The University of Tennessee volleyball team will be the first to get a chance to dethrone defending national champion and top-ranked Nebraska when the two teams clash at the American Volleyball Coaches Association Showcase at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., at 9:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 24th.
The match is the Lady Vols’ first against a No.1-rated squad since 1996 and just the fifth in school history. The contest will be carried live on CSTV nationwide and a video feed will be available at www.CSTV.com.
UT, picked to finish third in the tough Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, returns three starters and 12 letterwinners from a 2006 squad which reached the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season.
A junior, Mindy Flynn will be looked at to lead the way for the Orange and White as two-time AVCA Honorable Mention All-American Yuliya Stoyanova makes her way back from a knee injury.
One of the Lady Vols’ top performers last season, Flynn posted 135 blocks and 248 kills, good for second and fourth on the team, respectively. Her breakout performance came at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic Aug. 25-26, where she claimed tournament MVP honors after recording 25 kills with just one attack error in 53 attempts over the course of the three-match competition.
One of the most reliable freshmen for the Big Orange last season, Leah Hinkey will also be counted on heavily for significant contributions. The Glenwood Springs, Colo., product started in 29 of the team’s 31 matches, recorded the fifth most kills on the squad (221), as well as the third highest block total (133). Her 1.19 blocks per game average ranked her seventh in the Southeastern Conference. For her efforts, Hinkey was named to the league’s all-freshman team.
Also returning will be senior Joselyn Johnson, juniors Milan Clarke and Laurén LaFlamme, sophomores Jena Berg, Carol Cheade, Chloe Goldman, Jaye Loyd, Kylie Marshall and Farren Powe. Donning the Orange and White for the first time will be highly-regarded freshmen Krista Brenner and Nikki Fowler.
Creating a New Legacy:
In each of the past three seasons, University of Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick has guided his squad to the NCAA Tournament, reaching the regional semifinals in 2004 and the Final Four in 2005. Many of the leaders from those teams, however, have graduated and a youthful squad is set to take the court for the Orange and White in 2007, as nine of the team’s 14 members are either freshmen or sophomores.
Past precedent of success has been set. There is a tradition to uphold. For these players, the 2007 campaign serves as a perfect opportunity for them to leave their own mark on the program…to “Create a New Legacy.”
UT Against No. 1-Ranked Teams:
When the Lady Vols take on No. 1-ranked Nebraska Friday night, it will mark the fifth time in school history that they have taken on the nation’s top team. The first such contest occurred on Nov. 6, 1982, when UT dropped a 1-2 decision to Hawaii at the UCLA National Invitational Volleyball Tournament.
The following year, Tennessee met up with No. 1 Hawaii once again, falling 0-3 in the NCAA Mideast Regional on Dec. 10, 1983.
For the third consecutive season, the Orange and White took on the No. 1-team in the country, losing 0-3 to Pacific on Sept. 21, 1984, at the Rhode Island Classic.
The most recent matchup with a top-ranked squad came on Nov. 17, 1996, when UT fell 1-3 at Florida.
Earlier and Earlier Every Year:
With a start date of Aug. 24, the Lady Vol volleyball program now holds the distinction of starting its season earlier than any other women’s athletics team in history at Tennessee. The previous record was tied last year when the Lady Vols opened on Aug. 25 at home versus Virginia in the Comcast Lady Vol Classic. The UT soccer team has also begun its season on Aug. 25 on two different occasions.
UT History in Season Openers:
The University of Tennessee volleyball team is 26-7 all-time in season openers, including victories in its last five. It has opened against ranked teams twice during its history, emerging victorious against No. 9 Arizona State, 3-1, on Sept. 17, 1983, and falling to 12th-ranked Colorado, 0-3, at the Colorado Powerbar Invitational, on Sept. 2, 1993. The Lady Vols have never started a season with back-to-back matches versus ranked teams, as they are guaranteed to do at the AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb.
Lady Vols on TV:
The University of Tennessee volleyball team is scheduled to make no fewer than three television appearances this season, including playing before a national audience against No. 1 Nebraska in the season opener.
The contest against the Huskers on Aug. 24 will be televised live on CSTV. If UT wins that match and advances to the AVCA Showcase final, its showdown with either No. 5 UCLA or No. 21 Utah would also be shown live on CSTV.
The Orange and White will also find itself on the tube on Sept. 14, when it hosts Alabama at 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast on the SEC/FOX Regional Sports Networks. The final scheduled television appearance for the Lady Vols will come in Baton Rouge, La., when they take on LSU on the Pelican Sports Network.
