''It's nice to be 17-6 and 6-4 in the SEC at this point,'' said UT Head Coach Rob Patrick after the win. ''I really didn't know what to expect at the beginning of this season with such a young team, and I can't ask for much more than this right now.''
Down 4-3 early in the first game, Tennessee rallied when senior outside hitter Kelli Scott served up four consecutive service aces against a perplexed Auburn squad that could not handle the Peoria, Ariz., native's deadly topspin jump serve. Scott's barrage of aces gave the Big Orange a 14-6 advantage that UT would not relinquish.
The Lady Vols fell behind early in the second game, as well, but responded with a fury. A 6-4 deficit quickly became a 10-6 lead behind the serve of Hester, who hit three aces during that span. Afterwards, the Tigers found themselves only down five, 20-15, but Tennessee would make another push. With a seven-point lead at 26-19, Scott resumed the serving duties and propelled the Lady Vols to a 30-19 win in the second frame with two points coming off service aces.
The Lady Vols controlled the third round from the outset. Freshman middle blocker Kristen Andre paced the Big Orange‚s offense with seven kills, while sophomore middle blocker Michelle Piantadosi chipped in with five. After taking an eight-point lead, 18-10, on a kill from Andre, Tennessee coasted its way through the final game, winning 30-24.
''I wasn't happy with the energy we had at times during the match,'' said Patrick. ''We were unorganized at times and it stemmed from a lack of effort and focus.''
By recording her 1,300th career kill and 3,000th attack, Hester joined an exclusive list that consists of only seven Lady Vols. Meanwhile, Scott‚s six aces on the afternoon bumped her up to No. 4 on the school's list, moving past Stephanie Ehlers with 190 now to her credit. Scott‚s seven kills on the afternoon also inched her closer to 1,000 for her career as she stands only 41 shy of the milestone.
Andre led the Orange and White's offense with 13 kills and 22 attempts, most of which came from setups by freshman Julie Knytych from the right side. Knytych ended the contest with 44 assists and two service aces. Freshman middle blocker Heather Harrington tied a couple of career-highs with seven kills and 15 attacks. The Pasadena, Texas, native also recorded a career best .400 hitting percentage.