Volleyball, cross country teams at home

The volleyball squad starts SEC play at home Friday while the cross country team hosts a meet in nearby Maryville. The soccer team, meanwhile, is also in action Friday in a California tourney.

The Tennessee volleyball team (5-2) will open the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule at home, with Alabama (3-6) and Mississippi State (5-4) making the trip to Stokely Athletics Center.

The Lady Vols will host the Crimson Tide at 7 p.m. on Friday, and the Bulldogs at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The UT-Alabama matchup will be televised live on FOX Sports Net South.

UT is coming off a 1-1 performance at the State Farm Illini Classic in Champaign, Ill., where it dropped a hard-fought decision to Creighton before taking out Marquette in four games.

For the second time this season, sophomore Leah Hinkey earned all-tournament honors after setting a career high with 16 kills versus the Bluejays and posting the first double-double of her career with 10 kills and 10 blocks in the triumph over the Golden Eagles.

Also of note were the performances put forth by freshman Nikki Fowler and sophomore Chloe Goldman from the right side and libero positions, respectively. Against Marquette, Fowler put away a team season-high 17 kills on 42 swings. The Dallas native also added eight digs, three assists, three aces and three blocks in the contest as well.

Goldman's contributions came on the defensive side of the court, where she totaled 46 digs and 6.57 digs per game for the weekend. In the win over Marquette, the 5'6 libero tied for the 16th-most digs in a single-match in UT history with 27. That mark is the most by a Lady Vol since former SEC Defensive Player of the Year Amy Morris set the school record with 42 against Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005.

For the season, Hinkey and junior Milan Clarke are tied for the team lead with 71 kills and 2.96 kills per game. Sophomore setter Jena Berg has paced the Lady Vol offense with 11.04 assists per game, while fellow classmate Kylie Marshall has been the team's top server with 15 aces. Defensively, Goldman ranks fifth in the SEC with 4.92 digs per game and Hinkey is third in the league with 1.54 blocks per frame.

Tennessee holds a 23-10 advantage in the all-time series with Alabama, including a 10-5 mark during head coach Rob Patrick's tenure at Rocky Top.

Currently 3-6 on the season, the Crimson Tide is led offensively by Crystal Hudson, Bridget Fuentez and Brooks Webster, who have posted kill totals of 144, 132 and 106, thus far this season. On the defensive side, Fuentez and Amy Pauly top the team with 148 and 189 digs, respectively. Pauly's digs per game average of 4.97 currently ranks fourth in the conference, just ahead of UT's Chloe Goldman who is at 4.92.

Alabama swept the season series last year and has won three matches in a row against the Lady Vols, dating back to Nov. 19, 2005, when it defeated UT at the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa, Ala. That loss, however, sparked the Big Orange which won its next five matches en route to an NCAA Final Four appearance in San Antonio, Texas.

The Big Orange has dominated the all-time series with Mississippi State, winning 32 of the 38 meetings between the two squads. Upon Lady Vol Patrick's arrival to Tennessee, he snapped a five-match losing streak to the Bulldogs and has recorded victories in all 14 of his contests against MSU since.

Senior Jamie Joyner and junior Cristina Jucan have been the two most effective offensive weapons for MSU. Joyner is hitting at a .293 clip and has amassed a team-best 114 kills, while Jucan is just behind her with 111 kills and a squad-high 326 attacks.

CROSS COUNTRY: The Lady Vols host the Tennessee Invitational Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. at the Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville and will be aiming for their fourth straight victory at the meet and seventh title overall, as.

Admission is free.

The UT women, winners at the meet the past three seasons, will face off against East Tennessee State University and Bryan College in a 5,000-meter race on the challenging, hilly course that rests in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Big Orange cross country team, 15-0 on the campaign after winning the Belmont Opener on Aug. 31, enters the competition ranked third in the NCAA South Region and 26th nationally in the first USTFCCCA Poll of the season.

"We definitely have a tough course at Lambert Acres," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "We traditionally have not had the competition I would like to have at this meet, but we use it for training purposes and will go out there and make a good run of it anyway.

"I am looking for our team to move together and get used to running cross country. It will be an opportunity for us to prepare for our first serious meet at the Paul Short Run in two weeks, and I look forward to running a full squad in the race if it all works out."

Last weekend, Clark took seven runners to the Belmont Opener and came away with a team victory from the 16-team field in Nashville. Junior Sarah Bowman led the charge on the 4,000-meter Vaughn's Creek Course at Percy Warner Park, covering the distance in 14 minutes, 00.58 seconds for her second victory at that meet and the third overall triumph of her collegiate career.

She was named the initial SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Week of 2007 for her performance.

