Tennessee outshot the Lady Paladins 15-5 in the contest, including 10-2 during the first half of play. For junior goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson, the victory was the 20th of her career and the shutout was her 14th. UT improved to an impressive 13-0-1 this season when tallying the first goal of the match.
"When it comes to tournament time you compete, you survive and you move on," Lady Vol Head Coach Angela Kelly said. "That's what we did tonight. We have to be able to play at a championship level, which means making the minimum amount of touches and letting the ball do the work. We must do a better job at that. I thought it was fantastic to start out the way we did. It was a dynamic goal. I talked to the team about the importance of scoring early and fighting for that first goal."
The Lady Vols wasted no time jumping in front on the scoreboard as Tennessee sophomore midfielder Mick Imgram struck with the game's first goal just 52 seconds into the contest. Dribbling up the left wing past midfield, Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year Kylee Rossi easily beat her defender as the Furman player, attempting to check the speedy Pennington, N.J., native tripped and fell down.
Running free, Rossi beat the lone remaining defender by crossing an easy ball to the feet of a wide-open Imgram, who was standing in the middle of the pitch. The Clifton, Va., product delivered a shot low and to the left to beat diving Lady Paladin goalkeeper Briana da Mota for a quick 1-0 lead.
The Big Orange advantage grew to two scores at the 15:06 mark as freshman Tanya Emerson worked the ball into the center of the 18-yard box before passing to Rossi racing unchecked up the right wing. The forward quickly gathered the ball and unleashed a bending shot that traveled over a leaping da Mota and into the upper left corner of the twine to mark Rossi's 11th score of the season and UT career record-tying 29th score. She also established new career-highs in single-season goals (11) and points (27) and equaled former Big Orange player Allison Campbell for third on the all-time points list at Tennessee with 72.
The defensive effort at the backline for UT, consisting of Erica Griffin, Jordan Falcusan, Melissa Speros and Sarah Jackyra, kept Furman from registering its first shot of any kind until approximately 15 minutes remained in the opening stanza. Overall, Tennessee allowed just two shots, none on goal, over the first 45 minutes of action while outshooting the Purple and White, 10-2. The Lady Paladins entered the match in possession of one of the nation's top scoring offenses having tallied 64 goals on the campaign.
Furman's offense finally showed a little life to begin the second half as Lady Paladin forward Emily Krankowski managed to work her way in on the right side of the goal before lifting a shot that Tennessee goalkeeper Jaimel Johnson saved wide of the post. On the ensuing corner kick for the Purple and White, Johnson forced her way into the pack in front of the goal and leapt high to corral the cross and stem the Furman attack.
After a long period of midfield play, the Lady Paladins managed to threaten again in the 66th minute as Furman forward Anna Betton raced free up the middle of the pitch and looked to pass wide to Krankowski. Tennessee defender Erica Griffin surged out of nowhere to break up the play from behind by stealing the ball from Betton. The senior from Memphis escaped the remaining Purple and White attackers and cleared the ball up the sideline.
With approximately 11 minutes remaining in the contest, Furman drew a foul against Tennessee that permitted a free kick from nearly 35 yards out. A long shot by the Lady Paladins proved harmless as the ball drifted wide left of the net.
The late-game pressure by the Lady Paladins continued just a couple of minutes later at the 81:48 mark as a corner kick taken by Furman midfielder Gena Villari dropped towards the feet of midfielder Rachel Fry in the six-yard box. The midfielder quickly tapped the ball towards the net, but the orb traveled directly into the hands of UT goalie Johnson to mark the Dayton , Ohio , product's second save of the match and preserve the Big Orange clean sheet.
Despite one last corner kick at 82:22 from the Lady Paladins, Tennessee managed to control the last few minutes of action. A shot by junior midfielder Alissa VonderHaar forced da Mota to make her third save. Leslie Vineyard and Grace Cuenin each were credited with strikes in the last 1:01 that drifted wide of the net. In the second half, UT outshot the Purple & White, 5-3.
The Big Orange will battle Clemson in NCAA Second Round action at the Regal Soccer Stadium on Sunday at 2 p.m.
LADY VOL VOLLEYBALL: In its final SEC match of the season the volleyball team (11-17, 6-14) defeated Arkansas (12-17, 6-13 SEC) in four games, 30-28, 28-30, 30-27, 30-22, Friday evening at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville, Ark.
Freshman Nikki Fowler led the team in kills for the eighth straight match, knocking out 22 putaways, while sophomore Chloe Goldman topped the team in digs for the 25th time this season with 35 in the victory.
"As a team, I thought we played very hard for all four games," UT head coach Rob Patrick said. "In game two, we were starting to get away from our game plan, so we went back over our strategy during the break. They then did a great job of going out and doing what we asked them to do. Although we had a few missed serves, I thought that was due in part to the fact that we served very tough and forced Arkansas out of its offense.
"We wanted to channel the ball to Chloe tonight and our blockers did a great job of doing just that," Patrick said. "Chloe really controlled the ball well all night as well, both passing and defensively."
In addition to the strong performances by Fowler and Goldman, sophomore Jaye Loyd also had a career night, posting personal bests in kills, attacks, assists and blocks. The Stockton, Calif., native paced the Lady Vol offense with 56 assists, while recording two kills on four attacks. She also posted the first two blocks of her career to go along with 15 digs for her second double-double.
"I am extremely proud of the way Jaye played today," Patrick said. "We were able to run a more diversified offense than we have in the past few weeks. Her decision making and consistency allowed us to get the number of kills we did in this match."
The recipient of most of the assists by Loyd was Fowler, who notched the 12th double-double of her young career with 22 kills and 15 digs. The Dallas, Texas, product tallied a pair of assists and five blocks as well.
