Volleyball team to open NCAA play

Volleyball Coach Rob Patrick (Lady Vols photo)

For the fifth time in the past six seasons, the 24th-ranked University of Tennessee volleyball team (23-7) will take part in the NCAA Tournament as it is set to host the first and second rounds this weekend at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

The Lady Volunteers will open the competition against Atlantic Coast Conference-foe Duke (27-5) at 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4. The winner of that contest will take on either No. 11 Minnesota (24-8) or Louisville (21-10) at 7 p.m. the following day.

Live stats and video for all matches is available for free at UTLadyVols.com. Roger Hoover will provide the play-by-play for the live video stream.

Ticket sales will start on Friday with prices set at $6 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens and $4 for children. Friday's ticket is good for both matches and doors will open 60 minutes prior to the first match.

The Orange and White is 6-5 in NCAA Tournament matches under Head Coach Rob Patrick, including four victories in its run to the Final Four in 2005. Overall, UT is an even 10-10 all-time in the tournament.

Tennessee finished the 2009 regular season on quite a roll, winning 17 of its final 20 matches en route to a 23-7 overall record and 16-4 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Big Orange was especially impressive down the stretch, claiming a pair of victories over top-15 opponents in a span of just five days, defeating No. 13 Florida on Nov. 20 and 10th-ranked Kentucky on Nov. 25.

A school-record tying five Lady Vols picked up All-SEC honors following the conclusion of the regular season, highlighted by senior Chloe Goldman who was named the league's libero of the year. She was also tabbed to the All-SEC First Team alongside junior Nikki Fowler, while senior Farren Powe and sophomore Kayla Jeter earned second-team honors and Leslie Cikra was named to the all-freshman squad.

One of the best defensive teams in the nation, Tennessee finished the regular season on top of the SEC charts in all three major defensive categories, giving up a league-low .161 opponent hitting percentage and averaging 2.72 blocks and 16.42 digs per set for the year. Entering the NCAA Tournament, the team ranks 14th in the nation in blocking. Individually, both Powe and junior Leah Hinkey place among the top 50 players in the country at 44 and 50, respectively, with block per set averages of 1.21 and 1.18. Goldman, meanwhile, topped all SEC performers and ranks 53rd in the nation with 4.75 digs per set.

The winner in Saturday's match will advance to the Minneapolis Regional, which is set to take place Dec. 11-12. The regional winners will then move on to the National Semifinals and Finals hosted by the University of South Florida and Tampa Sports Commission at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 17 and 19.

InsideTennessee.com Recommended Stories