Bowman did not compete at Belmont a year ago, but she made a smashing Lady Vol debut in 2005 by finishing first in Music City. She then bounced back the second meet at the Tennessee Invitational and became the first UT female harrier to post back-to-back career-opening victories since Lynn Lashley in 1976.

In 2007, she will have a chance to repeat her rookie year feat and join Sharon Dickie (2000, 2002) as the only Lady Vols to claim two victories at the Tennessee Invitational.

Bowman, who finished fifth at the home meet in 2006 as UT triumphed, is expected to be pushed up front by junior Katie Van Horn and sophomore Jackie Areson. The duo finished third and fifth, respectively, at the Belmont meet, and both, like Bowman, were NCAA All-South Region honorees a year ago.

If Clark opts to run junior Heidi Magill-Dahl this weekend, the transfer from BYU could also find her way to the front of the pack. Magill-Dahl was a two-time NCAA All-Mountain Region and All-Mountain West Conference choice as a Cougar and placed 39th at the 2005 NCAA Cross Country Championships before redshirting in 2006.

The Big Orange also will send juniors Rolanda Bell and Kimarra McDonald, sophomore Phoebe Wright and freshman Brittany Sheffey into battle. Sheffey was 16th overall and scored fourth in her college debut, while Wright placed 28th and was UT's fifth counting runner at Belmont in her first scoring role as a Lady Vol.

Since the Tennessee Invitational was first held in 1998, UT secured team victories in 1998, 1999 (tied), 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, finished second in 2000 and placed third in 2003. No meet was held in 2001 due to the terrorist attacks on America. Other UT runners besides Bowman (2005) and Dickie (2000, 2002) to cross the line first were Maureen Ferris (1998) and Brooke Novak (2004).

Tennessee starts the season ranked No. 26 in the country. The Lady Vols learned that news Tuesday afternoon when the first United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Poll of the 2007 campaign was released.

UT, which finished the 2006 season with a 28th-place finish at the NCAA Championships, received 76 points to rate as the third of four Southeastern Conference teams in the poll. Defending SEC champion and preseason favorite Arkansas ranks fourth with 344 points, while Georgia checks in 13th at 183 and Florida is 28th with 56.

In terms of its regional ranking, Tennessee was voted third in the South Region, with Florida and Georgia rated ahead of the Lady Vols. Florida and Vanderbilt are fourth and fifth regionally.

Tennessee won the NCAA South Region meet from 2002 to 2005, finished third a year ago and has advanced to the NCAA Championship meet in each of the past five seasons.

Two-time defending NCAA champion Stanford begins the season atop the poll with 384 points and nine first-place votes. Michigan is second with 368, followed by Colorado (366/four first-place votes), Arkansas (344), Wisconsin (340), Illinois (308), Arizona State (294), Minnesota (292), Providence (290) and Michigan State (249).

Thirteen voters, consisting of nine regional representatives and four USTFCCCA Division I Executive Committee members, vote on the national top 30. Future release dates are Sept. 25, Oct. 2, Oct. 9, Oct. 16, Oct. 23, Oct. 30, Nov. 6 and Nov. 13.

SOCCER: Tennessee continues its season-long five game road trip this weekend at the USC Tournament in Los Angeles. The 15th-ranked Lady Vols will meet Nebraska on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. PT before taking on the host Women of Troy on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT.

The Orange and White are coming off a weekend that saw them sustain their first defeat and their second win over a ranked opponent this season. UT dropped a 2-1 decision to Virginia Tech last Friday on the first day of the Hawthorn Suites Hokie Invitational, before notching its first overtime win of the year, 1-0, over then-No. 24 Wake Forest.

The shutout was the Lady Vols' second of the season. Redshirt freshman Devon Swaim notched her second goal of the season in the win, while junior transfer Alissa VonderHaar posted her first goal in a Tennessee uniform against the Hokies.

Friday's matchup with the Huskers is the first ever between the two teams. Nebraska enters this weekend's tournament with a 2-0-2 record. The Huskers downed Missouri State 2-1 before tying San Diego State 0-0 at home last weekend.

Tennessee is 2-3-0 all-time against Big 12 Conference teams. Head Coach John Walker led Nebraska to a 10-7-3 overall record and a fifth place finish in the Big 12 North with a 4-5-0 conference record in 2006.

On Sunday, the Lady Vols will face off with the Women of Troy for the third time in program history. UT is 1-1-0 all-time against USC, having played once in Knoxville in 2004 and once in Provo, Utah in 2001.

The two teams last met on Sept. 12, 2004, in the First Tennessee Lady Vol Classic. The Lady Vols recorded a 2-1 victory over Southern Cal, scoring both goals in the first half for the win. The Women of Troy went 11-5-5 last season, finishing fifth in the Pac-10 Conference. The 2006 squad finished its season in the NCAA Tournament second round, after knocking off No. 1-seeded Santa Clara in the first round.

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