbs, Sedona Hansen, and Asha Phillips were on the 2016-17 First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll.
Tennessee has placed at least 5 players on the Fall Honor Roll every year since 1996 — and is the only league team to have done so.
- Erica Treiber is part of UT’s VOLeaders Academy, a program which “allows student-athletes to learn how to have a positive influence on their teams, the campus community and the rest of the world”. The group just returned from a trip to Vietnam.
Just a heads up that I’m in the middle of revamping the design of the website. It’s not done yet so you may notice some issues as I continue working, especially on the interior pages. I’m hoping to have everything done within the week. And then we’ll be ready to start discussing the upcoming season!
As for the new design, the layout isn’t changing much but the look is going to be a bit of an adjustment! The fonts are bolder, the lines are thicker, and we’re all-in with smokey gray. Hopefully you’ll like the changes, and if not, hopefully you can at least live with them!
Lastly, why are the first three letters in the word “Tennessee” in orange in the new logo? They’ll stay that way until August 9th which is — hard to believe, but true — the tenth anniversary of this site’s launch! When I started out I said I wasn’t sure whether a site like this would work, since even the biggest and most popular volleyball teams don’t have fans writing blogs about them (RichKern.com lists only three others). But I added I would “give this idea a shot this season and see how it goes”. I’m not sure I expected to still be here ten years later! And it’s all thanks to the wonderful support I’ve gotten from you all — fans, families, players, and staff. I’ll admit I’m a big enough geek that I’d probably be doing some of the things I do here for my own enjoyment even if I didn’t have a website! But it’s much more fun to be able to share with you. Thank you so much for allowing me to do that for this long.
With both a new design here and an anniversary upcoming, here’s a look back at the site’s logo over the years.
Congratulations to Erica Treiber. After being snubbed by the SEC, she was recognized by the AVCA as a member of the All-Southeast Region Team and an Honorable Mention All-American! Treiber is the 18th different Volunteer volleyball player to earn honorable mention or higher honors. It’s the 25th time a player has been named to the list, and the first since 2013. Treiber is just the fifth Tennessee underclassman to be recognized. Check out all of UT’s All-America honorees on this stats page.
Tennessee’s season is officially over. It was a pretty good year considering injuries and the graduation of our starting setter. Though I think we lost several games we could have won, you can’t be disappointed with 17 wins! And with five underclassmen getting significant playing time, the potential for success in future seasons is bright.
Here are a few very quick highlights of 2016:
- Head coach Rob Patrick’s 20th season
- 30th recorded winning season in program history
- Highest home attendance average since 2012
- 4th highest home attendance in at least the past 18 years
- Went from 110th the end of last year to 84th today in the RPI
- Went from 113th the end of last year to 75th today in the Pablo Rankings
- Went from 13th in the SEC in 2014, 8th last year, to 7th this year
- Finished in the top 5 in the SEC in hitting, opponent hitting, assists, kills, and aces
- Freshman Sedona Hansen finished 19th in the nation in assists per set.
Thanks to the players, their families, the coaches, the support staff, and everyone else responsible for another great season of Tennessee volleyball. I’ll have a few more stories in the coming weeks. And I am WAY behind in posting photos! (By the way, thanks for your patience this year as I had to spend more time than usual on my other website during the presidential election.) Can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2017!
The Vols lost their final match of the year to Missouri 3-0 (25-15, 26-24, 25-16). Congratulations to the Tigers who share the SEC title with Florida, but earn the NCAA automatic bid. More later…
Yesterday we looked at the players leaving us after three years in Knoxville. Today we’ll look back at the pre-Tennessee careers of two players who have spent the last two years here on Rocky Top. Apologies, as I don’t have as much of info in my files about these players because I didn’t follow them sooner since they transferred in later than the others.
Holmes played at Claremont High School in Claremont CA. She was named First Team All-League her final two seasons and her team won the league title her senior year. Holmes played club for Pacific Juniors. She also played soccer and track & field, winning the CIF Southern Section soccer title her senior season. Before coming to UT, she played for UC Riverside, redshirting for her first year. She was sixth on the team in kills for 2013. In 2014, she led the team in kills and attacks, was second in points, and fourth in blocks.
PrepVolleyball: “A big difference [maker]… not only smashing the ball into the floor, but placing the ball well on the court.”
Holmes, on why transferring to Tennessee: “Definitely the coaching. That was my biggest thing, just Rob [Patrick], and what he looks for in his players, the way he coaches, and his coaching style. It was just everything I was looking for. He just kind of checked all the boxes on my list, and it just worked out.”
Reed played for Hopkins High School in Minnetonka MN, where she was an All Conference and honorable mention All State player. She played club for Northern Lights. Before coming to Tennessee she played at VCU. She played in every set as a freshman and ranked second on the team in blocks. She started every match and played every set her sophomore year finishing third on the team in blocks and attack percentage. Reed’s team defeated the Vols in 2013, coming back from two sets down to win. Reed had 7 blocks in that match.
PrepVolleyball: “Has the power needed to terminate the rally.”
VCU coach Jody Rogers: “A very aggressive blocker with a contagious work ethic. She only knows winning and feeding that fuel as she translates to VCU will only increase her ceiling.”
Yesterday we looked at the seniors leaving us after four years in Knoxville. Today we’ll look back at two players who have spent the last three years here on Rocky Top, what was said about them as they started their college careers, and what they thought about coming to Tennessee.
Coco attended Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek GA. Her team advanced deep into the 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. She set the state and national high school record for career digs. Coco made All State twice, was named the Georgia Defensive Player of the Year, was named a PrepVolleyball national Defensive Dandy every season of her high school career, and 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). She played club for A5 in Roswell GA, where her squads came in third at the AAU Open National Championships twice. She also earned AAU All America honors.
