Soccer, volleyball squads hit the road Friday

The Tennessee women's soccer team kicks off the second half of the regular season with the first two matches of a four-game road trip this weekend.

The sixth-ranked Lady Vols have compiled an overall record of 7-1-1 in the first nine matches of the 2007 slate and will take a six-match unbeaten streak to LSU on Friday, followed by Arkansas on Sunday.

The Orange and White hit the road for the first time in the young SEC season, after going 2-0 to open the league slate for the third time in four years. UT knocked off then-No. 12 South Carolina, 3-2, in overtime and then-No. 15 Florida, 2-0, last week.

Tennessee enters the second week of SEC play with the third-best goals against average in the conference and the 16th ranked win-loss percentage in the NCAA. After the wins last week, the Lady Vols matched their highest poll ranking ever at No. 6 in both the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/adidas and SoccerTimes.com polls. Tennessee is currently tied with Georgia for the lead in the Eastern Division after both teams opened the SEC season with two wins.

Friday night, UT travels to Baton Rouge, La., to take on the 7-1-3 Tigers. LSU is coming off a 1-0-1 weekend to start conference play after topping Missisippi State and tying Ole Miss. The Lady Vols hold a 9-0-0 advantage all-time against the Tigers, including a 2-1 win in Knoxville last year. LSU is tied for the goal scoring lead in the conference, averaging 2.64 goals per game.

The Lady Vols continue the road trip on Sunday at Arkansas. The Lady'Backs are 8-3-0 overall and 1-1-0 in SEC play after opening the conference slate with a heartbreaking loss in overtime to Ole Miss and a win over Mississippi State. Arkansas has already matched its program season-record for shutouts with eight on the year, while freshman keeper Britni Williams leads the league and is 14th in the NCAA with her 0.46 goals against average.

Friday's match is set to kick off at 7 p.m. CT with radio play-by-play available online at total sports radio.com and live statistics available at lsu sports.net. First kick on Sunday is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT with live video available at ladybacks.com.

LADY VOL VOLLEYBALL: Currently in the midst of a three-match losing streak, the volleyball team (7-6, 2-4 ) will attempt to return to its winning ways this weekend, when it hits the road to take on South Carolina and No. 6 Florida.

The Lady Vols will square off with the Gamecocks at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Volleyball Competition Facility in Columbia, S.C., before traveling to the Sunshine State for a 1:30 p.m. showdown with the sixth-ranked Gators in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Sunday.

UT suffered a pair of setbacks last week, falling in four games at Kentucky and in five at home versus Arkansas. In its first mid-week contest of the season, the Lady Vols fought hard, but were unable to overcome a solid Wildcat squad, eventually falling 28-30, 28-30, 30-22, 24-30. Four days later, the Big Orange returned home for the first time in two weeks to host the Lady Razorbacks. Arkansas proved to be an unwelcome guest, however, as UT was defeated 30-32, 30-27, 27-30, 30-20, 8-15.

Freshman Nikki Fowler provided a rare bright spot for the Orange and White, notching double-doubles in both matches for the third and fourth of her young career. The Dallas, Texas, native posted 12 kills and 15 digs versus UK and 22 kills and 11 digs against the Lady'Backs. Her 22 kills and 49 attacks on Sunday both marked career highs, as well as the highest totals by a Lady Vol this season.

Sophomore Chloe Goldman continued to anchor the defense for UT, leading the squad in the dig category in both contests with 19 and 27, respectively.

For the season, the Orange and White's top offensive options have been sophomore Leah Hinkey and Fowler. A 6'1 middle blocker, Hinkey has been solid this year, leading the team with 71 blocks, 147 kills and a .324 hitting percentage. Fowler, meanwhile, has amassed a squad-high 404 swings to go along with 140 putaways, 115 digs and 43 blocks. Defensively, Goldman ranks third in the SEC with a 5.16 digs per game average, while Hinkey is third on the conference blocks per game chart with a 1.45 average.

South Carolina's Friday night contest with Tennessee will be its first since earning its initial SEC victory of the season at Mississippi State last Sunday. The Gamecocks trail the all-time series with UT by a narrow, two-match margin of 25-23, after splitting a pair of contests last season.

