Sunday, August 31, 2014

UT wins one, loses one

201401-team-2After winning their season opener, the Lady Vols split a pair of matches on the second day of their season. In the early game they fought to a 3-1 win over Cleveland State (15-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-16). In the night game, they lost 3-0 to a more experienced Appalachian State squad (25-15, 25-21, 25-14). Check out the official site for much more, including stats, stories, and videos with the coach and some players.

Sorry for the lack of updates this weekend. Due to some personal issues, I’ve had to stay offline. And unfortunately that may continue for a few more days. I’m hoping to be able to jump on occasionally to do a few things (like keeping the stats updated). But bigger updates will be on hold for a little while longer.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lady Vols win season opener

Tennessee earned a sweep over Tennessee Tech this afternoon in Boone NC in their first match of the year (25-15, 25-14, 25-17). I won’t have access to a computer until Monday so pictures and stat updates will have to wait until then. (It also appears the “next match” graphic in the sidebar isn’t auto updating as it should — more to do when I get back to Knoxville!)

The 2014 season begins!

It’s the first gameday of 2014! Here are some last minute notes.

Tennessee has posted tournament info and match notes. It also includes a video preview of the weekend. There will also be a live chat available on the page during the games.

The local CBS affiliate did a segment on their news broadcast this week about the Lady Vols.

The UT newspaper, The Daily Beacon, talked with coach Rob Patrick about the expectations for the new season.

Tennessee has continued their video series on the players, with Raina Hembry and Megan Hatcher.

Speaking of Hatcher, a new section of the Stats page features a list of the Lady Vols from the state of Tennessee since 1996.

Follow the matches this weekend via all four teams’ Twitter accounts.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 Match Notes: Appalachian Invitational

It’s been a long offseason but it all ends tomorrow as the Lady Vols take to the court to begin the 2014 campaign! Tennessee begins the season in Boone NC at the Appalachian Invitational where they will face Tennessee Tech, Cleveland State, and Appalachian State.

  • Since 1978, the Lady Vols are 28-8 in season opening matches. In the opening week of the season the team is 77-32. Under Coach Rob Patrick the team is 13-4 in season opening matches and 43-8 in the opening week of the season.
  • August matches are a relatively new thing for Tennessee. Prior to the turn of the century the team had only played seven matches before September. Since 2001, they’ve played them every year but one. UT is 34-6 in August.
  • Yes, it’s great that the season starts tomorrow, but if you can’t make it to North Carolina this weekend you’ll have to wait awhile to actually see the team in action. The first home match is 20 days after the season starts. Since 1978, thats the third longest wait home fans have had to endure.
  • While Tennessee fans have been somewhat spoiled having the team open in Knoxville four of the past six years, before that opening on the road was the norm. From 1992 to 2008, UT opened every year out of town except one. Coach Patrick didn’t have a season debut before the home crowd until his 10th year. With this trip to Boone, he’s taken his teams out of town to start the season thirteen times during his eighteen years at the helm, compiling an 9-3 record.
  • Tennessee is 28-4-1 all-time vs Tennessee Tech. The Lady Vols have won 24 of the last 25 matches, but have only played once in the past decade — a UT sweep in 2009. Last season the Golden Eagles went 5-21, finishing 12th in the Ohio Vally Conference at 1-15.
  • Tennessee is 1-1 all-time vs Cleveland State — a 2-0 loss in 1974 and a 3-2 win in 1998. Last season the Vikings went 16-13, finishing 6th in the Horizon League at 5-9.
  • Tennessee is 8-1 all-time vs Appalachian State. The Lady Vols lost the first meeting in 1974, and have won every time since. Last season the Mountaineers went 19-13, finishing 5th in the Southern Conference at 9-7. The team joined the Sun Belt Conference this year.
  • Since 2001, UT is 7-1 vs the OVC, 3-1 vs the Sun Belt, and is playing their first match vs a Horizon League team.
  • The Lady Vols have played in 44 matches all-time against this weekend’s field, but only one match ever went to five sets: a 1998 win vs Cleveland State.
  • UT is scheduled to face three fellow Tennessee teams this season, the first this weekend. The Lady Vols have played another state school every season since 1973 except 2006, 2011, and 2012.
  • The Lady Vols are 134-27-4 (.824) vs other Tennessee schools. Coach Rob Patrick is 23-2 (.920).
  • UT has only lost two matches to in-state rivals since 1991: Tennessee Tech in 1997 and ETSU last year.
  • Tennessee Tech will tie ETSU this weekend as the state school UT has played the most with 34 matches each.
  • Mountaineer junior Emily Corrigan was a teammate of Lady Vol freshman Claudia Coco at Chattahoochee High School in Georgia.
  • Tech has two Knoxville natives on the roster: Courtney Smith from Karns High School and Kennedy Wade from Grace Christian Academy. Appalachian State’s Leah Hawkins played club volleyball in Knoxville.
  • Two of the opposing head coaches this weekend were assistant coaches at current SEC schools previously. Cleveland State’s Chuck Voss served at Missouri for three seasons, while Appalachian State coach Matt Ginipro was on staff at Mississippi.