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.”
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 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.”
Coco: “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.”
Johnson, a transfer from Long Beach State, attended high school at Chaparral High School in Temecula CA. PrepVolleyball named her an honorable mention on their top freshman in the country list. Her senior year, the school earned a berth in the playoffs. Johnson was a four-time All-Conference selection. PrepVolleyball added her to their Senior Aces list of the top 250 recruits in the country. She also played beach volleyball. According to UT she “was the 2011 AAU/USA Volleyball L.A. Open gold medal champion”, “AAU/USA Beach Volleyball Southern Pacific Champion”, “2009 AAU/USA Jr. Manhattan Beach Open Champion”, and “two-time Best of Beach Qualifier and three-time State Championship CBVA Qualifier”.
High school coach Pat Manning: “She is an intense and competitive player who still has fun playing the game. That allows her to bounce back from mistakes.”
PrepVolleyball: “A lefty who hits with power and also sets”, an “effective dual threat”, and “a top beach player”.
Johnson: “I love the culture. I love how the fans get into it. I love our team, I love the teammates. I like how we come together as a team to play.”
Oops, they did it again! For the fourth time since 2008, UK’s chances to win the SEC title in their last regular season match were crushed by the Vols. (Kentucky can still share it but it is much more unlikely now and they don’t control their destiny.) Tennessee won 3-1 on senior night (18-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-17). More soon!
UPDATE: Kendra Turner led both teams with 12 kills, with just 1 error on 29 attacks; she also had 8 digs. Tessa Grubbs had 10 kills and 4 blocks. Raina Hembry had 9 kills and 6 blocks. Erica Treiber had 8 kills, 5 blocks, 3 aces, and hit .533. Kanisha Jimenez had 7 kills, 16 digs, and 2 aces. Brooke Schumacher also dug up 16 balls. Britney Vallez had 8 digs. Sedona Hansen earned a double-double with 42 assists and 11 digs. Senior Nora Reed started the match and led the team in kills before coming out at the end of the first set.
Tennessee earned their first win over UK since 2011 — five years to the night, in a game that also knocked the Wildcats out of the SEC race.
Kentucky won 19 sets in a row over Tennessee from 2012 to tonight.
UT held the Wildcats to their second lowest hitting percentage of the year: .106.
The Vols end the season 9-3 at home.
After losing seven televised matches in a row, UT has now won their last two.
Tennessee scored their first win over a ranked opponent this season.
The Vols are 5-3 in day-before-Thanksgiving matches, and 4-0 when that team is the Wildcats. UT is an undefeated 3-0 vs ranked opponents on Thanksgiving eve — all three of those wins coming at the expense of UK.
The team scored 17 points off Treiber’s serving. Treiber, who didn’t even play in the first set, had serving runs that scored 4, 6, and 7 points.
It’s that time of year again when we have to start saying goodbye to the Vols leaving us this season. Today we’ll look back at the two UT seniors who have spent the last four years here on Rocky Top, what was said about them as they started their college careers, and what they thought about coming to Tennessee.
Hembry attended Central Catholic in Portland OR. Her team won their third straight state championship her junior year and came in fifth her senior year. She played club ball at Oregon Northwest Juniors Elite, and placed 18th at the 2012 AAU Nationals. She was #45 on PrepVolleyball’s Senior Aces list and made Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 list of the top seniors in the nation.
Patrick: “She’s a very athletic, long player who really plays the game of volleyball very well. She will come in and really challenge for the middle hitter position, but also is flexible enough to put her on the right side. She’s a very advanced blocker for her age, which is something that usually takes a while to get proficient at. She’ll come in and play defensively at the net at a high level. The other thing that’s exciting about Raina is her ability to attack the ball in front and behind the setter equally well. Raina is a winner… Raina is going to come in with a lot of high-level volleyball experience and training.”
PrepVolleyball: “Blessed with great size and athleticism, Hembry caught the attention of college recruiters… Hembry is a supreme blocker with great quickness and court awareness and exceptional instincts. A very good slide hitter, Hembry is not a vocal rah-rah type but lets her performance do the talking. Hembry’s potential is still on the rise so Tennessee may be seeing an even more polished player when she arrives in Knoxville next fall.”
Hembry: “I chose Tennessee because I really liked the coaches and the girls were super cool. And I really liked the area, even though I’m from Portland and this is a smaller town. It’s different but I like the small-town big-college… To be a Lady Vol, the attention that comes with it, there’s a certain reputation you have to uphold. I like the gear we get. And people know who you are just walking into a room they’re like ‘Oh, that’s a volleyball player’, so it’s kinda cool.”
Villano attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale FL. Her team was a state semifinalist her junior year and lost in the championship match her senior year. She played club ball for Boomers Volleyball, and placed ninth at the 2011 AAU Nationals. She earned Volleyball Magazine Third Team All-American honors, was an AVCA Under Armour All-American Honorable Mention honoree, and made PrepVolleyball’s Senior Aces list.
Patrick: “Bridgette is an elite athlete that we’re excited to get on the court. She played mostly as an outside hitter during high school and her club career, which allowed her to learn the game at a very high level. She brings in quite a bit of experience and gives us a very athletic skill depth at our defensive specialist and libero positions. She’s going to vie for playing time pretty early in her career.”
High school coach Lisa Zielinski: “Bridgette is quick and athletic and has a do or die attitude when it comes to defense.”
PrepVolleyball: “An exceptional athlete… Bound for Tennessee, she shows promise of becoming an elite level libero at the collegiate level.”
Villano: “[Being a Lady Vol], it means a lot. Being a part of a team and a family is really a great thing because there’s always someone here who has your back. And they have a really good support system here for women’s sports, so it really makes me feel involved and important.”