"Florida's always our toughest competition in the SEC because there's just such a strong rivalry there," Rossi said.
Rossi continued her hot streak against Florida, repeating her 2006 performance with two goals against the Gators. The Pennington, N.J. native got started just five minutes into the match.
The first goal came after a long pass from senior forward Erica Griffin found Rossi's feet about 30 yards from the goal, drawing out Gator keeper Meghan Berlingo. Rossi beat Berlingo to the ball, one-timing a volley over her and into the back of the net.
"It definitely helps a lot to score early because it puts a lot of pressure on the other team," junior goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson said. "It gets them down early, but at the same we still have a whole game to play so you can't get too excited on the one goal. You have to stay focused."
In the 21st minute, Rossi struck again when sophomore midfielder Mick Imgram dished a ball to the left-hand side of the box. Imgram found Rossi, who beat her defender and put a ball on the ground past Berlingo into the lower right hand corner.
The two goals give Rossi four on the season and eight game winners in her career, good for sixth all-time at UT.
With the two goals, Rossi has now been involved in every goal scored against Florida in the regular season during her career at UT. In a 2-1 win in 2005, Rossi assisted on both Lady Vol goals, while last season she was responsible for both scores in another 2-1 victory. Of her 55 career points, 10 have come at the expense of the Gators.
"I always try to put the ball away," Rossi said. "It just so happens that I put two in last year and two in this year [against Florida]. My teammates supported me so much and got me the ball where I needed it and it just happened."
Though UT got the win, Florida out-shot the Lady Vols 23-10, putting nearly half of their shots on frame.
Johnson had the game of a lifetime in her fifth shutout of the season, making 11 saves to set a new career high. The 11 saves tie Johnson for the fourth-best performance by a keeper in Tennessee history.
The Orange and White have now shut out five of the nine opponents they've faced, including three top 25 teams.
"I think I played great, but I have to come out and be ready every game. I can't put one game over another," Johnson said.
Leading the offense for the Gators were midfielders Ameera Abdullah and KeLeigh Hudson, who took five shots apiece and combined for six shots on goal. Five of the Gators' 10 field players who started the match took at least one shot on goal.
The match was very physical from the first whistle, with the two teams combining for 20 fouls. The Lady Vols finished the match with 12 total fouls and one yellow card to Rossi, while the Gators committed eight infractions with a yellow card handed out to defender Lauren Hyde.
The victory matches UT's biggest win over Florida on Oct. 10, 2003 in Knoxville. The triumph gives Tennessee five straight victories over the Gators in regular season matches and six wins in their last nine meetings with Florida. UT is now 4-0-1 against top 25 opponents this season, downing Penn State, South Carolina and Florida while they were all ranked in the top 15.
The Lady Vols will put their six-match unbeaten streak on the line this Friday when they travel to LSU for the first match of a four-game road trip. Kickoff on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. CDT.
"There's so much talent in this conference that we can never get complacent," Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "I just told the team that they can enjoy this until 12 o'clock tonight and then the most important game is LSU next Friday night."
LADY VOL VOLLEYBALL: For the third straight match, the Tennessee volleyball team (7-6, 2-4) found itself engaged in a hard-fought battle with a league opponent.
Unfortunately for fans of the Orange and White, the outcome remained the same as the Lady Vols dropped a five-game decision to Arkansas (7-9, 1-4 SEC) on Sunday afternoon at Stokely Athletics Center, 30-32, 30-27, 27-30, 30-20, 8-15.
"We are very disappointed that we lost this match," Lady Vol head coach Rob Patrick said. "Our outside hitting and setting need to be more consistent for us to be successful. The only thing we can do is get back in the gym and continue to work hard. If we do that, the results will come."
Despite the loss, freshman Nikki Fowler posted the most impressive offensive performance of her young career, recording her third double-double with a career-high 22 kills and 11 digs, while taking a personal-high 49 swings. For the match, she hit at an impressive .327 clip with just six errors. The Dallas, Texas, native also tallied totals of five assists, four blocks and three aces.
