"It was a great goal by Kylee Rossi," UT Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "We're just toughing it out. I think Devon Swaim had a great game today. Our frontline did well, and we got the win. Alabama played great this evening."
Rossi put the Orange and White up for good in the 86th minute. The Pennington, N.J., native received the ball on the far right side of the field, where she beat two defenders before taking a shot from 20 yards out which curled into the upper left corner of the goal. The score is Rossi's team-leading eighth of the season and the 10th game-winner of her career.
Even with a 2-1 advantage and just four minutes remaining, Tennessee had to work to hold onto the lead. After missing a chance to take a 3-1 lead on a penalty kick in the 87th minute, UT faced an offensive push from the Crimson Tide. With under a minute remaining, Alabama had several chances including a shot that was stopped on the goal line by the Lady Vol defense.
"It was a great goal by Kylee Rossi," Kelly said. "I wish would could have finished our PK, but then again I wish we could have finished a lot of opportunities prior to that, but we're going to take the win."
The Crimson Tide evened the score just five minutes into the second half, when sophomore midfielder Kailey Corken found sophomore forward Kelsey King in the box. King took a shot that skipped up off the slick turf and through the arms of UT junior keeper Jaimel Johnson.
"I want to give a ton of credit to (Alabama Coach) Don Staley and his squad for executing their game plan to perfection," Kelly said. "We haven't played a team in my memory that played four forwards and matched us up all over the field. That's a credit to them and their commitment to that game plan."
Tennessee got on the board first, just nine minutes into the first half. After stringing several passes together in the midfield, the Lady Vols found senior forward Emily Redberg who broke away from her defender and beat Crimson Tide keeper Justine Bernier on the ground. The goal is Redberg's seventh of the season. The Brooklyn Park, Minn., native has posted nine points in the last four matches.
During a wet match, both teams struggled to maintain possession. The Lady Vols managed to take 24 shots, while Alabama sent 12 strikes towards Johnson. Bernier was forced to make 16 saves, while Johnson made seven saves to post the 17th victory of her career.
Tennessee retained the lead in the SEC standings, though No. 20 Georgia notched a 3-2 win over Auburn.
"We created a lot of opportunities for ourselves that we probably should have finished," Kelly said. "This is conference play, and you're never guaranteed anything. We're excited about the win and looking forward towards Auburn."
The Lady Vols close out their regular season home schedule on Sunday. UT hosts Auburn for Senior Day at Regal Soccer Stadium for a 2 p.m. start.
LADY VOL VOLLEYBALL: Fresh off its longest road swing of the season, the volleyball team (8-12, 3-9) will look to right the ship as it returns home for a pair of league contests.
The Lady Vols will host Georgia at 7 p.m. in Stokely Athletics Center on Friday before Auburn makes the trip to Rocky Top for a 1:30 p.m. contest two days later Sunday.
The Orange and White will attempt to return to the win column after dropping a pair of tough matches on the road last weekend. Despite senior Yuliya Stoyanova's 22nd career double-double (first of the season) and sophomore Jaye Loyd's first, UT was unable to pull out a victory at Mississippi State, falling in five, 30-28, 26-30, 17-30, 32-30, 12-15.
Stoyanova posted season-highs in both kills (17) and digs (20) in the loss, while Loyd recorded a career-high 27 assists to go along with 10 digs. Last Sunday, the Big Orange traveled to Tuscaloosa, where it was taken down in three frames, 21-30, 28-30, 17-30, by Alabama. Once again, Loyd surpassed her personal-best with 30 assists, while fellow classmate Leah Hinkey totaled a team-best 11 putaways.
Over the squad's last five matches, sophomore libero Chloe Goldman has been nearly unstoppable. The Monterey, Calif., native has put together one of the most dominant stretches in school history, averaging 5.59 digs per game with 123 total digs over that span. She has reached the 25-dig plateau four times in the past three weeks, including a 37-dig performance against No. 18 LSU that put her name second in the UT record books for most digs in a single-match.