Live Video Streaming Available:
Lady Vol fans will be able to watch their favorite team online this season, as video of select UT home matches will be streamed live on www.UTLadyVols.com. Fans can also follow the action for all matches, as live statistics will be available for each contest.
Top of the Class:
The 2007 Lady Vol senior class, consisting of Yuliya Stoyanova and Joselyn Johnson, currently ranks as the most successful in school history with a 76-24 (.760) overall record in the last three seasons.
The 2005 unit is second, as Kristen Andre, Julie Knytych, Amy Morris, Heather Harrington and Jasmine Fullove, finished their careers with a 99-32 (.756) record.
Third on the list is the 2006 group of Sarah Blum, Kelsey Fautsch and Annie Sadowski, which amassed a .748 winning percentage, with a record of 98-33, during its time at Rocky Top.
200 Wins ... And Counting:
Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick became just the second coach in UT volleyball history to record 200 career wins with a 3-1 victory over Arkansas on Sept. 17, last season. Patrick is the second-winningest coach in Tennessee history, with a 210-109 record (.658). Bob Bertucci recorded a 229-115 (.666) mark from 1979-86.
The Cleveland, Ohio, native has led a resurgence of volleyball on the UT campus since his arrival in 1997. Six of the eight years prior to that season, UT had recorded losing campaigns, while Patrick has earned a winning record in each of the last nine years, en route to setting the school mark for consecutive seasons above .500. He bested the previous mark of seven (1978-84) with his 17th win of the 2006 campaign.
Two-Time National Coach of the Year:
Following a memorable 2005 season that saw him lead his team to the NCAA Final Four, Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick claimed his second consecutive National Coach of the Year Award, earning the distinction from VBall Magazine. The previous season, CVU.com presented him with the honor following a 32-3 campaign in which his squad claimed the SEC title.
Movin’ On Up:
Since Patrick’s arrival at Rocky Top, the Big Orange has steadily moved up the SEC pecking order. Prior to his tenure, UT ranked in a tie for the eighth-best winning percentage among SEC teams from the first year of SEC volleyball in 1983 to 1996. The Lady Vols won just over 51 percent of their matches during that span and had over 20 wins only four times.
Once Patrick took the helm, however, that trend began to reverse course. From 1997 to date, Tennessee has recorded the third-highest winning percentage behind only Florida and Arkansas, claiming victories 66.2 percent of the time. UT has also recorded 20+ wins five times.
Dig It Up:
If 2006 is any indication, Tennessee will need to continue to place emphasis on its defensive performance in order to be successful. Last year, when the Lady Vols out-dug their opponent, they were an outstanding 15-6. In those matches, they averaged 65.14 digs, while their opponent was only able to manage 57.33. When they were out dug, however, their record fell to 4-6 as they were only able to post an average of 63.3 digs to their opponent’s 69.8.
Return to Sender:
The four teams in this year’s AVCA Showcase all have one trait in common. They all finished among the top-25 in blocks per game in 2006.
Utah topped the list with an astounding 3.71 blocks per game, while UCLA was close behind in fifth with 3.52. Tennessee finished 15th in the nation with an average of 3.28 and Nebraska ranked 22nd overall at 3.13 blocks per game.
The Bruins, Utes and Lady Vols also accounted for three of the four players to surpass 200 total blocks in 2006. For UCLA, Nana Meriwether tallied a NCAA-best 242, while Blum finished third with 209. Utah’s Emillie Toone ranked fourth with 207. The only other squad to have a player accomplish the feat was Sacramento State, as Michele Franz posted 221.
Replacing a Legend:
Entering this season, Tennessee will face the unenviable task of replacing the program’s all-time blocks leader Sarah Blum.
In order to match the enormous numbers put up by the two-time All-SEC performer, the Lady Vols will not ask one person to take up the challenge, but instead look for increased contributions from a number of people.
At the top of that list are junior Mindy Flynn and sophomore Leah Hinkey. The MVP of the 2006 Comcast Lady Vol Classic, Flynn posted 135 blocks and 248 kills, good for second and fourth on the team, respectively.
Hinkey, meanwhile, put together a stellar rookie campaign, recording the fifth most kills on the squad (221), as well as the third highest block total (133). Her 1.19 blocks per game average ranked her seventh in the SEC and earned her a spot on the league’s all-freshman team.
Pair of Freshman Join Lady Vols in ‘07:
The Lady Vols welcome two newcomers to the squad in 2007, as nationally-ranked prep stars Nikki Fowler and Krista Brenner will don the Orange and White for the first time.
A 6-2 outside hitter, Fowler ranked as the 14th-best recruit in the nation on the PrepVolleyball.com Top 100 Senior Aces List and was named one of the Top 50 junior recruits by Volleyball Magazine.
