Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tennessee takes tourney title

201709-treiber-1UT won the Rocky Top Invitational after a five-set win vs Furman (20-25, 25-10, 22-25, 25-23, 15-7). More soon.

UPDATE: Lots of personal bests tonight. Breana Jeter had 9 kills and a career-high 7 digs. Alyssa Andreno had 8 kills and 8 blocks. Kanisha Jimenez had 8 kills, 8 blocks, 11 digs, and a career-high 5 aces. Erica Treiber had 7 kills and a career-high 10 blocks. Stephanie Buss put down a career-high 7 blocks. Sedona Hansen had 21 assists and 9 digs. Callie Williams put up 15 assists. And Brooke Schumacher dug up 14 balls.

Tennessee’s 16 hitting errors was the fewest in a five-set match in the rally-scoring era. Furman’s 41 were the fourth most by a UT opponent in that time. Tennessee had 19 team blocks, good for the 10th best since 2001.

This was the first five-set match in the rally-scoring era where no Tennessee player reached double-digit kills.

Andreno and Jeter were named to the All-Tournament Team while Treiber was named MVP.


UT takes down Upstate

Tennessee gets their second win of the weekend with a 3-1 win over USC Upstate (25-12, 25-17, 24-26, 25-16). More tonight.

Alyssa Andreno had 13 kills, hit .545, and had 5 blocks. Erica Treiber put down 12 kills while hitting .632. Kendra Turner had 9 kills, Kanisha Jimenez had 8, and Tessa Grubbs and Breana Jeter had 7 each. Stephanie Spencer hit .500 on 8 attacks. Sedona Hansen picked up a double-double with 29 assists and 13 digs. Callie Williams was just behind with 28 assists and 8 digs. Brooke Schumacher dug up 19 balls and Jimenez added 11 more.

The team hit .333, their best outing since the end of last September. Five players hit .333 or better — only two matches in the rally scoring era had more. Upstate’s 2 team blocks were the 10th fewest by a UT opponent since 2001.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Tennessee stops the Herd

The Lady Vols get the win vs Marshall tonight in a sweep (25-11, 25-11, 26-24). More soon.

UPDATE: Kendra Turner led the match with 12 kills and also hit .409. Erica Trieber, Breana Jeter, and Kanisha Jimenez had 6 kills each. Trieber contributed 6 blocks. Brooke Schumacher had 13 digs. Callie Williams put up 18 assists while Sedona Hansen added 12 more.


The Lady Vols*

Tennessee has announced the return of the Lady Vol name and logo for all women’s athletics teams. And while that is great news, what it actually means is still a bit of a mystery!

In his press conference, athletic director John Currie said:

Today’s announcement serves as official confirmation that the Lady Vol name, logo and brand will continue to stand prominently as marks of excellence in intercollegiate athletics. As I have said on multiple occasions, I deeply value the Lady Vols legacy and what it represents to the University of Tennessee and women athletes…

In October 2014, university leadership announced that the “Power T” logo—which had previously been utilized solely by the athletics department—would stand as the official mark of the entire UT Knoxville campus. Yes, our university has decided on one official mark and brand,” Currie said. “But that does not mean that all other brands iconic to our history and tradition must cease to exist. I do believe it’s important to preserve and celebrate the Lady Vol brand and logo, which has for decades—and still does—possess great meaning and evoke incredible pride among many supporters of this university…

We will not allow for the Lady Vol brand to disappear from our athletics department or university. And today, Chancellor Davenport and I reaffirm our commitment to restore the official visibility of the Lady Vol name, logo and brand.

First of all, we need to thank and acknowledge all the players and fans who launched the push to bring back the name and kept the issue alive over the past three years. There were many, but one of the first and most visible was former volleyball player Leslie Cikra. Her website,, collected stories from athletes about the impact of the original decision. Other people started petitions, organized protests, and made the rounds in the media. And many more just never stopped using the name! As Cikra said on her site:

A LOT went on behind the scenes to make this happen. A lot of young women bravely stood up and put themselves in scary positions to stand up for what they believe in. Those voices, the petitions you signed, the letters you wrote, the posts you shared and liked, the rallies you participated in they all played a part in making this happen. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! We could not have done this without each and every one of your support. We will always be Lady Volunteers.

