The Lady Vols are playing game three of their five match road series tonight, this time visiting Athens to take on Georgia.
UT is 49-30 all-time vs Georgia. Tennessee is 6-4 in the last ten meetings and 6-4 in the last ten road matchups.
The Lady Vols will be the fifth ranked team UGA has played this year. They took 2 sets vs #22 Pepperdine, 1 set off #4 Nebraska, and were swept by #18 Georgia Tech and #22 Florida.
Despite being geographical neighbors, Tennessee hasn’t played a match in the state of Georgia vs any other team than the Bulldogs since 2001.
With a 14-3 record and 11 matches to go, UT would clinch a winning season with a victory today. (Though winning today then losing the next 10 matches wouldn’t feel like much of a winning season!)
Four Lady Vols are ranked in the top 100 nationally in several statistical categories. Natalie Hayward is 15th in the country in assists per set. Danielle Mahaffey is 10th and Ava Bell in 91st in blocks per set. Mahaffey is 25th in hitting percentage. And Morgahn Fingall in 100th in points per set.
NATIONAL & CONFERENCE STATISTICAL RANKS
Athens GA GEORGIA (5-11, 1-4) Friday, October 15th, 7:00pm ET Stats | SEC Network+
Sorry for the disappearing act this week. I’ve been ill for a few days — not COVID! I’ll have some notes for the Georgia match up by tomorrow night. Until then, here are a few items from this week.
Tennessee moved up to #5 in the RPI. They’re #21 in the Coaches Poll, #17 in the Pablo Rankings, #21 in the RichKern.com Poll, and #19 in the VolleyTalk Poll.
Congratulations to Natalie Hayward on being named the overall SEC Player of the Week and the Setter of the Week. This is her third league weekly honor of the year, and fourth of her career. It’s the second time she’s also been named the Player of the Week.
Hayward was profiled today in the local newspaper: “How Natalie Hayward has contributed to Tennessee volleyball’s success this season”.
In front of one of the biggest away game crowds I’ve ever seen, the Lady Vols put up a 3-0 win vs South Carolina (25-22, 25-20, 25-17). More tomorrow!
UPDATE: Lily Felts led the offense for UT with 13 kills. She also served three aces in a row for the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th points of the third set. Breana Runnels was just behind with 12 kills. Felts and Runnels also paced the defense with 9 digs a piece. Nicole Shanahan was the Lady Vol blocks leader with 3. Four other players each put up 2 blocks. Natalie Hayward had 34 assists.
In Friday’s match, South Carolina put up the highest hitting percentage by a UT opponent in a loss in the rally-scoring era. Saturday, they were nearly as impressive hitting .293, for the seventh highest hitting percentage in a loss.
Great catch from the official site: coach Eve Rackham Watt’s second victory over the Gamecocks put her at 67 career wins, moving her into fourth place in total wins in program history.
With at least 11 games still to go this year, Tennessee has already hit over .350 in a match six times. That currently ties for the fourth best total in a season since 2001.
HITTING AT LEAST .350
2012 8 2010 8 2011 7 2021 6 2019 6 2008 6 2018 5 2004 5 2002 5 2016 4 2009 4 2005 4 2003 4 2001 4 2015 3 2006 2 2017 1 2013 1 2007 1 2020 0 2014 0
Tennessee got a 3-1 (25-21, 17-25, 25-23, 26-24) victory over South Carolina this evening to earn their fifth league win in six matches.
Breana Runnels and Danielle Mahaffey had 14 kills each. Runnels picked up a double-double with 10 digs, while Mahaffey almost did so with 9 blocks. Lily Felts had 13 kills and 12 blocks for her 22nd career double-double. Natalie Hayward put up 44 assists. Madison Bryant had 9 digs. Both Paola Laborda and Kya Moore served up three aces each — including the game winner from Laborda.
South Carolina’s .311 hitting percentage was the highest by a UT opponent in a loss in the rally-scoring era.
Hello! I’m back from vacation and ready to get back to work. There will be no formal notes for this weekend’s matches at South Carolina. But I am working to get the site stats, data, roster info, etc… back up to date before the first serve tomorrow. Thanks for your patience during my trip! Looking forward to getting back into SEC volleyball with the one-game-out-of-first-place Lady Vols!