The only player to have more was Amy Morris with 42 at Notre Dame on Nov. 26, 2005. Goldman's total also stands as the most by any player in the SEC this season.
Through the first two-thirds of the 2007 campaign, freshman Nikki Fowler and sophomore Leah Hinkey have generated the majority of the squad's offense, combining for 40.1 percent of its total kills with 218 and 212, respectively. Fowler also leads UT with 673 attacks, while Hinkey has hit at a team-high .282 clip. On defense, Goldman has served as a stabilizing force, leading the team in digs in all but two matches. She also ranks fourth in the league with 5.15 digs per game, while Hinkey is eighth in the SEC with 1.19 blocks per frame.
In its first year under head coach Joel McCartney, Georgia has improved by leaps and bounds after finishing 6-25 overall and just 2-18 in conference play in 2006. Led by, arguably, the most dynamic hitter in the SEC in junior Maria Taylor, the Bulldogs have already surpassed their win total from last season with a record of 14-8 and 5-7 in league action.
With an average of 4.80 kills per game and 379 total kills, Taylor currently leads the SEC. She also ranks ninth with 1.18 blocks per frame and 10th with 0.39 service aces per game. Also featured in the Bulldog offense are junior Mara Martin and freshmen Erika Clark and Britta Buethe. Martin paces the attack with 11.30 assists per contest, placing her sixth in the conference. Clarke and Buethe, meanwhile, have recorded 218 and 221 kills, respectively, on the year. Defensively, freshman Lindsay Gehan has provided solid net play for the Bulldogs, accumulating 1.43 blocks per game, good enough for fourth in the SEC.
Despite losing to UGA earlier this season, Tennessee still holds a firm grip on the all-time series with a 33-22 advantage.
The Orange and White will be seeking revenge for a hard-fought, five-game loss, 30-25, 23-30, 30-28, 26-30, 12-15, suffered earlier this year at the hands of the Bulldogs on Sept. 23. The defeat snapped an eight-match win streak UT had put together against Georgia, dating back to the 2003 campaign.
Auburn will look to sisters Sara and Rachel Shanks to provide the offensive fireworks. Just a freshman, Sara Shanks paces the attack with 9.25 assists per game, the eighth-best average in the league. The elder sibling, senior Rachel Shanks is also found among the conference leaders with 3.56 kills per frame. The Tigers will also utilize the strong serving of senior Whitney Jacobs as they attempt to get the offense going. Jacobs' average of 0.39 service aces per game ranks ninth in the SEC.
LADY VOL TRACK: Former Tennessee track & field/cross country standout Felicia Guliford will be in Indianapolis, on Saturday night, attending the NCAA Woman of the Year awards dinner at the Murat Centre's Egyptian Room.
At that event, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics will reveal the 2007 NCAA Woman of the Year out of a group of nine finalists who made the cut from the original nomination of 128 individuals back in July.
The honor, now in its 17th year of existence, recognizes outstanding female student-athletes who have excelled in athletics, academics, leadership and service.
A product of Gallup, N.M., Guliford joins Shauneen Garrahan (Amherst College, track & field/cross country), Ana Gutierrez (Seattle University/softball), Jessica Javelet (Louisville/field hockey), Whitney Myers (Arizona/swimming & diving), Ashley Parker (Lincoln University [Pa.], track & field), Debbie Sharnak (Vassar College, tennis), Sarah Shearman (Truman State University, volleyball) and Jamie Wolf (Clarion University [Pa.], swimming & diving) in that illustrious group.
Guliford, an August 2007 UT graduate with majors in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology and Spanish, will attempt to follow in the footsteps of swimmer Catherine Byrne (1992) and diver Lauryn McCalley (2005) as Lady Volunteers who have previously been named NCAA Woman of the Year.
She is the seventh UT woman to make the cut as a finalist, joining a group that includes McCalley (2005), Kara Lawson (2003, basketball), Lizzy Flynt Asti (2001, diving), Katharina Larsson (1994, golf), Byrne (1992) and Patty Wiegand (1991, track & field/cross country).