Now what this will mean in practice is a little more muddled at this point. If you watch the video or read the transcript, it seems that this is not a full return to the pre-2014 status quo. My reading is that they are going to allow teams to use the name “Lady Vols” if they want, put the logo up at facilities, and in general just tolerate what players and fans want to do with it.

But it appears there is still a bit of a divide. Currie noted, “The ‘Power T’ is now the primary mark not just of Tennessee athletics, but of our entire campus. It is undeniably our most universally recognized brand image locally, regionally and worldwide. I do believe it’s important to give our female student-athletes the freedom to compete wearing the official brand and logo of their university while also taking deliberate action to ensure the preservation and celebration of the Lady Vol brand and logo, which has for decades—and still does—possess great meaning and evoke incredible pride among supporters of this university.”

Based on this sort of equivocating announcement that seems to be trying to have it both ways, I think the university should have just taken a more decisive step, maybe like the one I mentioned back in 2014: keep the Lady Vols name but switch to the Power T. Honestly, I think it is the name that is important to most fans and players. And it’s the branding and logo that seems to matter most to the school. Then everyone would know what to expect going forward.

How this will actually play out is hard to say. I think the school will move slowly and then follow the course set by the players, teams, coaches, and fans.

Whatever the outcome, it appears the Lady Vols are (mostly) back and that’s a great thing. The biggest downside is they waited until I finally got around to redesigning this site — getting rid of the blue and embracing smokey gray — to do it!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

2017 Match Notes: Rocky Top Invitational

The Vols are finally back in action after Hurricane Irma cancelled their matches in Florida and Georgia last week.

  • Tennessee is 5-0 all-time vs Marshall. Their first meeting was in 1973, a 2-0 win for the Vols. Their last meeting was in 2009, a 3-0 win for UT. Tennessee is 11-2 vs Conference USA since 2001.

    Tennessee is meeting USC Upstate for the first time in program history. Tennessee is 10-1 vs the Atlantic Sun Conference since 2001.

    Tennessee is 2-0 all-time vs Furman. Their previous meetings were in 1989 and 1993, both 3-0 wins for the Vols. Tennessee is 14-1 vs the Southern Conference since 2001.

    UT is 18-1 in individual sets vs the field all-time. The only time Tennessee lost a set to one of these teams was in 1978.

    As of the end of last season, the 2009 Tennessee vs Marshall match stands at #6 in the NCAA record book for most points scored in a three-set match during the 25-point rally-scoring era. That match also features UT’s school record for most points scored in a set and most points scored over regulation. The final score was 37-35, 25-16, 25-12.

    All the head coaches in this weekend’s tournament are the longest serving in the history of their programs.

    Jennifer Calloway
    USC Upstate
    22 years
    Rob Patrick
    21 years
    Michelle Young
    18 years
    Mitch Jacobs
    16 years

    UT and two of the tournament teams visiting Knoxville have played common opponents. Like the Vols, Marshall was swept by West Virginia. Upstate lost 3-0 to Wofford while UT beat them by that score.

    Tennessee had matches vs Florida State, FAMU, and Kennesaw State cancelled last week due to Hurricane Irma. This was the fourth time in the past 20 years outside forces affected competition for the Vols. In 1998, a game in Houston vs Stephen F. Austin was cancelled due to Tropical Storm Frances. Later that season a match at LSU was moved from September to November due to Hurricane George. And in 2001, games vs Radford, UAB, Charlotte, and SMU were cancelled due to the September 11th terrorist attacks.

  • This week’s AVCA Coaches Poll

    2017: 3-9 // 2016: 22-8, 11-3 C-USA
    Friday, September 15, 7:00pm ET
    Knoxville TN // SEC NETWORK+ // LIVE STATS
    2017: 3-7 // 2016: 14-19, 5-9 ASUN
    Saturday, September 16, 10:00am ET
    Knoxville TN // SEC NETWORK+ // LIVE STATS
    2017: 5-5 // 2016: 11-19, 6-10 SoCon
    Saturday, September 16, 7:00pm ET
    Knoxville TN // SEC NETWORK+ // LIVE STATS

    Friday, September 8, 2017

    Florida State, FAMU, Kennesaw State matches cancelled

    Tennessee has announced that all three matches this weekend have been cancelled due to Hurricane Irma, and they will not be rescheduled.