This week something will happen that hasn’t occurred in the entire 15 years I’ve been running this site — I’m planning on missing a home match! In my first 14 years, I was only absent for a single game here in Knoxville, due to an unforeseen traffic jam. (If the match had gone one more set I would have made it!) Then a few weeks ago I ended up having to miss two matches when my wife unexpectedly contracted COVID which required me to quarantine just in case. (Thankfully my vaccine held strong, and I did not get it!)
My wife and I had to cancel our 25th anniversary plans last winter due to the pandemic. Earlier this year we made make-up plans for the first week of October. I knew that would be in the midst of volleyball season, but I crossed my fingers and hoped that when the schedule eventually came out, UT would be on the road while I was on vacation.
That didn’t happen! But we’re going anyway!
So there will be no updates for the rest of this week. I’ll catch up on stats and stories in time for next week’s matches. Thanks for understanding, good luck this week, and see ya real soon!
Congratulations to Natalie Hayward and Danielle Mahaffey on earning SEC honors this week!
“SEC Defensive Player of the Week – Tennessee’s Danielle Mahaffey, a senior middle blocker from Cincinnati, Ohio, averaged 2.57 blocks per set to help UT sweep Arkansas in the conference opener for both teams. Mahaffey registered 12 total blocks in the opening match on Saturday, and added six more total blocks in Sunday’s match.”
“SEC Setter of the Week – Tennessee’s Natalie Hayward, a senior from Bothell, Wash., averaged 9.71 assists, 4.86 digs and 1.86 kills per set and posted a .571 hitting percentage in the two wins over Arkansas. In the series opener on Saturday, Hayward tallied 38 assists, 19 digs and nine kills. She then added another double-double of 30 assists and 15 digs in Sunday’s match against the Razorbacks.”
The Lady Vols sit tied at the top of the conference rankings after the first week of league play. In the AVCA Coaches Poll they have moved up to #20. They’re also at #20 in both the RichKern.com Poll and the Pablo Rankings. And in the Volley Talk Poll they stand at #18.
UT got a 3-0 victory over Arkansas this afternoon (25-19, 25-19, 25-17). More info coming soon.
UPDATE: Breana Runnels and Lily Felts led the offense with 9 kills apiece. Danielle Mahaffey and Morgahn Fingall were just behind them with 8 each. Mahaffey was the match leader in blocks with 6. Ava Bell had 5 and Fingall added in another 4. Natalie Hayward picked up 14th career double-double with 30 assists and 15 kills. And Madison Bryant earned career double-double #1 with 16 digs and 10 assists.
The Lady Vols earned their tenth win in their 12th match of the season. That’s the fastest to ten wins since 2015. It ties for the fifth best UT start since 1978.
The Lady Vols got the “W” in their conference opener, defeating the Razorbacks in four (31-33, 25-19, 25-21, 25-14). More tonight.
UPDATE: Breana Runnels had a team-leading 15 kills. Ava Bell followed with 11 while hitting .688. Natalie Hayward had 9 kills, 38 assists, 6 blocks, and 19 digs, while hitting .750. Danielle Mahaffey and Morgahn Fingall had career highs in blocks with 12 and 9 respectively. Madison Bryant’s 22 digs were just 4 off her best.
Tennessee lost a set to an unranked team for the first time this season.
The Lady Vols put down 26 block assists and 8 block solos, for a total of 21 total team blocks. That’s good for the 5th most in the rally-scoring era.
UT won the match while hitting .195, just the 45th time in the rally-scoring era they’ve earned a win while hitting under .200.
Natalie Hayward was one stat away from two rarities on Rocky Top. The first: she was one kill from a triple double. It’s only happened here twice since 2001, and possibly just once in the side-out scoring era. The second: she was one dig away from a 20/20, with 38 assists and 19 digs. Only seven Lady Vols since 2001 have ever earned 20+ in two different double-double stats.
After a successful out-of-conference warm-up, Tennessee starts the SEC portion of their schedule this weekend vs Arkansas.
UT is 23-21 all-time vs Arkansas. The Lady Vols are 6-4 in their last ten meetings and 7-3 in their last ten meetings in Knoxville.
UT hasn’t swept Arkansas since 2012.
Statistically, Tennessee and Arkansas are fairly similar in most categories. The one glaring exception is aces per set. The Razorbacks lead the conference and are in the top 50 nationally with 1.89 per set. UT is last in the SEC and 323rd out of 332 teams nationally.
Tennessee will be playing their first televised match of the season on Sunday. The team is 38-56 in those matches since 2001. UT is 9-4 on TV when outranking their opponent.
