Coach Rob Patrick has a vision of what he wants his Tennessee volleyball team to look like at the end of the season.
Returning SEC player of the year Kelsey Robinson is leaping up in the middle of that picture.
"We go,'' Patrick said, "as Kelsey Robinson goes.''
Robinson took over Saturday night, leading the 15th-ranked Lady Vols to a five-set victory over 10th-ranked Iowa State in the Comcast Lady Vol Classic, 20-25, 26-24, 19-25, 25-20 and 15-4.
The 6-foot-2 junior recorded career highs with 29 kills and six aces, including a laser-like serve on game point that sealed the hard-fought victory before the crowd of 1,762 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
"My mindset was to get every point, and I was going for it. The crowd was up, and I was into it,'' Robinson said. "Winning this match means so much ... it means we can compete with anybody in the country.''
Robinson nailed down five of her 29 kills in the decisive fifth set after being seemingly everywhere on the court throughout the 2½-hour match, adding 14 digs to her stat line.
"That's what Kelsey does,'' Patrick said. "Kelsey was a special player coming out of high school (ranked 19th nationally), and I told her we're going to be great when you lead this team.
"She's realized she can have a huge effect on the team; she's like Michael Jordan, she makes players around her better.''
Florida State, ranked No. 12, defeated the Cyclones earlier Saturday in a rematch of an Elite Eight contest last season, 23-25, 25-23, 25-11, 25-27, 15-11 to finish with a 3-0 record.
The Lady Vols topped Cincinnati (0-3) Saturday morning (25-12, 23-25, 25-19, 25-14) before upsetting Iowa State (1-2).
The Cyclones got the jump on UT in the first set with well-placed kills into crevices of the UT defense en route to the first-set victory.
UT came back in the second set, largely behind Robinson, who showed the type of resolve one would expect from a team leader.
Robinson drove a kill shot home to spark a 5-0 run after the Cyclones had jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
With the set on the line and the fans on their feet, Robinson delivered a roll shot that found empty hardwood to seal the win.
Iowa State took care of business after the set break, methodically taking apart the Lady Vols to go up 2-1.
Tennessee stubbornly volleyed back with a win to force the fifth and decisive set, and Robinson took over from there.
The Lady Vols return to action at Wichita State's Shocker Volleyball Classic against Colorado State at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee athletics. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32