Gray needed just two shots within three minutes of each other to give the Hokies the victory. In the 18th minute, Gray received a pass from sophomore forward Robin Chidester on the right-hand side of the box, settled it and put in past UT's Jaimel Johnson for the score.
Two and a half minutes later, the Hokies got through the Lady Vol defense again, with Gray getting a pass from freshman midfielder Kelly Lynch, taking a nearly identical shot. Virginia Tech got the same result to take a 2-0 lead at the 19:30 mark.
The Lady Vols, who sported maroon and orange shoe laces to honor the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting last April, played an aggressive second half, getting a score from junior midfielder Alissa VonderHaar.
The goal came after Johnson placed a free kick from midfield into the box. The kick was then touched by junior forward Kylee Rossi and senior defender Jordan Falcusan before being put into the back of the net by VonderHaar. The goal was the junior transfer's first of her UT career.
The Hokies controlled the ball for most of the first half, putting four of their seven shots on frame. Along with the two goals, Hokies sophomore forward Julian Johnson forced Jaimel Johnson to come out of the goal and make a huge save in a one-on-one situation in the 28th minute, while freshman midfielder Jennifer Harvey put a header just over the top of the goal in the eighth minute. The UT keeper made two saves in the first half, seeing three corners from the Hokies.
The second half saw the Lady Vols post seven shots, four of which were on frame. Virginia Tech junior goalkeeper Ashley Owens made seven saves in the match, including three in the second half. In a physical match, the two teams combined for 22 fouls, with Virginia Tech committing 14 infractions.
UT continues play in the Hawthorn Suites Hokie Invitational on Sunday against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons dropped a 2-1 decision to Loyola in Friday's early match.
First kick for the Lady Vols and Wake Forest is scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday.
VOLLEYBALL WRAP: The Tennessee volleyball team (4-2) dropped its first match in two weeks, falling in three sets to Creighton (4-3), 30-25, 30-24, 30-22, at the State Farm Illini Classic in Champaign, Ill.
Sophomore Leah Hinkey followed up her MVP performance at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic last weekend with another strong effort, recording career-highs with 16 kills and 31 attacks in the defeat.
"My hat is off to Creighton," Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. "They played a very consistent match and put a lot of pressure on us with their strong serving and ball control. I was happy with our effort and, for the most part, with our defense, but our outside hitters could not get on track offensively and that hurt us in the later stages of all three games."
Hinkey shouldered the majority of the offensive load for Tennessee, as she was the lone Lady Vol with more than five kills and hit at a .323 clip (16-6-31).
On the defensive side, fellow classmate Chloe Goldman dug up a team-best 19 Creighton attacks, while Hinkey and junior Milan Clarke tied for the squad-high in blocks with five each.
Sophomore Jaye Loyd and freshman Nikki Fowler also had solid performances, tallying 12 and 11 digs, respectively.
The initial frame saw the two teams engage in a see-saw battle, with the Bluejays emerging victorious, 30-25. The Big Orange staked claim to the early lead, 3-1, behind a pair of blocks and a kill by sophomore Farren Powe. Creighton immediately fought back, however, tying the set at three with two blocks of its own.
The score remained deadlocked until Creighton rattled off points on 11 of the next 15 plays, capped off by a four-point streak, to move ahead 21-14. Tennessee was not done yet, though, as it was able to shrink the lead to just one at 25-26, with a strong push highlighted by three kills, a block and an ace by Hinkey. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, the final four points all went Creighton's way to put UT in an early one-game hole.
The Bluejays jumped ahead early in the second set and never looked back en route to a 30-24 triumph. After sophomore Kylie Marshall knocked a kill off the Creighton block to make it 1-1, Creighton took advantage of three UT miscues and added a kill and an ace to go up 6-1. Tennessee quickly worked its way back into the game and tied the set at nine by scoring on eight of the following 11 plays, including a five-point spree to close out the rally.
Bluejay head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth called a timeout to calm her troops and it proved to be just the right move, as her squad came out of the break on fire. Creighton attempted to put the game away, blasting its way to a 19-13 advantage. Once again, Tennessee showed its toughness and cut the lead to two at 20-22, but the Bluejays offense proved to be too much and strung together a seven-point outburst, featuring five kills, to take a commanding 28-20 lead.
UT tried to mount one final rally with a trio of scores, but could not overcome the entire deficit and went into the locker room down by two games.
In the third and final frame, the Lady Vols were unable to put together a consistent offensive effort, falling 22-30 in the set and dropping its second match of the season. The set remained tight until Creighton took a three-point advantage and extended it to nine in just 16 plays. With the score at 26-17, Tennessee tried to stage one last comeback attempt with a four-point streak, but its inconsistency continued as Creighton used three UT errors and a kill by Allie Oelke to end the contest.
The Big Orange will return to the court Saturday to face either Marquette at noon or Illinois at 3 p.m. CT, depending on the outcome of tonight's contest between the Golden Eagles and Fighting Illini. The match will mark the end of the Orange and White's non-conference tournament schedule for the season.