More information:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Recapping the extraordinary 2004 season

2004mgcoverThis season marks the tenth anniversary of a Tennessee volleyball team that reached heights unknown up to that point in program history, and paved the way for future Lady Vol squads to come.

Head coach Rob Patrick had been steadily building up the program since taking on the job. After being hired the summer before the season started in 1997, his first team went 15-19. But things were all uphill after that. In 2003, the Lady Vols had an impressive 22-9 record — just the second season with single-digit losses in school history and the first since 1982. (Three of those nine losses came to eventual national runner-up Florida; two others came in 3-2 squeakers vs the Big Ten’s Michigan and Michigan State.) It was also the team’s third 20 win season in four years. Despite their record, a school high 10 conference wins, a 11-2 out-of-conference record, including victories over the ACC and Big South Conference champions, the Lady Vols weren’t invited to the NCAA Tournament.

Going into 2004, Tennessee had some big expectations for themselves… and maybe a chip on their shoulders as well. And they were well placed to achieve their goals. Players accounting for 95% of the previous seasons kills, assists, aces, digs, and blocks were back — including all six starters. The rest of the conference took note: the Lady Vols were picked to come in second after Florida by the SEC coaches.

“We’ve never been more excited for a season… This is going to be the most physical and experienced team that I’ve ever had here… They were very upset not being picked for the NCAA Tournament last year and don’t want to ever be in that position again. Their goals when they came to Tennessee were to win the SEC Championship, qualify for the NCAA Tournament and go deep in the NCAA Tournament. They haven’t reached those goals yet, which are very important to them.” — Rob Patrick

The Lady Vols started off what would be an historic campaign inauspiciously in Los Angeles, losing their first set of the season to Villanova before bouncing back to win the match. They took down Duke in three the next day. That night they faced their first big test of the year: #18 Loyola Marymount on their home court. Tennessee responded with a sweep — at the time just the second 3-0 win vs a ranked team in school history.

UT returned to Knoxville the next week for the Lady Vol Classic, where they kept up their sweep streak with wins vs Wake Forest and UT Martin. Then they faced their second ranked opponent of the year in #24 Purdue. Led by a furious blocking performance, the squad got a 3-1 victory.

The team earned their first ranking in the USA Today/CSTV Coaches Poll in 19 years, debuting at #22.

Next up for the team was a win over fellow Tennessee program Libscomb and then a trip to Michigan. They dispatched Western Michigan and Virginia Tech. Then the now 9-0 Lady Vols had to face the 8-1 home-standing Michigan team, who had just lost their first match of the year to WMU. The Wolverines gave Tennessee their first loss of the season in four.

Down to #24 in the polls, the team went back to Knoxville to face another tough out-of-conference foe, #15 Louisville. This would be the first time in 19 years UT played in a match where both they and their opponent was ranked. And the Lady Vols did not disappoint the home crowd, getting a 3-1 upset over the Cardinals.


UT started off the SEC portion of their schedule in impressive style: sweeping their first six opponents, which still stands as the single season school record. With two more 3-1 victories, the Lady Vols were 8-0 in conference play and ranked #17 when #8 Florida came to town. The Gators had won their last 138 regular-season SEC games, dating back almost a decade! Tennessee went all out to hype up the televised game and get as many fans in the seats as possible — including having a $500 contest to see which campus organization could have the most members in attendance, with coach Patrick promising to double the prize if total attendance reached 1,200. The Stokely-record 1,337 fans almost saw history, as UT came out hot winning the first set 30-26 and barely losing the second at 34-32. But Florida regrouped during the break and came out strong easily winning the last two sets.

