No. 23 Lady Vol volleyball team sweeps Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (school release) -- The No. 23 Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team made quick work of Arkansas, defeating the Razorbacks in straight sets, 25-19, 25-16, 25-19, to improve its record to 13-2 and 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play on Sunday afternoon at Barnhill Arena.

“We have had some really long, five-set nail bitters here the last couple of years, so it is a relief to be able to come in here and play a really organized, athletic Arkansas team and come out with a win in three sets,” Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. “We did a great job against Arkansas and really controlled the whole match.”

The win over UA concluded Tennessee’s four-match SEC road trip, as the team was a perfect 4-0 and only lost four sets in the those matches. The team is currently on an eight-match winning streak and has won its last eight conference matches dating back to last year.

“Being on the road two weekends in a row is very, very tough,” Patrick said. “To come out 4-0 against some really good teams, I am really happy.”

The Big Orange defense was stellar on the day, limited Arkansas to a mere .059 hitting percentage, while hitting .297 itself.

Junior DeeDee Harrison set a season-high in kills with 15, and just missed tying her career-high by one. Harrison also added a team-high seven blocks. Junior Leslie Cikra and sophomore Kelsey Robinson tallied double digit kills, as the duo each posted 11 against the Razorbacks.

Freshman setter Mary Pollmiller dished out 37 of the team's 43 assists, in addition to hitting .500 and recording three kills. Sophomore Ellen Mullins was a force in the back row, for UT digging a team-high 14 balls.

“DeeDee Harrison really tried to get the middle established,” Patrick explained. “We had opportunities to get kills in that area and she did a wonderful job of getting up and being available in transition. Along with DeeDee’s blocking, Ellen Mullins did a great job of digging the ball into spots where we could run an offense and have two or three hitters in transition, which made it difficult for Arkansas to slow down our offense.”

The Lady Vols jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead over Arkansas in the opening frame, before the Razorbacks tied the match at three, and surpassed UT at 4-3. The set would be a back-and-forth battle, as the two squads were deadlocked at four apiece and at points six through 14. With the score knotted up at 14-14, Tennessee would score the next two points off kills from Harrison and Robinson to take a 16-14 lead.

The Razorbacks would pull within one, 16-15, but Tennessee stormed past UA, scoring seven of the next eight, including going on a 5-0 run to extend the lead to seven, 23-16. During that span, Harrison and Robinson each had a pair of kills, while Robinson also registered an ace and Harrison had a block. Another kill by Harrison was followed by a Cikra blast to give Tennessee the set, 25-19.
In the opening frame, Tennessee hit a blistering .375 and slammed 17 kills. The defense was also impressive, limiting the Razorback offense to a hitting percentage of .111. Harrison led the team in kills during the first set, as she recorded seven and hit at a .750 clip.

The second set began with Arkansas scoring the first point, followed by UT scoring the next five by way of two Harrison kills, a Robinson blast and two UA miscues to make the score 5-1. At 6-3, a block by Harrison and Cikra, along with an ace by Mullins extended to lead to five, 8-3.

UA would rally however, tying the game at ten after a 4-0 run of its own. At 10 apiece, Tennessee responded by rattling off three consecutive points by way of a kill from freshman Shealyn Kolosky, a Harrison kill and a block from Harrison and Robinson, to make the score 13-10.

At 15-13, the Lady Vols went on another 3-0 run and then a 5-0 run, scoring eight out of nine points to push the lead out to 22-15. A Razorback miscue started the five-point rally, as kills from Cikra, Robinson and sophomore Carly Sahagian ensued.

Back-to-back kills from Cikra and Robinson got the Lady Vols to within a point of winning the set, 24-15. Sahagian, who seems to have a knack for set ending points, put down a kill to give the Orange and White the set, 25-16, and a 2-0 match lead heading into the break.

Just like the opening set, the Tennessee defense remained stout in second frame, holding the Razorbacks to a -.278 hitting percentage. As a team, the Lady Vols had nine blocks in the set, including three from Harrison and two from Cikra. Offensively, Cikra and Sahagian combined for nine of UT’s 16 kills.

The third and what would be final set, was close early. The teams traded blows up until the score was 6-5 in Arkansas’ favor. Down a point, the Orange and White scored the next four and five of six to make the score 10-7 in their favor. Arkansas would not go out quietly, rebounding and going on a 4-0 rally to regain the lead, 11-10.

Not to be outdone, Tennessee used a pair of kills by Harrison and a Robinson ace to make the score 13-11. Tennessee would hold onto a two point lead at 14-12, 15-13, 16-14 and 17-15, when Kolosky served back-to-back aces to push Tennessee's lead to four.
Tennessee extended its lead to five, 20-15, after a miscue by Arkansas. The Razorback would cut the lead to three, 20-17, but kills by Pollmiller and Robinson again gave UT a five-point advantage at 22-17.

Cikra took over late, recording the last three Tennessee points on kills to give Tennessee the set, 25-19, and the 3-0 sweep versus Arkansas.

The team returns home to face Alabama on Friday at 7 p.m., followed by hosting Ole Miss on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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