    Thursday, September 7, 2017

    2017 Match Notes: Florida State, FAMU, Kennesaw State

    Hurricane Irma may be on the way but it looks like the Vols will be able to safely make their matches this weekend vs #20 Florida State, Florida A&M , and Kennesaw State before it gets too close.

  • Tennessee is 7-10 all-time vs Florida State. Their first meeting was in 1975, a 2-0 loss to the Seminoles. Their last meeting was in 2012, a 3-0 loss to FSU. Tennessee is 16-7 vs the Atlantic Coast Conference since 2001.

    Tennessee is meeting Florida A&M for the first time in program history. Tennessee is 3-0 vs the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference since 2001.

    Tennessee is 1-0 all-time vs Kennesaw State. Their only meeting was in 2014, a 3-1 win for the Vols. Tennessee is 10-1 vs the Atlantic Sun Conference since 2001.

    The last time the Vols played back to back matches vs ranked opponents was last season when they ended the year vs #23 Kentucky and #22 Missouri. The team went 1-1 in those games.

    While the Vols and Seminoles have faced off 17 times over the years, all but two of those matches took place in the 1970s and 1980s. The other games took place over two decades later, in 2010 and 2012.

    This is the first of those recent UT/FSU matches where both teams aren’t ranked.

    Both Florida matches this weekend take place in Tallahassee, but not in the same arena. The Vols will face both Florida State and FAMU on their home courts.

    UT has played 37 matches in the state of Florida vs teams not the University of Florida since 1978. They are 23-14 in those games.

    Tallahassee 29 19-10
    Gainesville 3 2-1
    Orlando 2 1-1
    Pensacola 2 0-2
    Jacksonville 1 1-0

    Somewhat surprisingly, the Vols have only played 6 matches in the state of Georgia vs teams not the University of Georgia since 1978. Tennessee is 4-2 in those matches.

    Athens 4 2-2
    Atlanta 2 2-0

    Florida State head coach Chris Poole has a major legacy at one SEC school. He helped found the Arkansas volleyball program in 1994. In his 14 seasons at the helm of the new team, the Razorbacks won the SEC West 11 times, went to the NCAA Tournament 9 times, and were the only team other than Florida and Tennessee to win an SEC Tournament.

    Florida A&M might possibly be the most international team in NCAA Division I volleyball. Of the twelve players on their roster, only one lists her hometown as being in the United States. The countries represented on the squad: three from Peru, two from Bulgaria, two from the Dominican Republic, two from Turkey, and one each from Argentina and Columbia. The coaching staff, too, hails from abroad with Tony Trifonov from Bulgaria while his assistants are originally from Turkey and Peru.

    Kennesaw State head coach Keith Schunzel has some indirect UT connections. He faced the 2005 Vol team that advanced to the Final Four in his very first volleyball job, an assistant coach at Purdue. He joined the Indiana volleyball staff and their head coach — former Tennessee assistant coach Sherry Dunbar. While there the Hoosiers made their first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance by knocking off the Vols in 2010. And he was an assistant at Kentucky when UT defeated the Wildcats to clinch the outright SEC Championship in 2011.

  • PrepVolleyball is announcing their annual Senior Aces piecemeal over the next week. The list recognizes the top 250 volleyball recruits in the class of 2018. I’ll write up a full report after the entire list has been released. So far three future Vols have made an appearance.

    Tennessee is not ranked (yet!) but you can keep track of the AVCA Coaches Poll online.

    The local Tallahassee newspaper has an article about the Florida State volleyball team, their season so far, and their key players.

    You can keep up with the players’ latest stats on two different sections of this website. The Roster page has total season stats as well as each players career highs. The Stats page has game by game data for each player that can be sorted in many different ways. There are also sections for program records and other interesting facts as well. One just-for-fun area even lets you see how each player might end the season in specific stats at their current pace.

    2017: 5-1 // 2016: 26-6, 17-3 ACC
    Friday, September 8, 6:00pm ET
    Tallahassee FL
    2017: 1-6 // 2016: 17-12, 10-0 MEAC
    Saturday, September 9, 1:00pm ET
    Tallahassee FL
    2017: 5-1 // 2016: 18-11, 12-2 ASUN
    Sunday, September 10, 3:00pm ET
    Kennesaw GA // Live Video // Live Stats

    Saturday, September 2, 2017

    Tennessee drops two in Minneapolis

    The Vols dropped two matches today, falling to 4-2 this season. West Virginia swept Tennessee (25-20, 25-16, 25-22). Kendra Turner led the team in kills with 8, with Erica Trieber just behind with 7. Treiber and Turner also led in blocks with 4 and 3 respectively. Sedona Hansen had 14 assists and Callie Williams 13. Williams earned a double-double with 10 digs. Kanisha Jimenez added 8.