Coach Eve Rackham Watt talked with the voice of Lady Vol volleyball Brian Rice (and also Erik Ainge!) earlier today.
With about a third of the season over, here is where some UT players might end the season extrapolating out their current stats. (Apologies if I forgot anyone!)
• SEASON RECORDS
Morgahn Fingall could end the season with about 370 kills, which would be the 18th most in a season in the rally-scoring era. Her 4.26 kills per set would be just outside the top ten all-time at UT.
Ava Bell is hitting .427 this year, which if she can keep going would be the best average in school history in a season. Bell is sitting at 1.35 blocks per set, which would be in the school’s all-time season top ten.
Danielle Mahaffey’s 1.20 blocks per set would be a top twenty performance.
Natalie Hayward is on pace to reach 1,075 assists, which would be right on the cusp of a top twenty all-time season for a Lady Vol.
• CAREER RECORDS
With 20 career double-doubles, Lily Felts is ranked 9th at UT in rally-scoring era matches. She could probably finish career at around #7. She currently has 820 career kills. She is on pace to score 182 more this season. If Felts could do that, she’d be just the 22nd member of the UT 1,000 kills club. With the 21 digs she stated this past weekend, Felts moved into the UT top thirty all-time digs chart with 736. She could potentially hit the top twenty. And she is just 49 attack attempts away from the all-time school top twenty. The top fifteen is within her reach.
Natalie Hayward could also end her career with several spots on the school’s stat lists. She’s in the top twenty for assists, and could possibly reach as high as #10. She’s currently 6th in assists per set. Her .335 hitting percentage is currently 5th best all-time. And she might crack the top twenty for career digs per set.
Bell has a .379 career hitting percentage. Even if that drops .012 more, she would still become the all-time program hitting leader. Bell’s 1.02 blocks per set average is in the UT career top ten.
Mahaffey’s .247 hitting percentage would tie for the 30th spot on Tennessee’s career chart.
NATIONAL & CONFERENCE STATISTICAL RANKS
Tickets are available online for $5.
Tennessee is running several promotions for Sunday’s home match. Kids 12 and under get free admission. The first 100 kids will receive an ice cream sundae. And the first 100 fans will receive… pancakes and syrup?!
Be sure to look over Thompson Boling Arena’s clear bag policy.
Parking and other gameday information can be found online as well.
Knoxville TN ARKANSAS 10-2, 1-0 Saturday, September 25th, 4:00pm ET Stats | SEC Network+ Sunday, September 26th, 12:00pm ET Stats | SEC Network (TV and online)
Against Purdue Fort Wayne, no Tennessee player notched more than 8 kills. That ties one other match for the fewest number of kills by the team leader in a win since 2001. Only 13 victories in that time have seen the kills leader in single digits.
Tennessee has had ten or less hitting errors in three matches this season so far: vs Morehead State, ETSU, and Jacksonville State.
Three players vs JSU with at least 5 attacks hit over .500: Bell with .714, Mahaffey with .600, and Felts with .542. That ties for the second most Lady Vols to do that in a rally-scoring era match.
Tennessee’s .210 hitting percentage vs Purdue was their 15th highest of the rally-scoring era in a three set loss.
Natalie Hayward became just the 18th member of the Lady Vols 1,000 assists club. With her current total of 1,099, she stands at #16 all-time on Rocky Top having just passed Callie Williams, a transferred UT setter Tennessee faced vs Baylor earlier this season.
Hayward picked up two double-doubles this weekend: vs PFW with 35 assists and 15 digs; vs PU with 31 assists and 10 digs
UT went 8-2 in their out-of-conference schedule, their best record over the last six years. It’s the second best record since 2001 in seasons where they played three top 25 OOC teams in the regular season.
UT VS OOC IN THE REGULAR SEASON YEAR W-L RECORD TOP 25 OPPS 2021 8-2 .800 3 2020 0-0 .000 0 2019 6-4 .600 3 2018 9-3 .750 3 2017 7-2 .778 1 2016 10-3 .769 0 2015 14-1 .933 0 2014 7-7 .500 0 2013 8-6 .571 0 2012 7-2 .778 3 2011 8-2 .800 2 2010 9-1 .900 1 2009 7-3 .700 1 2008 7-4 .636 1 2007 5-4 .556 2 2006 9-1 .900 1 2005 7-4 .636 3 2004 12-1 .923 3 2003 11-2 .846 1 2002 12-2 .857 0 2001 9-3 .750 0
Tennessee dropped the last match to the home team at Purdue’s tournament (25-19, 25-22, 25-23). I’ll have a full recap of the three matches being played this weekend soon.
