This year was a year like no other. After living through it, I’m in no mood to recap the off-the-court events of 2020! But the volleyball season(s!) were a wonderful bright spot in a year that sorely needed it. So to start this recap, huge thanks to the players, coaches, and staff that made it happen!
The first thing I think that is worth noting is how well Tennessee volleyball handled the medical protocols put in place. The Lady Vols had four matches cancelled, two due to weather at Mississippi and two to COVID issues at Texas A&M. But no matches were cancelled due to COVID at Tennessee. Huge kudos again to the players, coaches, and staff that followed the systems put in place to help prevent infection.
The Lady Vols were picked to finish 7th in the conference at the beginning of the season. They bettered that pick with a 5th place finish. Though if missed matches had been played they could have easily finished 4th, with an outside shot at 3rd possible.
UT had a .600 win percentage, the 3rd best in the last 8 years.
For a team that wasn’t ranked, Tennessee held their own against ranked opponents. They won 3 of their 8 matches vs the top 25, their 2nd best win percentage since 2013. (While not ranked themselves, UT was receiving votes in 8 weeks of the season.)
A Lady Vol led the conference in digs almost every single week of the season. For most of the year that person was Madison Coulter who, despite only playing in the fall portion of the season, led the conference in digs almost every week until early-March. Since the SEC requires players on the list to have played in at least half their team’s matches, at the point she was no longer eligible. So the top player on the list after Coulter had to be removed was Madison Bryant, who held the top spot for the remainder of the regular season.
Other Tennessee players that ended the regular season in the conference’s top ten statistical categories include: Ava Bell (#4 in blocks, #9 in hitting), Morgahn Fingall (#9 in points, #10 in kills), and Natalie Hayward (#5 in assists).
Danielle Mahaffey’s 10 blocks vs Mississippi State tied for the 2nd most blocks in any league match and the most this year by a player in a four-set match. (And I’d be surprised if her 7 solo blocks in that match weren’t a conference high as well!)
Ava Bell’s .353 hitting percentage ranks 11th all-time on UT’s season chart.
Madison Bryant’s 3.85 digs per set ranks as the tenth best season ever at UT.
Lily Felts and Natalie Hayward ranked 7th in the SEC in double-doubles with 8 each.
As a team, the Lady Vols finished the year in the top four in the SEC in 8 of 12 statistical categories.
FINAL REGULAR SEASON
UT CONFERENCE STATISTICAL RANKS
aces assists blocks digs kills hitting TEAM OFFENSE 12 6 3 2 3 4 TEAM DEFENSE 3 3 4 10 6 4
Four different Lady Vols earned positional SEC Player of the Week honors this year: Lily Felts (offensive), Natalie Hayward (setter), Madison Bryant (defensive), and Morgahn Fingall (offensive). Felts and Hayward were also named the overall Players of the Week. This was the eighth time in school history four different players won one of the weekly awards, and just the second time the team didn’t make the NCAA Tournament when doing so.
I could probably dive deeper for more stats that show how well the team did this year. But nothing proves that point better than the fact that the women on the court were just out there doing what they do in (yes, I’m going to say it!) unprecedented circumstances. Even if they hadn’t done well, they’d be remembered for their perseverance and fortitude in playing during a season like this one. Doing so while also playing the way they did just makes us all the more proud of them.
One more time: thanks so much to the players, coaches, and staff that gave us the gift of a volleyball season when so many other things we took for granted were taken away this past year.
That’s enough looking back — we’ve got an extremely truncated off-season so it’s time to start preparing for the 2021 season which, if it starts at its usual time, is only about 130 days away!
And be sure to check back here soon. Sometime before the end of this month I have a big announcement about this site to make.