    UT hung tough with the #2 team in the country, Minnesota, but fell in 3 (25-22, 25-15, 25-20). Breana Jeter and Turner had 10 kills each. Treiber had 8 kills and hit .533. Alyssa Andreno had 4 blocks and Stephanie Spencer had 3. Hansen put up 20 assists; Williams had 13. Brooke Schumacher dug up 14 balls.

    Friday, September 1, 2017

    UT stops the Roadrunners in four

    Tennessee picked up a 3-1 victory over UTSA in the first match of their tournament in Minnesota (25-18, 25-23, 20-25, 25-21). Kendra Turner had 17 kills, 7 digs, and 4 blocks. Breana Jeter had 14 kills. Erica Triber put down 7 blocks, while Kanisha Jimenez, Alyssa Andreno, and Stephanie Spencer added 4 more each. Brooke Schumacher had a monster night with 36 digs — the 5th most by a Vol in program history, and 15 more than her previous career high. Sedona Hansen and Callie Williams had 26 and 19 assists respectively. Hansen completed a double-double with 10 digs.

    Thursday, August 31, 2017

    2017 Match Notes: Minnesota Diet Coke Classic

    Tennessee hits the road for the first time this season, heading to Minneapolis where they’ll face UTSA, West Virginia, and the homestanding #2 team in the nation, Minnesota.

  • Tennessee is 1-0 all-time vs UTSA. Their only previous meeting was in 1998, a sweep by the Vols. Tennessee is 10-2 vs Conference USA since 2001.

    Tennessee is (surprisingly, I think!) meeting West Virginia for the first time. Tennessee is 5-3 vs the Big 12 since 2001.

    Tennessee is 1-4 all-time vs Minnesota. Their first meeting was in 1993, a 3-1 win for the Gophers. Their last meeting was in 2009, a UMN sweep. Tennessee is 5-14 vs the Big Ten since 2001.

    The Vols started the season 3-0 for the 11th time in head coach Rob Patrick’s tenure. This weekend they could make it 4-0 for the 8th time, 5-0 for the 6th time, and 6-0 for the 4th time since 1997.

    Minnesota is ranked #2 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll. The last time UT played a #2 ranked team was in 2005 when they defeated Penn State in State College PA during the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen. That was the highest ranked opponent UT has ever defeated.

    This will be the 32nd time in program history that the Vols have faced a top five team. They’ve won twice: the above mentioned Penn State game, and vs # 4 Florida in 2005.

    Florida 22 2016: L 3-2
    Hawaii 3 1999: L 3-0
    Pacific 2 1984: L 3-0
    Nebraska 2 2007: L 3-0
    USC 1 1982: L 3-0
    Penn State 1 2005: W 3-1
    Minnesota 1 2017: ?

    Tennessee is a respectable 28-54 vs ranked opponents in the rally-scoring era when they themselves are unranked. It’s a feat they’ve accomplished in each of the last two seasons.

    All three UTSA coaches have faced Tennessee in the past in three different roles. Head coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff was an All-American at the University of Texas. During her collegiate career, her teams faced the Vols 7 times between 1982 and 1985. Tennessee’s only win in the entire series with the Longhorns came her freshman season. Assistant coach Pete Hoyer faced the Vols twice before from the sidelines: in 1997 as head coach at Dayton and in 2015 as in assistant at North Carolina State. UT lost both matches. And assistant coach Dominique Gonzalez was an assistant at Kent State last season in the first meeting between the teams, a win for the Vols. For those not keeping track, that makes the UTSA coaching staff 8-2 vs Tennessee.

    Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon led the USA to medals in two Olympic Games: a gold for the men’s team in 2008 in Beijing and a silver for the women’s team in 2012 in London.

    The Gophers have a 36 match winning streak dating back to 2014 at their home court, the Sports Pavilion (which will be renamed the Maturi Pavilion in a ceremony before the Tennessee game).

