KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (utladyvols.com) -- The Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team opened the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule on a high note and netted head coach Rob Patrick career win number 300, as UT (8-2) defeated Georgia (4-7) 25-19, 25-20, 25-21, on Friday night at Thompson-Boling Arena in front of 843 fans.
Now in his 15th season at the helm of the volleyball program, Patrick reached the 300 win plateau after three consecutive 20-plus win seasons. The two-time National Coach of the Year also has the team on pace again this season.
“First of all, it means I’m old and I’ve been doing this a long time,” Patrick explained. “It also means that I have had some incredible young ladies play here at the University of Tennessee. They are the ones who have sacrificed, put in the sweat, the time and energy and I can’t thank them enough. I’ve also had some incredible coaches that I have worked with.”
The win marked the fourth consecutive victory for the team, which is coming off a three match sweep last weekend at the Virginia Tech Tournament. Offensively, junior Leslie Cikra and sophomore Kelsey Robinson led the way, each tallying double-digits in kills.
Robinson accounted for 20 of the squad’s 51 kills and has recorded 20 kills in seven matches this season. The Bartlett, Ill., native also just missed registering her seventh double-double on the season, as she finished with nine digs against the Bulldogs.
Overall, the team hit at a blistering mark of .339, while holding Georgia to a hitting percentage of .163. UT also had 17 more assists (48-21) and 19 more kills (51-32) than the Bulldogs.
Cikra blasted 20 kills on the evening and had an astounding hitting percentage of .348. She was also a force on the defensive side of the ball, tallying four blocks.
Freshman Mary Pollmiller, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, had a team-high 41 assists against Georgia and ranked second on the team in digs with eight, only behind sophomore Ellen Mullins who had 11.
Junior DeeDee Harrison registered a team-best five blocks to go along with three kills. Freshman Shealyn Kolosky converted seven kills and hit .500 for the match.
“It was real important to get that first win,” Patrick said. “I talked to the players and we talked about how important it was that the SEC matches were going to be different than the pre-season matches. It was intense and when we made errors, Georgia took control of the game.”
The opening set saw five ties and two lead changes, as the Orange and White stormed out of the gates to go up 6-1 in part to a pair of kills each by Cikra and Robinson. The Bulldogs went on a 6-2 run to pull within one, 8-7. Georgia would soon take its first lead of the evening on a Briana Bahr kill to give the Bulldogs a 12-11 advantage.
Once the Lady Vols tied the match up at 15, they never trailed again.
Down 15-14, Mullins propelled the team to a 6-1 run to vault the team ahead, 20-16. Two kills by Kolosky, a kill by Pollmiller and a pair of Bulldog service errors gave the first set to Tennessee, 25-19.
Set number two was a back-and-forth battle. After trading point to three, UGA scored four of the next five to go ahead 7-4. Georgia extended its lead to as many as four, up 10-6, but after a timeout the Big Orange rattled off the next four to pull even at 10 apiece.
A pair of attack errors put UT up 12-10, and the team pulled ahead. Kills from Robinson and Harrison, along with a kill from freshman Tiffany Baker and errors on the Bulldogs extended the Lady Vol lead to 18-13. Georgia would get as close as four on seven occasions the rest of the set, but a kill from Cikra and an attack error by UGA’s Brittany Northcutt gave UT the set, 25-20, and a 2-0 advantage heading into the break.
With a three set sweep on the horizon, Tennessee again rallied from an early deficit. Trailing from the time the set was at 2-1 in favor of Georgia, the Lady Vols evened up the match at 10 a piece following a 5-1 run behind three kills from Robinson, a kill from Harrison and a Kolosky ace.
The match was tied at 10, 12, 15 and 17. At 17-17 all, UT went on a 5-1 run to push their advantage to 23-18. A Robinson kill got the team to within one point of winning the match and an attack by Georgia gave the Lady Vols an SEC opening win.
The team will face another SEC opponent on Sunday, when the team hosts Auburn at 1:30 p.m.