The Lady Vols won two matches today vs Purdue Fort Wayne (25-22, 25-20, 25-19) and Jacksonville State (25-23, 25-21,25-17). On the year so far, Tennessee has swept every unranked team they’ve played. I’ll have a full recap of the three matches being played this weekend soon.
The Lady Vols head to West Lafayette, Indiana this weekend for their last out-of-conference matches before SEC play begins. They’ll take on Purdue Fort Wayne, Jacksonville State, and home-standing and 9th ranked Purdue.
UT will be facing Purdue Fort Wayne for the first time. The school was created in 2018 when Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (also known as IPFW) split into two different colleges.
UT is 2-1 all-time vs Jacksonville State. Tennessee swept the first two meetings in the early 2000s, while JSU won the last meeting in 2013.
UT is 1-6 all-time vs Purdue. Tennessee lost the first five meetings from 1980 to 1991, before getting their first win in the series in 2004. The last meeting was a UT loss in 2005.
In the rally-scoring era, Tennessee is 2-1 vs the Horizon League, 12-1 vs the Atlantic Sun Conference, and 8-17 vs the Big Ten Conference.
The Big Ten is one of only three conferences to have a winning record over Tennessee since 2001.
TENNESSEE VS CONFERENCES American Athletic Conference 24-5 .828 Atlantic Coast Conference 17-8 .680 ASUN Conference 12-1 .923 Atlantic 10 Conference 9-2 .818 Big East Conference 0-2 .000 Big Sky Conference 1-0 1.000 Big South Conference 6-1 .857 Big Ten Conference 8-17 .320 Big 12 Conference 7-5 .583 Big West Conference 2-0 1.000 Colonial Athletic Association 3-0 1.000 Conference USA 12-2 .857 Horizon League 2-1 .667 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference 1-0 1.000 Mid-American Conference 11-4 .733 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference 3-0 1.000 Missouri Valley Conference 5-2 .714 Mountain West Conference 4-1 .800 Northeast Conference 1-0 1.000 Ohio Valley Conference 13-2 .867 Pac-12 Conference 2-3 .400 Patriot League 3-0 1.000 Southeastern Conference 212-161 .568 Southern Conference 18-2 .900 Southwestern Athletic Conference 1-0 1.000 Summit League 3-1 .750 Sun Belt Conference 6-2 .750 West Coast Conference 4-2 .667 Western Athletic Conference 2-2 .500
Jacksonville State’s three matches vs the Lady Vols were all memorable for different reasons: one because of a player, one because of the road it led to, and one because of a rain delay! The first meeting in 2000 was at a tournament in Knoxville that featured current UT head coach Eve Rackham as a player on one of the other teams. The second was in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament that would see Tennessee reach the Final Four. The third in 2003 saw the match delayed due to a leak in the roof of Thompson Boling Arena raining down on to the court.
Purdue’s coaching staff — head coach Dave Shondell, associate head coach John Shondell, and assistant head coach Kathy Jewell — have all served in their roles in West Lafayette for the last 18 years.
Tennessee is 36-74 (.327) in the rally-scoring era vs ranked opponents and 11-39 (.220) vs top ten teams.
The Lady Vols will have faced three different top ten teams in just their tenth match of the season. There have been only six full seasons where Tennessee matched or beat that number.
TENNESSEE VS THREE OR MORE DIFFERENT TOP TEN TEAMS IN A SEASON 1982 #1 Hawaii
1983 #1 Hawaii
#9 Arizona State
1984 #1 Pacific
2005 #2 Penn State
#7 Notre Dame
2009 #5 Florida
2017 #1 Florida
2021 #7 Pitt
highest ranking shown for teams played multiple times in a season
West Lafayette IN STACEY CLARK CLASSIC PURDUE FORT WAYNE
Friday, September 17th, 12:30pm ET
Live Stats | Big Ten Network+ Video JACKSONVILLE STATE
Friday, September 17th, 5:00pm ET
Live Stats | Big Ten Network+ Video #9 PURDUE
Saturday, September 18th, 12:30pm ET
Live Stats | Big Ten Network+ Video
Note that Big Ten Network+ access is NOT included if you subscribe to the Big Ten Network with your cable/satellite/streaming provider. A separate fee is required.