Joining her with double-digits in kills was sophomore Leah Hinkey, who accomplished the feat for the 10th-consecutive contest with 13. Fellow classmate Jena Berg was also able to notch her seventh-straight double-double with 13 digs and a career-high 58 assists, while Chloe Goldman led the team in the digs category for the 12th time this season with 27. As a team, the Lady Vols were able to amass season-highs in a number of statistical categories, including kills (70), assists (65) and digs (92).
The Orange and White looked sluggish out of the gate, as Arkansas staged a late comeback to take the early advantage with a 32-30 win. Trailing 14-16, midway through the frame, Tennessee seemed to come alive with a four-point run to take its first lead of the day. Berg started the attack with a kill before a Farren Powe smash evened the score.
An Arkansas attack error gave UT another point, before Powe added an additional kill to increase her team's lead to two at 18-16. After the two squads traded the next three points, the Orange and White embarked on another run in which it would win five of the next six points.
During that span, Fowler recorded a pair of kills, and sophomore Kylie Marshall added one as well, to increase the Lady Vol lead to 25-20. At that point, however, Arkansas took control of the frame and never looked back, using a four-score spree, featuring two kills and an ace from Jessica Dorrell, to cut the UT advantage to just two.
Shortly thereafter, another streak of four-consecutive points erased the remainder of the deficit and put the Lady'Backs up 30-29. Another Fowler putaway returned the score to a deadlock, but back-to-back kills by Dorrell ended the frame.
The second set was also extremely tightly contested, but Tennessee was able to pull out a 30-27 victory to tie the match at one game each heading into the intermission. After falling behind early, UT strung together a four-point run, bookended by a block by Fowler and Hinkey and a Fowler ace, to take a 9-6 lead. Arkansas returned the favor, however, with four-straight scores of its own to move back ahead.
That advantage continued to increase just three plays later, when the Lady Razorbacks added three more scores to go up 14-11. The Lady Vols were not out yet, however, quickly fighting their way back to a 15-15 tie. The score remained close until back-to-back Arkansas attack errors gave the Big Orange a 29-27 lead and a chance to claim the second game. It did just that, with Berg and Hinkey combining to send back a Heather Royal swing.
Tennessee was unable to capitalize on the momentum shift, however, as Arkansas won game three, 30-27, and moved to within one frame of its first SEC victory of the season. In the middle of the set, the Lady Vols looked to have the upperhand, taking a 17-15 advantage following a kill by Hinkey. That lead did not last long, though, as the Lady'Backs rattled off three scores to go back in front.
After that point neither team was able to put together a sustained effort and they reached a 25-all deadlock. It was Arkansas, however, which struck the deadly blow at that junction, as two UT miscues and a pair of blocks by the Lady Razorbacks, gave it a decided advantage at 28-25. UT was able to score twice more, but an attack error spelled the end for the Big Orange and gave the game to Arkansas.
The Lady Vols responded in dramatic fashion in the fourth game, cruising to a 30-20 triumph to force a deciding fifth set. After a kill by Catherine Fowler put Arkansas up 3-2, Tennessee took advantage of three Lady'Back attack errors to put together five consecutive scores. With a secure, four-point lead, UT had all the confidence it needed and slowly increased its advantage throughout the remainder of the game.
Arkansas attempted to stage a late rally, with a block, two kills and an ace to move the score to 26-19, but the Big Orange was not having any of it. Junior Milan Clarke ended the surge with a blast from the right side, but a service error gave the ball back to Arkansas. Another smash by Clarke returned it to Tennessee, before a Powe kill and a block by Powe and Fowler marked the conclusion of the set.
The fifth and final frame began with an emphatic kill off the right wrist of Powe, but it would be the Lady Vol's only advantage, as Arkansas rattled off five consecutive points to take a lead it would not relinquish, eventually winning the set, 15-8, and the match, three games to two. Tennessee was never able to put together a sustained effort and did not score more than twice in a row at any point in the game.
The Big Orange will look to rebound next weekend when it hits the road for a pair of matches against South Carolina and No. 6 Florida. The Orange and White will square off with the Gamecocks at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, before taking on the Gators at 1:30 p.m. two days later.