The loss also marks the conclusion of the collegiate careers of UT's four seniors: Carol Cheade, Farren Powe, Kylie Marshall and Chloe Goldman. The quartet led the Big Orange to an impressive 76-48 record during its time at Rocky Top, including a pair of 20-win seasons, three appearances in the NCAA Tournament and six victories over nationally-ranked squads.
Goldman and Marshall concluded their careers ranked first and third, respectively, on Tennessee's all-time career digs chart. The 2009 Southeastern Conference Libero of the Year, Goldman finished with an unbelievable 1,755 digs, breaking the previous school record by 281 and placing her fourth in the SEC record book. Marshall, meanwhile, scooped up 1,374 attacks during her four years in Knoxville. Powe will also be able to find her name in the UT annals, as she finished with a career hitting percentage of .274, good for ninth all-time.
Nikki Fowler ended her junior year on a high note, notching her 15th straight double-double with team-high totals of 11 kills and 13 digs in the loss to the Gophers. The two-time All-SEC First Team selection was the team's top offensive weapon in 2009, finishing with the team lead in kills (459), kills per set (3.79), attacks (1268), points (542.0) and points per set (4.48). She currently ranks 12th on Tennessee's career kills chart and will need 526 in her senior season to break the school record.
Minnesota got off to a quick start in the opening set, utilizing kills from Ariana Filho and Megan Wilson, as well as a block from the duo of Hailey Cowles and Lauren Gibbemeyer, to grab a 3-0 advantage. The Lady Vols rallied right back to tie the count at 3-3 with the benefit of a Minnesota hitting error, a kill from Marshall and a service ace from Fowler.
After each squad registered a service miscue to set the count at 4-4, the Golden Gophers erupted on a 10-2 run to take firm control of the frame at 14-6 behind a string of solid swings from Tabitha Love, Wilson, Gibbemeyer and Taylor Carico. During UM's spurt, the Orange & White scored its points via a Gopher offensive miscue and a kill from sophomore setter Kelsey Mahoney.
Following a successful blast by UT sophomore outside hitter Kayla Jeter to cut the Lady Vols' deficit to seven points, Minnesota ran off the next four tallies, highlighted by a pair of kills by Cowles. UM's advantage bounced between 10 and 11 tallies until Tennessee benefited from consecutive hitting errors from Cowles and Wilson to draw within 24-15. Unfortunately, Wilson quickly hammered a ball in the court to clinch the first set for the Gophers, 25-15. Marshall led the UT offense with three kills in the first set while Jeter and Fowler recorded two each. Minnesota out-hit the Lady Vols by a .350-.135 total and registered 18 kills to UT's nine.
Looking to even the match on the scoreboard in the second set, Tennessee got off to a promising start as a pair of UM attack errors and a kill from Fowler granted UT a 3-1 advantage. Wilson and Gibbemeyer delivered consecutive kills, Jeter answered for Tennessee and then Gibbemeyer blasted another ball home to deadlock the set at 4-4. A pair of Lady Vol attack miscues and a Gopher service ace granted Minnesota some breathing room at 7-4, but the Orange and White posted a pair of Fowler kills to draw even once again at 8-8.
The two teams traded the lead back and forth with a Fowler service ace and a hitting miscue by UM's Katherine Harms granting UT what proved to be its final lead of the set at 13-12. Unfortunately for the hosts, the Golden Gophers erupted on another big run, this one 13-3, to finish off the second set, 25-16. Fowler led the Big Orange offense with four kills while Jeter recorded three.
Despite a kill from Jeter and two from the right arm of Fowler, Minnesota raced out to an 8-4 lead in what would prove to be the final set. UT managed to move within three points at 10-7 after a Marshall kill, 11-8 and 13-10 after UM attack errors. Much as in the previous two sets, Minnesota managed a key spurt, this one a 6-1 run to nab a 19-11 lead. That's when the Fowler jump serve began to pay dividends as Tennessee strung together three straight points to claw back within five tallies and force a Minnesota time out in an attempt to settle things down.
The break worked as the Gophers managed three consecutive kills to stretch its lead out to 22-14.
Junior middle blocker Leah Hinkey delivered a kill, but UM answered right back on a swing from Tabitha Love. With the score 23-16, Jeter and senior middle blocker Farren Powe managed a big block in the middle and then Powe drove one home to cut the gap to just five tallies. Minnesota wouldn't be denied, however, as Filho hammered two straight kills to secure the set 25-18 and the match, 3-0.