The team bounced back, winning their next six SEC matches and a non-conference game vs Appalachian State. With one regular season match remaining, UT already had an historic season: an unparalleled 25-2 overall record, a stunning 15-1 SEC record, a #15 national ranking (their highest since 1983). No matter what happened next, this squad’s legacy was secured.

But what happened next put them into an even higher echelon in program history.

Whoever put the 2004 conference schedule together unwittingly set things up perfectly. The last match of the season put #15 Tennessee, one game behind first place, against league leader #7 Florida. The Gators winning ways had continued since the last meeting. Now they had won 145 straight SEC regular season matches dating back ten years and a day exactly — an NCAA record. They had won 121 consecutive overall conference matches (including tournaments) since 1997 — an NCAA record. And this time the game would take place on UF’s home court where they had won a staggering 109 straight SEC matches dating back to 1990! If all that weren’t enough, the SEC title was also on the line. Florida had already won a share of their 14th championship in a row and was hoping to earn it outright with a final win.

Tennessee came out strong, easily topping Florida 30-21 in the first set. Florida regrouped and thrilled the home crowd by winning the next two sets 30-23 and 30-25. The fourth set looked to be going UT’s way as they led by seven points through most of the frame, with a commanding 26-19 score near the end. But the Gators roared back to tie things at 27. From there the teams traded points before the Lady Vols were able to scrounge out a 31-29 win. The home fans were about to see a fifth set in an SEC match for the first time since 1991. The deciding set started out much as the last had ended. Florida was eventually able to go up by two, earning a 9-7 advantage. But the Lady Vols fought back, winning the next six points, and eventually the set (15-12), and match.

Tennessee not only ended the streaks and defeated a top ten team for the first time since 1983, they also won a share of the SEC Championship for the first time since 1984. They were ranked a program high 12th in the polls. Patrick won his first conference Coach of the Year award — the first time a UT coach had earned one since 1988. Amy Morris was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year — the first time a Lady Vol had won one of the conference annual awards ever. And five players were named to the All-SEC teams.

“I couldn’t be happier for this group of young ladies. We talked last January about what it would take to win the SEC and I told them that we would have to put more time in the gym and get stronger, starting in January. This is one of the most focused teams that I’ve ever been a part of. It’s just neat to see that all the hard work ends up accounting for something.” — Rob Patrick


With the regular season out of the way, the team now prepared for the post-season, starting with the SEC Tournament. Despite their win over Florida, Tennessee was given the #2 seed due to the tiebreaker rules (though 1-1 in head-to-head matches, UF won their match in four sets, while UT won theirs in five). The team defeated Auburn in the first round 3-1, and Arkansas next by the same score. That set up a rematch vs #10 Florida in the finals. With the teams knotted up during the regular season matches, the conference tournament was now a tie-breaker of sorts. And once again, it was on Florida’s turf. After not losing a match to a conference foe in Gainesville for 13 years, the Gator fans didn’t want to see it happen twice in one week!

But that’s exactly what happened. Florida took the first set 30-18, while Tennessee eked out the next two 30-27. While the home team dominated the fourth set 30-17, the Lady Vols dominated at the perfect time in the fifth to get a 15-5 victory.

“This is a great accomplishment for our team, to beat Florida twice in a week. I have such respect for Mary (Wise) and what she does with her program. I knew she’d be very prepared for us this match… I couldn’t be prouder of a group of young ladies who put their heart and soul not just into this match and just into this season. They put their heart and soul into every practice and every conditioning and strength workout we had since January. It’s really neat to see all that work end up culminating in a championship.” — Rob Patrick

The win gave Tennessee their first SEC Tournament title since 1984. Amy Morris was named the tourney MVP and Julie Knytych joined her on the All-Tournament team. They now had a 29-2 record and had won eleven straight. And UT moved into the top ten of the poll for the first time ever.