    West Virginia is playing in three tournaments before starting conference play and in each they’ll face a squad from the the Volunteer State: UT Martin, Tennessee, and Tennessee Tech.

    UT’s last match in the state of Minnesota was in 2004, a 3-2 loss vs Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet Sixteen.

  • After earning career victory 400, head coach Rob Patrick, and several other coaches from around the SEC, discuss the milestone.

    Hurricane Harvey has caused trouble all over the Houston area in all aspects of life, and thet includes volleyball.

    Former UT assistant coach Alan Edwards is in the thick of it as the head coach of Lamar University. His team was stuck in Clemson after a tournament due to the hurricane. A Facebook post he made thanking his hosts and the volleyball community is making the rounds on the web.

    2017: 0-3 // 2016: 20-8, 10-4 C-USA
    Friday, September 1, 5:30pm ET
    Minneapolis MN // Live Video // Live Stats
    2017: 2-1 // 2016: 12-18, 3-13 Big 12
    Saturday, September 2, 1:00pm ET
    Minneapolis MN // Live Video // Live Stats
    2017: 2-0 // 2016: 29-5, 17-3 Big Ten
    Saturday, September 2, 8:00pm ET
    Minneapolis MN // Live Video [$] // Live Stats

    Saturday, August 26, 2017

    UT wins tourney, Patrick gets win 400

    201703-patrick-1-thumbThe Vols won their home tournament with a sweep of George Washington (25-20, 25-9, 25-22). That takes them to 3-0 on the season. And it gives coach Rob Patrick career win 400. More soon.

    UPDATE: Kendra Turner led the Vols in kills with 10. She hit .409 on the night. Alyssa Andreno had 8 kills and again hit an impressive .500. Erica Treiber had 6 kills, 5 blocks, and 3 aces. Stephanie Spencer had 5 kills. Sedona Hansen and Callie Williams splitting time at setter put up 17 and 12 assists respectively. Brooke Schumacher had 13 digs.

    UT held GWU to 9 points in the second set, the 3rd lowest opponent set score of the rally-scoring era.

    Andreno was named Tournament MVP, while Treiber and Schumacher were named to the All-Tournament Team. Andreno hit .477 for the weekend, had 2.40 kills per set, and 1.60 blocks per set. Treiber hit .500, had 2.80 kills per set, and served up 7 aces. Schumacher had 4.90 digs per set and only a single reception error.

    Patrick got his latest milestone. From win #300, it took 183 games to get to #400. All four of his 100 win milestone victories came in front of the home crowd. Patrick is the third SEC coach to reach 400 with their current school. Already the all-time winningest Tennessee volleyball coach, Patrick now has put 171 victories between himself and the next person on the list, Bob Bertucci, who had 229 wins from 1979 to 1986.

    Vols sweep Wofford

    Tennessee goes to 2-0 for the season after sweeping Wofford this afternoon (25-16, 25-17, 25-23). Head coach Rob Patrick’s first chance for career win 400 will come tonight vs George Washington. More soon.

    UPDATE: Eric Treiber led the team with 8 kills on 10 attacks with no errors for an incredible .800 hitting percentage. That’s the 10th best for a UT player with at least 5 attempts in the rally-scoring era, and the 3rd best in that time for someone with double digit attempts. Treiber also led UT with 6 blocks. Alyssa Andreno had 6 kills, hit an impressive .500, and put back 4 blocks. Stephanie Buss had 4 blocks and Kendra Turner 3. The team had 9 service aces during the match, the 7th most by the Vols in a three-set match since 2001. Sedona Hansen had 3, and Kanisha Jimenez and Brook Schumacher had 2 each. Callie Williams put up 12 assists while Hansen had 10. Schumacher had 16 digs.


    Friday, August 25, 2017

    Tennessee opens season with a win

    201701-williams-1-thumbThe Vols started the year out right, defeating Western Michigan 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-20). More later.

    UPDATE: Erica Treiber led the Vols with 14 kills on 25 attacks to hit .440, while Alyssa Andreno was just behind with 10 kills on 18 attacks for a .444 hitting percentage. Kendra Turner had 8 kills, Stephanie Buss had 7, and Stephanie Spencer had 6. With 11 total blocks (3 of them solo), Andreno is just the fourth UT player to hit double digits in the 2010s. Both setters earned double doubles with Sedona Hansen getting 25 assists and 10 digs while Callie Williams had 15 assists and 13 digs. Brooke Schumacher dug up 20 balls. And Treiber and Kanisha Jiminez served 3 aces each.


