BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (utladyvols.com) -- The 11th-seeded and 19th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team out-hit, out-dug and scored more total points than Indiana on Saturday. It just wasn’t meant to be, however, as the Lady Volunteers fell in five hard-fought sets, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 25-27, 13-15, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at University Gym in Bloomington, Ind.
“First of all, this was a great volleyball match,” UT Head Coach Rob Patrick said. “I’m very, very proud of our team and how it competed. I just thought it was incredible to have so much youth on the court and for us to play so well in such a hostile environment, and I say that as a positive. My hat is off to Indiana. They had to make plays to beat us. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.
“I thought we passed really well, got the ball to the right people at the right time and, for the most part, did some really good things with the swings we took. All Indiana did was control one or two more digs than we did and that was the difference in the match. I felt we left a few digs and blocks out there, but again that is just the effect of putting some young players out there in that environment. Our players played their hearts out though.
“Overall, I’m very happy with everyone on our team. They competed and competed and competed no matter what the score was. For us to lose the fourth set like we did and come back out and battle so hard in the fifth was very exciting to see.
“It is disappointing to see our season come to an end, but we were able to accomplish some special things this year. I want to thank all of our players, especially our three seniors, for all of the hard work and dedication they have put into making this program what it is.”
The Big Orange finishes the 2010 campaign with a 25-7 overall record, marking the program’s most wins since it went 32-3 in 2004. The UT offense was the best in school history, posting a .291 attack average to break the previous record of .286 set in 1980. The loss brings the careers of Lady Vol seniors Nikki Fowler, Leah Hinkey and Emily Steinbeck to a close.
As a team, Tennessee out-hit the Hoosiers, .314 (68-20-153) to .210 (66-31-167), to suffer just its second loss of the season in the 26 matches in which it has out-hit its opponent. The Orange and White also tallied 61 digs to just 53 for IU and scored 109 total points to 105 for Indiana.
Sophomore Leslie Cikra had a breakout contest, blasting out a career-high 20 kills and hitting at a stellar .459 clip with just three errors in 37 swings. The Chagrin Falls, Ohio, native also recorded a pair of digs and a block. Fowler finished with 16 kills in her final collegiate match, hitting .316 and tallying her 52nd career double-double with 11 digs to go along with three blocks and two assists.
Fowler ends her career among the top ten in seven UT career categories. A native of Dallas, Texas, she ranks first all-time in total attacks (4,426), third in attacks per set (9.54), fourth in kills (1,649), sixth in kills per set (3.55), sixth in digs (1,281), seventh in digs per set (2.76) and eighth in blocks (344).
Fellow seniors Hinkey and Steinbeck also had strong statistical matches on Saturday. Hinkey recorded eight kills, a team-high four blocks and hit .353, while Steinbeck notched a career-best 40 assists and had four digs.
Hinkey’s name will also go down in the record books as she finished with a five-year total of 583 blocks, good for third in school history. Her 1.24 blocks per set average, meanwhile, places second behind only former teammate Sarah Blum’s mark of 1.55. In her two years at Rocky Top, Steinbeck dished out 1,069 helpers and tallied 28 aces and 288 digs.
Defensively in the match against the Hoosiers, the Lady Vols got standout efforts from a trio of freshmen. Kelsey Robinson led all players with 19 digs in the contest. Fellow rookies Ellen Mullins and Kylann Scheidt added nine and eight scoops, respectively, as well.