Lady Vols improve to 30-2 with the 3-0 sweep over Big East runners-up Pittsburgh
The 10th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team defeated Pittsburgh, 30-23, 30-24, and 30-25, on Friday afternoon to win its 30th match of the season against only two defeats along with its 12th straight.
The last time the Lady Vols had reached the 30-win mark came in 1983 when UT went 31-10, while the last win streak of 12 matches or greater at Rocky Top occurred in 1980 when the Big Orange ran off 22 straight from Oct. 2-31.
The Lady Vols also went 9-0 in November, its second undefeated month (with at least four matches played) in school history. UT went undefeated in August 2002 (3-0), August 1996 (2-0), August 1990 (1-0), September 1981 (1-0) and September 1979 (6-0).
“I thought the team carried out the game plan very well,” Head Coach Rob Patrick said. “We did a good job of containing their outside hitters who have carried their team throughout the year. The one thing I was very happy about was how hard the team played. I didn’t think we were focused the entire match, but we overcame that by playing hard during the points.
Having 70 digs in three games really tells you how hard we played and that’s something this team takes a lot of pride in, defense. We did a good job of playing consistently, not making too many unforced hitting, serving or serve receive errors.
“I was glad to see Sarah Blum have a good offensive day and I thought Cynthia Buggs and Amy Morris did a great job of starting our offense and transition offense with their passing and digging.”
In the middle of the second game, junior setter Julie Knytych recorded her 1,524th assist of the season to set a new Lady Vol record, surpassing the 1,523 tallied by Erica Lear in 2000. She finished with 49 on the match and currently has 1,549 on the season.
“Julie is one of the most underrated setters in the country,” Patrick said. “She has done a great job, including this match, of setting a very diversified offense and she’s done a great job of setting her hitters at the right times. She is very deserving of this record as was Erica Lear when she set the record.”
Tennessee jumped out to an 18-11 lead in game one and never looked back, prevailing, 30-23.
The second game saw Knytych tie and surpass the Lady Vol single-season assist record. She assisted a kill from junior middle blocker Kristen Andre into the middle of the floor to give UT a 13-8 lead to tie the mark. The record-breaker came on an assist to sophomore middle blocker Sarah Blum, which ricocheted off a Panther and into the net before hitting the ground. The Big Orange took a 16-11 lead with that point before taking its biggest advantage of the game at seven, 19-12 and 28-21. UT won, 30-25.
In the third game, Pittsburgh took a pair of four-point advantages at 12-8 and 16-12 before Tennessee ran off four straight to tie the game, 16-16. After the teams traded six consecutive rallies, the Lady Vols ran off four more points for a 22-19 lead. Although the Panthers stayed close, UT would be victorious, 30-25.Andre hit .478 (14-3-23) to lead the Lady Vol attack, while Blum and senior outside hitter Michelle Piantadosi were not far behind. Blum hit .474 (10-1-19), while Piantadosi hit at a .467 clip (9-2-15). Freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova recorded 10 kills.
Defensive leaders included sophomore libero Cynthia Buggs who tallied 23 digs, while junior outside hitter Amy Morris had 12. Blum recorded six blocks to lead UT in that category.
The Lady Vols next await the NCAA Selection Show, which will begin at 6:45 p.m. on Sunday and can be viwed on ESPNews.
As the SEC Tournament champion, the Lady Vols automatically qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Big Orange will see who its opponent will be for the First Round, whether or not it will be a host for the First and Second Rounds and what the date its First Round match will be. The First and Second Rounds will be held on consecutive days December 2-5.