    Thursday, August 24, 2017

    2017 Match Notes: Tennessee Classic

    While technically next year is the 60th anniversary of Tennessee volleyball, this year’s team is the 60th squad of Vols to hit the court. And they’ll start the season tomorrow night when they take on Western Michigan in the first game of the Tennessee Classic. On Saturday they’ll face off against Wofford and George Washington.

  • Tennessee is 4-2 all-time vs Western Michigan. Their first meeting was in 1981, a 2-1 win by the Broncos. The last meeting was in 2016, a 3-1 victory for the Vols. Tennessee is 9-4 vs the Mid-American Conference since 2001.

    Tennessee is 1-0 all-time vs Wofford. Their only meeting was in 2015, a 3-1 win for the Vols. Tennessee is 13-1 vs the Southern Conference since 2001.

    Tennessee is 6-2 all-time vs George Washington. Their first meeting was in 1983, a 3-0 win for the Vols. Their last meeting was in 2016, also a 3-0 win for UT. Tennessee is 8-1 vs the Atlantic 10 Conference since 2001.

    Since 1978, when complete season records are available, the Vols are 31-8 in their first match of the season. In the opening week of the season, the team is 86-33. Under Patrick, the team is 16-4 in season opening matches and 52-9 in the opening week of the season.

    When the Vols open a season at home they are hard to beat — they’re 13-2 since 1978.

    Tennessee has fared well in August matches, going 43-7 all-time and 19-1 at home.

    The Vols haven’t lost to a Southern Conference team since 2002.

    Patrick is just three wins away from career victory 400.

    100 WINS
    100 9/14/2002 164
    200 9/17/2006 133
    300 9/16/2011 155
    400 ? ? 183+

    WMU coach Colleen Munson faced the Vols in 2002 when she was the head coach of East Carolina. Tennessee coach Rob Patrick earned his 100th career victory that night and could reach #400 this weekend.

    They’ll be two East Stroudsburg University alumni on the sidelines this weekend: Tennessee’s assistant coach A.J. Bonetti earned his bachelor’s at the Pennsylvania college while George Washington assistant Nicole Buchholz got her master’s there.

    Bonetti received his master’s degree at George Washington and was also a graduate and volunteer assistant for the volleyball team.

  • Coach Patrick spoke with WNML this morning. He talked about: the expectations on the returners, the rise of local players in the program, the outlook for the SEC, the new athletic director, the weekend competition, and fan experience changes including courtside seats. You can listen to the interview on WNML’s show page.

    Patrick and Tennessee junior Brooke Schumacher answered questions at a press conference this past week. You can watch it online or the Knoxville News Sentinel has a story with details from the event.

    Tennessee played an exhibition match at Libscomb last week.

    No, there are no Tennessee players on the list, but check out ESPN’s list of 12 players to watch this season.

    Former Vol, SEC Player of the Year, and Olympic Bronze Medalist Kelsey Robinson has written an update on the women’s national team for Volleyball Magazine.

    The latest edition of the offical Tennessee record book is online.

    Be sure to check out the promotions going on for this week’s matches.

    2016: 12-19, 6-10 MAC
    Friday, August 25, 7:00pm ET
    Knoxville TN // SEC Network+ // Live Stats
    2016: 17-15, 9-7 SoCon
    Saturday, August 26, 12:00pm ET
    Knoxville TN // Live Stats
    2016: 11-18, 4-10 A10
    Saturday, August 26, 7:00pm ET
    Knoxville TN // SEC Network+ // Live Stats

    Tuesday, August 22, 2017

    From Zero to Sixty: The hidden history of UT volleyball

    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 bear in mind this is just a very brief summary to give you a feel of the issue but it lacks 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.

    Nancy Lay

    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 intramurals and student-run club sports and recreational leagues. While seen through 2017 eyes this may seem a bit insulting, it was actually considered an upgrade from those in charge of the teams. It took some of the administrative burden off the already stretched thin coaches and 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 one of the first known accounts 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. (Note: please keep in mind throughout this article, the games listed are only the ones we have a record of, though the team almost certainly played more in each year that we don’t know of.)

    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 thing like 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