Volleyballers lose in SEC tourney

The sixth-seeded Lady Vol volleyball team dropped its opening round matchup with third-seeded Arkansas at the SEC Tournament by a 3-0 (30-23, 30-28, 30-25) count Friday night at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville, Ark.

With the loss, Tennessee concluded the 2002 campaign with a 20-11 mark. The Lady Razorbacks moved to 24-5 with the win.

After winning the opening rally of the contest, the Lady Vols fell behind until freshman setter Julie Knytych and fellow rookie middle blocker Kristen Andre combined for a block on the Lady Razorbacks to knot the first game at 10. The lead seesawed back and forth until Arkansas ran off seven straight points for a six-point advantage, 24-18. UT managed to cut the Lady Razorbacks' lead to four, 25-21, when sophomore right side hitter Whitney Gifford served up an ace, but Arkansas proved to be too much as they won the first round by a 30-23 count.

The Orange and White sprinted to an early 4-1 advantage in the second game, capped by a kill courtesy of sophomore middle blocker Michelle Piantadosi. Tennessee held a four-point lead, 15-11, after senior outside hitter Janelle Hester ripped off two inspirational kills. The Lady Backs, however, mounted a comeback and tied the frame at 18 after senior outside hitter Anna Velikanova tallied a service ace. With the match deadlocked at 24, Velikanova propelled Arkansas to a two-point advantage with a pair of kills. Soon afterwards, the Lady Razorbacks found themselves with an imposing 29-26 lead, but UT did not go quietly as a kill by senior outside hitter Kelli Scott and an assisted block by Knytych and Andre quickly set the score to 29-28. The Lady Vols jubilation was short-lived when Arkansas junior middle blocker Sara Kincaid recorded her fourth kill of the match on the next rally to give the Lady Razorbacks the win, 30-28.

Both teams recorded 19 kills in the second game, but Arkansas' .271 hitting percentage was the difference as UT only pieced together a .192 clip. Velikanova led the way with nine kills in the frame, while Hester paced the Lady Vols with six.

The Lady Razorbacks jumped on Tennessee early in the third frame by grabbing a 3-0 advantage. In a blink of an eye, their lead was suddenly eight, 14-6, after scoring seven unanswered points. UT responded with a 6-0 run to cut the Arkansas advantage to two, 14-12, but the Lady Razorbacks eventually pushed the lead to seven, 20-13, after a hitting miscue by the Lady Vols. Arkansas appeared to be in control of the match until its 25-17 advantage evaporated to 26-24 behind a solid defensive and offensive effort by UT. The Lady Razorbacks regrouped and claimed four of the next five rallies to end the Orange and White's hopes of advancing in the SEC Tournament with a 30-25 victory.

While Tennessee recorded more kills than Arkansas in the third round with a 14 to 10 advantage, the Lady Vols' 14 hitting errors proved to be their undoing.

During the third game, Scott tallied her 200th career service ace to become the only Lady Vol in UT history with 1,000 kills and digs and 200 aces.

Hester led UT's offensive attack on the evening with 13 kills on 36 attempts. Scott posted nine kills and 11 digs. Piantadosi and Andre both finished the match with six kills, while freshman outside hitter Jasmine Fullove had four kills and 13 digs. Knytych posted 36 assists, seven digs and two blocks as well for the Big Orange.

''I thought we played hard, but we didn't control the ball,'' said UT Head Coach Rob Patrick. ''We carried out our game plan, but our erratic passing put too much pressure on our outside hitters. Despite that, I was still proud of how we competed.''

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