USC has been a streaky squad in 2007, following a four-match winning streak with five consecutive losses, prior to its triumph over MSU. Currently 8-7 on the year, South Carolina is led offensively by junior Belita Salters and senior Ivana Kujundzic. Salters has recorded the eighth-best hitting percentage in the SEC, with a .333 mark, and 141 kills, while Kujundzic leads the team with 158 putaways. A pair of freshman also stand out for the Gamecocks, as Megan Laughlin and Dani Bedore have tallied 140 and 126 kills, respectively.

Defensively, junior libero Dinela Concepcion paces the squad with 3.80 digs per frame, good for 10th in the conference. Salters also leads the team in the block category with 58 this season.

The top team in the SEC this year, No. 6 Florida will provide a tough test for the Lady Vols Sunday afternoon. A perfect 13-0, 6-0 SEC in 2007, the Gators hold a 35-9-1 advantage over UT in the all-time series between the two squads, although Tennessee has won three of the last six.

As a team, Florida ranks among the league's top four in every statistical category, including holding down the top spot in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists and kills.

Offensively, Florida uses a three-pronged attack, featuring a trio of seniors. Kisya Killingsworth ranks second in the SEC with a .412 hitting percentage, while Marcie Hampton has the second-most kills in the league with 173. Amber McCray joins them in the attack with 129 kills this season. Pacing the offense is yet another senior in Angie McGinnis, who is the top setter in the SEC, statistically, with 12.58 assists per game.

The dominance extends to defense where sophomore libero Elyse Cusack has amassed 249 digs and is second in the league with 5.53 digs per game. Killingsworth also leads the team with 51 blocks, but junior Kelsey Bowers is just behind her with 49 of her own.

LADY VOLS ROWING: The women's rowing team announced its fall schedule, which features four head races. Following a program-best ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championships last season, the Lady Vols have put together a well-rounded fall schedule to prepare them for a tough spring slate.

"We look at the fall season as an enhancement to our training for the spring," UT Head Coach Lisa Glenn said. "Race distances are longer, more than double the distance of our spring competitions. It just gives us an opportunity to get out away from the home waters and test ourselves in a fun, competitive environment."

The Orange and White will open the season next weekend at the Chattanooga Head Race over Oct. 11-14. Tennessee will be looking to continue its success at Chattanooga after taking first and second in the championship eight, championship four and championship two events in 2006. In its 12-year history, UT has collected 34 gold medals in the event.

"We start out with the Chattanooga Head Race which is a lot of fun for us, because it's close by, and we enjoy working out early race kinks at that event," Glenn said. "We take it very seriously, but we enjoy being close to home for the first event."

Following Chattanooga, the Lady Vols get the opportunity to travel to Boston, Mass., for the prestigious Head of the Charles event, Oct. 20-21. The races in Boston provide UT with a chance to experience the excitement of the largest regatta in the world.

"It's the one time all year that our athletes can have a small taste of what it might feel like to be a football player in Tennessee," Glenn said. "You go to Boston and everybody knows about the Head of the Charles; the city nearly shuts down during the day. There are fans for three miles along the race course. Law firms and banks close for the day so that their employees can go and support the race.

"It's a very special experience for our rowers to be at a place where rowing is valued so highly."

The third race of the fall season takes Tennessee back to Chattanooga for the Head of the Chattahoochee regatta on Nov. 3. The event features both varsity and novice races and is another large race that garners plenty of attention.

"It's a very good progression through the fall where we kind of work out the kinks in the first race and take the enthusiasm of a large event into our second race," Glenn said. "We should be pushing our development a little further along by the time we go back to Chattanooga."

The Lady Vols wrap up the 2007 fall campaign at the Rivanna Romp in Charlottesville, Va., on Nov. 11. Though the Romp is a smaller event, it brings out the best in the teams as one of the last races of the fall season.

"We finish out with a highly competitive race where the surroundings are a little quieter, but what's happening on the water is pretty intense," Glenn said.

With a full slate of head races to open the 2007-08 season, the Orange and White will be prepping for a tough 2008 schedule that includes races in Belmont, Calif., and Princeton, N.J. The Lady Vols will also benefit from winter and spring training camps to help groom the team for the spring season.

"The fall schedule is specifically geared toward enhancing our training and that all comes to fruition in the spring," Glenn said.


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