“It’s a great accomplishment for our program. I’m really excited that our players are getting this type of recognition from coaches around the country. It means a lot when you’re being recognized from your peers, so it’s a great feeling. A lot of work has gone into it from the coaches, staff and players.” — Rob Patrick


Even after all the firsts this group of young women had accomplished, they still weren’t done. First up was a quick out-of-conference sweep of Pittsburgh as a warmup for the NCAA Tournament, the program’s seventh overall but just the third in two decades. The team earned a #12 seed and first round hosting. In their opening match they faced Eastern Kentucky, and UT swept them without much difficulty, giving the orange and white their first NCAA win since 1993.

Next was a tougher challenge: #18 Texas A&M. Not only were they a ranked team, but the Lady Vols had never won two matches in an NCAA Tournament. The Aggies came out strong, leading most of the first half of the first set. But UT came back and won handily 30-21. The second set was a back and forth battle, eventually reaching a 19-19 stalemate before A&M took the momentum and went on an 11-5 run. Tennessee looked to have the third set in hand, leading 28-16. But once again the Aggies went on a tear with a 7-1 run before a service error gave Tennessee the 30-23 win. The fourth set was another back and forth affair with neither team leading by more than two most of the way. The Lady Vols were able to fight off two set points before getting the final three points to win 32-30 and take the match.

Tennessee was heading to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since the tournament had expanded to 64 teams (They previous played in the regional semifinals in 1982, 1983, and 1984 when the tournament only consisted of 28 teams.) The team had won 14 matches in a row, their longest streak since 1980. They were now #9 in the nation. The squad had won 6 matches vs ranked teams so far, after only winning 9 such matches in the 22 years previous. Kristen Andre, Julie Knytych, Amy Morris, and Michelle Piantadosi were named All-South Region players. Yuliya Stoyanova was named the South Region Freshman of the Year. And coach Patrick was named the South Region Coach of the Year.

“One of the things that I think is a trademark of Tennessee volleyball since we got here, something we’ve tried to foster is a team that plays with a lot of heart. We’ve always had real good ball control teams, defensive teams, and we didn’t always have the athletes we do now… who are big and strong, and are great volleyball players. In the past we had to do it with something a little bit less, and try to outwork the other team. We’ve tried to keep that philosophy as we continue to build a team… It’s been a joy to see the team effort that has come out of they type of play that we have, because one player can be having an off day, and four people can step up and make up for that. We’re not dependent on one person or two people. That’s helped us play consistently; this team has played consistently at a high level more than any team I’ve coached, and that goes back all the way to when I was at Stanford.” — Rob Patrick

Next up for the team was a Sweet Sixteen match vs #7 Ohio State. Tennessee jumped out to an early 5-1 lead but State came back to take over 14-10. After than the teams battled to a 29-29 tie before two UT aces sealed the set. The Lady Vols stormed out to a 17-10 lead in the second set, before the Buckeyes went on a 10-3 run to tie the set 20-20. But The Lady Vols would fight back for the 30-27 win. Down 2-0 heading into the locker room for the intermission, Ohio State’s coach must have had one heck of a speech as they came back and dominated the third set 30-16. OSU roared out to a 7-1 lead in the fourth set, but UT fought back and kept it close the last half of the match before falling 30-26. In the last and deciding set Ohio State again took an early lead, 10-6. But the Lady Vols won the next four in a row to tie. Unfortunately, the run didn’t last and OSU would go on to win the set 15-12.

“Not having NCAA Tournament experience caught up with us in this match. None of our players had played in a Sweet 16 match before tonight. Tennessee hadn’t been to an NCAA Sweet 16 in 24 seasons… I’m very proud of the team, not only for this match, but for the whole season.” — Rob Patrick

Tennessee’s extraordinary season ended in the Sweet Sixteen. Their 32 wins were the most since 1981. Their 3 losses were the fewest in school history to this day. Their .914 winning percentage is still the program record. Their #10 final ranking was the best they’d ever ended at to that point. Julie Knytych was named a third team All-American, while Michelle Piantadosi, Kristen Andre, and Amy Morris earned honorable mention — the first All-American honors for a Lady Vol since 1984. And Rob Patrick was named the National Coach of the Year.

As incredible as 2004 was, it was only a prologue of what was to come. Patrick had lamented that their downfall in 2004 was partly due to lack of tournament experience, something they now had. And as Lady Vol Kristen Andre presciently said at the press conference after their Sweet Sixteen loss, “We’re definitely excited about next year, we’ve already started talking about it in the locker room. This year gives us experience and motivation for next year.”