Brenner, a 6-4 middle blocker, was rated No. 52 among all high school seniors by PrepVolleyball.com.
Looking for Another:
With an appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season, the Big Orange would tie the school record with four straight berths, previously set from 1981-84 under Bob Bertucci’s watch as head coach.
Tennessee has reached the tournament nine times in its history, including a Final Four appearance in 2005. The Orange and White has also been selected to host the first and second rounds of play in each of the past three years after previously hosting three times in the previous 21 seasons.
No Place Like Home:
Over the past three seasons, Stokely Athletics Center has provided a strong home-court advantage for the Lady Vols. Since the beginning of 2004, the Big Orange is 38-6 (.864) at home, with a 15-1 mark in 2004, a perfect 13-0 slate last year and a 10-5 record in 2006.
Since Stokely Athletics Center underwent a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 1998 season, UT has amassed an 91-27 (.771) home record, including four wins in five NCAA Tournament matches that the Orange and White have contested on the court.
An AVCA Honorable Mention All-American in each of the past two seasons, senior outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova will, once again, play a prominent role for the Lady Vols this year.
The Sofia, Bulgaria, native, who missed the final five matches of the 2006 season after suffering a knee injury, finished third on the team in kills with 343. Her average of 4.08 kills per game paced the squad and was good enough for fourth in the league and earned her a spot on the All-SEC Second Team.
During her sophomore campaign, Stoyanova finished fourth in the conference with an average of 4.15 kills per game en route to First Team All-SEC and AVCA Honorable Mention All-America honors.
For her career, the Sofia, Bulgaria, native is averaging 3.75 kills per game, the third-highest mark ever recorded at Rocky Top. She sits behind only Ariana Wilson (4.08 from 1998-01) and Tamala Brightman (4.32 from 1990-93) for the school record. The 15th member of UT’s 1,000 Kills Club, Stoyanova currently has 1,166 putaways, ranking her 12th all-time.
One of the main keys to success for Tennessee this season will be the continued improvement of its highly-heralded sophomore class. The group of seven elite athletes was ranked as high as the sixth-best recruiting class in the country prior to the 2006 campaign and it lived up to its billing so far.
All seven players saw competitive action during their rookie campaigns and will look to push for even more playing time this year. Led by 2006 All-SEC Freshman Team member Leah Hinkey, the unit also includes this year’s starting setter Jena Berg, libero candidates Kylie Marshall, Chloe Goldman and Jaye Loyd, as well as Carol Cheade and Farren Powe.
Two New Faces on Lady Vol Staff:
In addition to the changes on the court, there have been two new additions to the Lady Vol bench for 2007, as Katie Noble is beginning her first year as an assistant coach and Annie Sadowski is making the transition from starting libero to graduate assistant.
Noble, a former standout player at Robert Morris from 2000-03, joins the Tennessee staff after spending two years as an assistant at Southern Illinois, following a one-year stint at Marist College in 2004. The Mentor, Ohio, native will work with all facets of the UT volleyball team, including training the team’s middle hitters, coordinating its travel and equipment needs and running the school’s summer volleyball camps.
A four-year Lady Vol letterwinner, Sadowski is embarking on her first season as a graduate assistant for the Lady Vols. The native of Wheaton, Ill., will assist with administrative office duties as well as the facilitation of practice and games. Sadowski graduated from Tennessee in the spring of 2007 with a degree in English and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in communications.
The Price is Right:
Last season, the parents of current Lady Vol graduate assistant Annie Sadowski traveled to Los Angeles simply to watch their daughter compete in the LMU/USC Hilton LAX Invitational. Little did they know that they would be the ones making history.
Vickyann Sadowski, Annie’s mother, attended a taping of “The Price is Right” and came away with the single largest collection of prizes in the show’s 35-year history.
When all was said and done, she had won a combined total of $147,517 worth of prizes, including a Beachcomber hot tub, collection of digital cameras from DXG, a video arcade game featuring Joust and Robotron, a home theater system from JBL, $1,000 cash, a six-night stay at the New York Marriott Marquis, and three cars: a 2007 Saturn Sky, a Dodge Caravan and a Dodge Viper SRT Tech Convertible. Not bad for a day’s work.
Lady Vols Strong on Neutral Courts:
In its last five matches contested at neutral sites, Tennessee has posted a solid 4-1 record, including a 3-1 victory over No. 8 Missouri in the 2005 NCAA Regional Championship. The Lady Vols lone loss during that stretch came at the hands of eventual national champion Washington at the 2005 NCAA Final Four in San Antonio, Texas.
Story Courtesy: UT Lady Vols Sports Information