The Big Orange picked up a pair of key road wins this past weekend to extend its league-best winning streak to nine matches.
The streak marks the second longest during UT Head Coach Rob Patrick's tenure and the fifth-best run in program history. The Lady Vols, who have swept six consecutive contests, downed both Arkansas and Ole Miss in three frames each.
Leading the way offensively for the Orange and White was senior Milan Clarke who pounded out a team-high 25 kills over the weekend with match-high totals of 15 and 10 against the Razorbacks and Rebels, respectively.
Defensively, junior libero Chloe Goldman tallied a total of 40 digs to pace the Lady Vols. The Monterey, Calif., native recorded a match-high 25 at Arkansas, marking the third highest three-set match total in UT history, before collecting 15 against Ole Miss just two days later. With her strong weekend, Goldman was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season after regaining the conference lead with 5.10 digs per set in league play.
Following this weekend's contests, Tennessee will finish off the regular season with a pair of road matches. The Lady Vols will first face Auburn at 1:30 p.m. CT Nov. 23, before making the trip to Lexington, Ky., for a showdown with No. 22 Kentucky in its season finale at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28.
The hard-hitting Gator offense features a number of options, including five different players who have recorded over 100 kills this season. Leading the attack is freshman phenom Kelly Murphy who not only leads the team with 260 kills and 3.25 kills per set, but paces the squad with 459 assists and a .374 hitting percentage as well.
To top things off, she also ranks second on the team with 134 digs (1.67/set) and fourth with 23 blocks (0.43/set). During conference play, Murphy is third in the league with a .389 attack average and sixth with 3.49 kills per set.
Florida holds a 38-9-1 advantage over Tennessee all-time after claiming a 3-0 victory in Gainesville earlier this season. Although the Gators have won the past five contests between the two squads, most of the Orange and White's success against UF has come in the last four seasons. Over the last eight matches against the Gators, UT has been able to come away with three of their nine victories in the all-time series.
VOLLEYBALL SIGNEE: The Tennessee volleyball program has signed Leslie Cikra from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, who is ranked as the nation's No. 11-ranked recruit by PrepVolleyball.com, Lady Vol Head Coach Rob Patrick announced Thursday.
The 6'3 front-row player is UT's second recruit out of the state of Ohio in the past two seasons and will join the team in the fall of 2009.
"I am very excited about Leslie's potential," Patrick said. "She is a multidimensional front-row player who can play either right-side, outside hitter or middle blocker and is already touching 10'4" without the benefit of a proper weight-training program. She will add a lot of length and athleticism to our program next year, which is quite a statement when you look at who we will have returning on our roster.
"Leslie could be a lot like Mindy Flynn in the respect that she can play any of the three front-row positions effectively. She can hit every tempo set and has the ability to hit off either one or two feet. Leslie also has a great attitude and has really taken her game up a notch over the past year while playing for the Renaissance Volleyball Club out of Cleveland. She has really received some great coaching and we feel like she will be able to come in and immediately play at a high level for us."
In addition to being listed as No. 11 on PrepVolleyball.com's 2008 Senior Aces List, Cikra was also named a top-50 junior recruit by the Web site in 2007. The Chagrin Falls H.S. product was named to the Ohio State Volleyball Coaches Association (OHSVA) District II First Team in both 2007 and 2008 and earned Chagrin Valley Conference honors in 2006 and 2007, being named to the second and first teams, respectively. This year, she has claimed All-Ohio Third Team accolades, as well as The News Herald Player of the Week laurels.
A member of the Renaissance VBC from 2005 to present, Cikra has helped her club squad win a number of championships. During her first year on the team, it claimed titles at both the East Coast Championships and the Ohio Valley Region (OVR) Regional Tournament. In 2006, Cikra's team emerged victorious at the OVR National Bid Tournament before placing fifth at the USA Volleyball Junior Nationals in Atlanta.
Cikra's club team repeated its sixth-place performance at the national competition in Minneapolis the next season after winning the Best of America Tournament. This past summer, Cikra led Renaissance VBC to a ninth-place showing at the 2008 nationals in Dallas, Texas.
Her success is not limited to the volleyball court either, as she has staked claim to a number of academic awards over the past two years as well. After earning the Principle's Academic Distinction Award as a junior in 2007, Cikra was named the recipient of the Principle's Cum Laude Award in 2008, in addition to earning a spot in the President's Education Awards Program. She is also a member of the art and recycling clubs and helps teach volleyball to middle school and elementary-aged children.