Monday, August 25, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Taylor Johnson

johnsonThe final newcomer to Rocky Top is sophomore setter Taylor Johnson, a transfer from Long Beach State who attended high school at Chaparral High School in Temecula CA.

Her team struggled her freshman year, but despite that, according to “she did great things” for them, with 386 assists, 63 kills, 52 digs, and 23 aces in her first season. She was named All-Conference Second Team and was an honorable mention on PrepVolleyball’s top freshman in the country list. Her sophomore year she was named a team captain and team MVP — honors she would receive every remaining year of her high school career. She also again picked up All-Conference Second Team accolades.

After two losing campaigns, things turned around her junior year with the team getting their first winning season in several years. Johnson was named All-Conference and All-Valley First Team. Her senior year, the school earned a berth in the playoffs. She was again named All-Conference and All-Valley First Team. And PrepVolleyball added her to their Senior Aces list of the top 250 recruits in the country.

Johnson also plays 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”.

She didn’t get to see a lot of court time at Long Beach State. She played in four matches, including two matches vs perennial powerhouse Hawaii. In one of those matches Hawaii had a 24-20 set point before Johnson served five points in a row leading to LBSU eventually taking the frame.

Talking to the media before her senior year of high school she said, “Volleyball is more than just a sport; it’s a way of life. I live, breathe and play volleyball. I never have an off season, so I am always working to get better.”

Her high school coach Pat Manning said: “She is an intense and competitive player who still has fun playing the game. That allows her to bounce back from mistakes.”

PrepVolleyball called her: “a lefty who hits with power and also sets”, an “effective dual threat”, and “a top beach player”.

In a video posted by UT yesterday, Johnson was asked her favorite thing about Tennessee: “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.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

One week to go notes

Less than a week to go until the Lady Vols hit the court!

  • UT is posting videos featuring the players. So far we’ve seen Shealyn Kolosky, Lexi Dempsey, Jamie Lea, and Kalyn Helton.
  • Another new sorting feature has been added to the stats page. Now you can view what players wore which jersey numbers.
  • sec-network-logoWith the launch of the SEC Network this month, conference schools are looking forward to a lot of additional exposure, recruiting advantages, and, of course, more money. But as they say, you have to spend money to make money. The network has required each league school to retool their production facilities and capabilities. The Knoxville News-Sentinel has more on that effort:

    Tennessee is constructing a $10 million studio in the first floor of its Brenda Lawson Athletic Center. Athletic department spokesman Jimmy Stanton said the studio is privately funded and will have other university uses beyond the SEC Network, such as training students in television production.

    The studio’s glass windows will allow viewing opportunities for fans walking past the building on their way to football and basketball games.

    “Those fans will be able to literally look through the windows, almost like a New York City environment, and see our coaches being interviewed, our student-athletes being interviewed,” Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said. “… It’s one more opportunity for us to create a fan-friendly environment on game day.”

  • The Lady Vols will make six appearances on TV this year, matching their regular season high number of appearances set in 2010 and last season, and one short of their all time high of seven set in 2005 during their Final Four run. In addition, six other games will air on the SEC Network+, the online component of the channel.

    Coach Patrick said about the launch: “We are very excited about the SEC network especially since the network reaches across the nation into everyone’s homes. We are excited to have our fans across the nation be able to watch us play and since we recruit nationally, it is a great way for the families of our players to be able to watch out team and their daughters play on a weekly basis.”

    9/26 schedule_arkansas schedule_secnetworkplus
    9/28 schedule_missouri schedule_secnetwork
    10/3 schedule_texasam schedule_secnetworkplus
    10/10 schedule_kentucky schedule_secnetworkplus
    10/12 schedule_lsu schedule_secnetworkplus
    10/19 schedule_georgia schedule_secnetwork
    10/29 schedule_kentucky schedule_espnu
    11/2 schedule_florida schedule_secnetwork
    11/9 schedule_auburn schedule_secnetworkplus
    11/16 schedule_texasam schedule_secnetworkplus
    11/19 schedule_southcarolina schedule_espnu
    11/26 schedule_arkansas schedule_secnetwork

Thursday, August 21, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Kanisha Jimenez

jimenezThe last freshman in our look at Lady Vol newcomers is Kanisha Jimenez, a 6’1″ outside and right side hitter from Disciples of Christ Academy in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Unfortunately most of the info I was able to collect about her was in Spanish. So I’ll have to rely much more on her UT bio and barely-better-than-nothing Google Translations (apologies in advance for any errors with that).

