UT's Patrick is coach of year

The Collegiate Volleyball Update announced that University of Tennessee volleyball head coach Rob Patrick has been selected as the 2004 CVU.com National Coach of the Year.

The Cleveland, Ohio, native, who just completed his eighth season at the helm of the Lady Vols, led a squad of players with no NCAA Tournament experience to a 32-3 record (at .914, the highest winning percentage in school history) and advancement to the NCAA regional semifinals. The 32 wins are the most on Rocky Top since the 1981 squad went 34-22.

The Lady Vols' breakthrough season was highlighted by a 30-21, 23-30, 25-30, 31-29, 15-12 win at then-No. 7 Florida on Nov. 14 in the final regular-season match of the SEC campaign. The victory ended three historic SEC winning streaks for the Gators: an NCAA-record 145-match regular-season streak dating to 1994, a 121-match overall streak (including SEC Tournaments, also an NCAA record) dating to 1997 and a 109-match home winning streak dating to 1990. The win won an SEC regular-season co-championship for UT, its first regular-season conference crown in school history.

Tennessee then came out eight days later and defeated the Gators, now at No. 10, again on their home court, that time in the SEC Tournament title match, 18-30, 30-27, 30-27, 17-30, 15-5. The win clinched for UT the SEC's automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament and was the Lady Vols‚ first in a tournament championship match since 1984.

The wins over the Gators doubled the Big Orange's victory total over top-10 competition in school history. Tennessee previously topped No. 9 Arizona State, 2-15, 15-1, 15-10, 15-9, on Sept. 17, 1983, and No. 7 Arizona, 15-11, 1-15, 15-13, on Nov. 5, 1982. The Orange and White had lost 44 straight versus top-10 opposition and brought a 2-53 all-time mark against those opponents into the Nov. 14 match.

The Big Orange then won its first and second round matches in the NCAA Tournament over Eastern Kentucky, 30-24, 30-16, 30-22, and Texas A&M, 30-21, 24-30, 30-23, 32-30, to record its first two-win NCAA Tournament in the school's history and fourth advancement to the NCAA regional semifinals. The historic season finally came to an end at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, 29-31, 27-30, 30-16, 30-26, 15-12. The 14-match winning streak that UT brought into that match was the Orange and White's longest since a 22-match streak from Oct. 2-31, 1980.

The Lady Vols reached as high as ninth in the USA Today/CSTV Top 25 Coaches Poll. That ranking was reached on Dec. 6 following UT's victories in the NCAA Tournament's first and second rounds. The final poll had the Lady Vols in the 10th slot. Prior to this season, the highest ranking that the Lady Vols had reached was 13th, attained three times in the 1983 season.

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