"Once again, Nikki played a great all-around game," Patrick said. "Offensively, she put a lot of pressure on Arkansas' defense. She also did a fantastic job of playing defense behind Jaye's block."
Junior Milan Clarke and sophomore Carol Cheade also stood out in the victory for Tennessee. Clarke collected 15 kills, three digs and four blocks, while Cheade had six kills on a career-high 14 swings. The native Brazilian also had a dig and a block to her credit in her first starting nod of the season and second of her career.
"I was very happy and proud for Milan, as she has been doing everything that she can do to put herself on the court," Patrick said. "She has been working hard in practice and coming in for extra work and it paid off tonight as she had a tremendous six-rotation match for us. I was as proud of her for her kills as I was for her back-row defense and serving. She played with a tremendous amount of confidence.
"Carol did a great job of taking advantage of her starting role," Patrick said. "She earned her playing time because of her consistent play in practice over the last month and worked very hard on every point, both offensively and defensively tonight."
In a back-and-forth first game, the Lady Vols were the stronger team at the end, claiming a tight, 30-28, victory. Although Arkansas came out of the gates on fire, winning the first three points, Tennessee was not discouraged and quickly fought its way back to a 6-6 tie. From that point on, the two squads proceeded to trade the next 16 points as they battled to a 14-14 deadlock. After an Arkansas serve landed long, the Lady Vols got back-to-back kills by Clarke and Loyd, sandwiched around a timeout by Lady Razorback head coach Chris Poole. An Arkansas attack error made it a four-point UT run and gave the Orange and White an 18-14 advantage.
The Lady'Backs continued to fight back, however, tying the set back up shortly thereafter at 20-all with three straight scores of their own. A quick kill by Fowler on a blast down the middle of the court, returned the lead to Tennessee which went up by two on the next play as an attack by Arkansas' Catherine Fowler landed long.
The Big Orange would be able to hold on to that slim lead until a pair of Lady'Back scores returned the game to a tie at 28-28 and forced Patrick to use his final timeout of the frame to reorganize his troops. The tactic worked like a charm as an Arkansas serve found the net and junior Laurén LaFlamme served an ace to give UT the set, 30-28.
Despite 16 digs by Goldman, eight kills by Fowler and a seven-point lead, the Lady Vols were unable to hang on in game two, falling 30-28. With the score tied at seven, UT went up by three following a kill by Hinkey that was surrounded by a pair of Arkansas errors. That lead would balloon to five after another three-score spree by the Big Orange that featured two hard kills by Fowler. Its work was not done yet, however, as the Lady'Backs stormed back into the game with a trio of scores.
UT was up to the challenge, though, and answered with four consecutive kills, sparked by a shot by Fowler down the right-side line. Hinkey followed with a slam before Fowler blasted one from the back row and Loyd tipped one over the net from the setter position, prompting a timeout by Poole with the scoreboard reading 22-16 in favor of the Lady Vols.
The break in play halted UT's momentum and allowed the Lady Razorbacks to get back in the frame. After the two squads split the first two points out of the timeout, Arkansas tallied five consecutive scores, including two kills, an ace, a block and a Tennessee attack error, to cut its deficit to just one at 23-22. The Orange and White responded by winning four of the next six points to return its advantage to three, but it would not be enough, as it was all Arkansas from that point on.
A four-score Lady'Back spree ensued, erasing the UT lead and putting Arkansas up 28-27. After a Patrick timeout, Fowler knotted the score back up with a blast down the middle, but that would be Tennessee's final point, as the Lady'Backs secured the frame with back-to-back kills.
Another extremely tight set ensued in game three, with the Orange and White emerging victorious, 30-27, in a frame that included 13 ties and seven lead changes. The Lady Vol offense was out in full force, as they out-hit Arkansas .432 (18-2-37) to just .105 (14-10-38) in the game. Most of the frame was an absolute battle, as each point was hotly contested. Each team was able to put together a single run of three points, but neither moved ahead by more than two at any point before the set reached a 20-20 standstill.
A blast by Hinkey, however, ignited a three-score rally during which the Lady Vols also got a kill by Clarke and a block by sophomore Farren Powe and Clarke. A timeout by Poole netted his team a run-ending score, but Tennessee rattled off two more with a tip over the left-side block by Clarke and a block by Fowler and Powe to go up 25-21. Arkansas would move to within two at 28-26, but a pair of unforced errors by the Lady'Backs gave UT the win, 30-27.
It was the "Nikki Fowler Show" in the fourth game, as the freshman pounded out nine kills in the frame to lead UT to a 30-22 victory and its 11th win of the season. With the score tied at nine, Fowler took over. After a block by Clarke and Powe, the Tennessee rookie recorded kills on four straight plays and five of the next six to give her team a lead it would never relinquish.
A four-point Orange and White run then moved the UT lead to eight at 19-11. Arkansas staged a mini-comeback, with a pair of three-score sprees that cut the Lady Vol advantage to four at 23-19, but the Big Orange answered convincingly with another streak of four consecutive scores.
Fowler sparked the run with a back-row block blast down the middle of the court before joining forces with Marshall and Powe for a strong block. An Arkansas attack then landed wide down the left-side of the court before Marshall smashed a kill through the block. The Lady'Backs attempted to come back one last time, but Tennessee closed out the match with a trio of scores, capped off by a sharp putback by Marshall and Hinkey to finish off the match.
The Lady Vols held Arkansas to a -.043 hitting percentage (10-12-46) in the set, while cranking out a .316 percentage (17-5-38) on their own.
The Big Orange will next be in action when it closes out the 2007 campaign at home against Notre Dame on Friday, Nov. 23. First serve for the contest against the Fighting Irish is set for 7 p.m. in Stokely Athletics Center.