Was it a case of running out of steam or a case of running into an experienced Big Ten bully?
Probably a convergence of both Friday night is what ended a memorable Tennessee volleyball season in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Ohio State, the seventh-place finisher in the Big Ten Conference, prevailed 3-2, eliminating the SEC champions on their home floor before a Thompson-Boling Arena crowd of 1,377.
It came down to a fifth set tied 12-12, with the crowd trying to nudge the 14th-seed Lady Vols to their 29th win and into the Sweet 16.
But the Buckeyes closed it out 15-12. Mariah Booth, a 6-foot-3 junior, killed a shot into the right side of Tennessee's backcourt and it was over.
"I want everyone to understand Ohio State played a great match," said UT coach Rob Patrick. "They were aggressive in all facets of the game.
"But some things caught up with us tonight. They just couldn't physically do some of the things they could do earlier in the year.
"The heart was there. The effort was there. The legs just wouldn't allow it to happen."
UT won the first set 25-23, but Ohio State won the second set 25-21 and the third, 25-23. Tennessee regrouped with a 25-22 win in the fourth set.
In the decisive fifth set, Ohio State kept the Lady Vols on their heels.
The Lady Vols finish 28-4. They hadn't lost since Oct. 12 at Kentucky.
With senior Kayla Jeter's season wiped out by a knee injury and redshirt freshman Stephanie Stoll diagnosed with lymphoma, Tennessee's freshmen had to be fast-tracked. Four rookies were in the rotation that also included sophomores Kelsey Robinson and Ellen Mullins.
One of them, setter Mary Pollmiller, recorded a career-high 19 digs against the Buckeyes. Another, Shea
lyn Kolosky, had her first double-double with 11 kills and 10 blocks.
"We recruited Shealyn Kolosky to start as a junior," Patrick said. "I think she missed two sets all year.
"We have 18-year-olds playing against 22-year-olds and the 18-year-olds have never been through our weight program or been here in the spring when we really train their technique.
"I had almost been waiting for this to happen and it didn't and it didn't and it didn't.
"We held out longer than I thought."
Ohio State's junior-heavy lineup advances to the Round of 16 in Gainesville, Fla., with a 21-14 record.
The Buckeyes are 8-0 against Tennessee and have eliminated two of UT's best teams from the tournament, in 2004 and 2011.
Two years ago, Minnesota, another Big Ten team, bumped off Tennessee in the second round at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"We were 9-11 in the Big Ten and happy to be 9-11 in the Big Ten," said coach Geoff Carlston.
"We played seven teams ranked number one. The Big Ten absolutely prepares us for this."
Six Big Ten teams reached the Round of 16 last year.
"It's disappointing," said Patrick, "because we don't get as much respect as I think we deserve for the University of Tennessee volleyball program.
"Unfortunately, we need to win matches like this to gain that respect."
There's always next year.
Everyone of note returns, including SEC player of the year Robinson. Jeter will be back and the freshmen will be sophomores.
"In January," said Robinson, "we'll all be coming back and that feeling (of disappointment) is going to be there.
"So you can expect next year to be a great year."