From UT: “The 6-foot-1 outside hitter is from Bayamon, Puerto Rico and has competed for the country’s junior national and national teams, earning bronze medal honors at the Norcerca Continental Championship in 2013. She represented Puerto Rico at the U-20 World Cup last summer, and made her national team debut this past fall in the Grand Prix of the International Volleyball Federation. Jimenez led her high school team, Disciples of Christ, to three Copa Nuevo Dia championships, as well as a runner-up finish.”

Coach Patrick on Jimenez: “Kanisha is going to come in with maybe the most international, high-level volleyball experience of any recruit we’ve had in quite some time. She’s a 6-1 outside hitter who has started for their junior national team and has trained and traveled with Puerto Rico’s national team. She is going to be very comfortable with the physicality and speed of the game when she walks in the door here. We expect her to be able to have a big impact on our team very early because of that experience she brings in. She’s somebody that can play on either pin on either the rightside or outside effectively. She will present a really physical presence at the net as a hitter and blocker, but she’s also somebody that can be very prominent in the back row.”

Jimenez on visiting Tennessee: “Me fue muy bien y la experiencia fue brutal… eso sí, hacía mucho frío, pero me fue bien! En la primera visita conocí al dirigente y a las jugadoras y realicé un recorrido del campus. Esta vez pasé más tiempo con el equipo y pude ver un juego de ellas y uno de fútbol (americano), al igual que cenar con el entrenador.” [Google translation: "It was very good to me and the experience was brutal ... yes, it was very cold, but I was good! On the first visit I met the manager and the players and did a tour of the campus. This time I spent more time with the team and I could see a game and one of them (American) football, as well as dinner with the coach."]

Jimenez on why she chose Tennessee over other options: “Hawái me encantó y, junto con Tennessee, Rice University y FIU, ésas eran las universidades principales en mi lista. Pero algo le vi a la Universidad de Tennessee que me encantó y decidí quedarme, además de que tienen una buena escuela de leyes, que es lo que voy a estudiar.” [Google translation: "Hawaii I loved, and along with Tennessee, Rice University, and FIU, those were the major universities on my list. But something I saw the University of Tennessee that I loved and decided to stay, plus they have a good law school, that's what I'm going to study."]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Iesha Bryant

bryantHard to believe, but we’re into the single digits! Just nine days left until the Lady Vols begin the 2014 campaign! Seven new faces will be on the court this year. Here’s the latest in our series.

Iesha Bryant is a 6’1″ middle blocker from Carthage High School in Carthage TX, where she also played basketball and track. She played club for East Texas Juniors.

Her high school volleyball team won their district championship in her junior year. She had 390 kills and 166 blocks, and was named the All-District Offensive Player of the Year. She also earned All-East Texas Second Team, East Texas Super Team Third Team, and Texas Sports Writers Association All-State Third Team honors.

During her senior year she again led the Lady Dawgs to the district championship with 481 kills, 110 blocks, and a school record 33 wins — while picking up All-District MVP and East Texas Player of the Year accolades. In addition, she was named to the All-East Texas First Team, the East Texas Super Team First Team, the Texas Sports Writers Association All-State Second Team, and the Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State First Team.

Coach Patrick on Bryant: “Iesha is a 6-foot-1 middle blocker from Texas who has a huge upside. She’s already a great athlete and volleyball player, but her potential is limitless. She’ll be able to come in and provide a physicality on the net for our team. She’s very explosive off the ground. She’s able to run in front and behind the hitter very effectively. Once she gets comfortable with the speed of the game, she’s really going to have an impact on the court as she is able to stretch defenses out because she can attack almost antennae to antennae.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

More preseason updates

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

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Kendra Turner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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

Friday, August 8, 2014

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


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

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Sabrina Tavakoli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

2014 Newcomers: Kelsey Bawcombe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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