Lady Vols volleyball sweeps Mississippi State, await NCAA draw

'It's time to refocus' after sweep

Knoxville, TN - November, 23 2012:  Setter Bianca Arellano #1 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers during the SEC matchup between the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Photo By Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics

Photo by Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Ath, University of Tennessee Athletics

Knoxville, TN - November, 23 2012: Setter Bianca Arellano #1 of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers during the SEC matchup between the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Photo By Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics

Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee setter Bianca Arellano hits a shot against Mississippi State on Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Photo by Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Ath

Matthew S. DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics Tennessee setter Bianca Arellano hits a shot against Mississippi State on Friday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Their journey began back on Aug. 24 on a false step, getting swept 3-0 by a very good Florida State team.

They ended it Friday night with a confident stride, sweeping a bad Mississippi State team 3-0 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

In between, Tennessee's volleyball team rattled through more ups and downs than expected in an unsuccessful defense of its 2011 SEC crown.

"I don't think we're done yet,'' Kelsey Robinson said after slamming 15 kills on the Bulldogs (4-25, 0-20 SEC). "It's time to refocus.''

The regular season is done. The Lady Vols finished 22-7, 15-5 SEC, after having their way with Mississippi State, 25-10, 25-15, 25-22.

A consensus preseason pick to repeat as SEC champions after going 19-1 in 2011, Tennessee was undone by a 2-3 start in the conference race. Florida claimed the title at 19-1 (its only loss to UT).

But Tennessee finished with 13 wins in its final 15 matches and can let bygones be bygones if it succeeds at that other goal that's still on the table.

Sunday, the NCAA tournament draw will reveal UT's challenge in the 64-team bracket.

"Last year,'' said senior Leslie Cikra, "it was always a goal to win the SEC championship. This year we started talking about the national championship right off the bat.

"So it's disappointing not to be able to finish where we really wanted to in the SEC as well, but everybody has a focus to go into this with a new mindset.''

Several injuries and lineup shuffles took a toll early, even though virtually everyone was back from 2011, plus the addition of Kayla Jeter, who missed last season due to knee surgery.

"We went into the season thinking we were top guns,'' Robinson said, "and teams were going to have to play hard to beat us. It just didn't happen like that.

"Sometimes you need that little slap in the face to say, 'hey, any team can beat you,' to be successful at the end of the season.''

Coach Rob Patrick hasn't lost the slightest bit of confidence the Lady Vols can still be successful at the end of this season.

Success would at least be getting past the second round, UT's stumbling block the past three seasons.

Patrick bid on a home match, but won't know until Sunday if UT is one of 16 hosts. Meanwhile, he's monitoring outside hitter Tiffany Baker, who has missed five matches due to a knee injury. She's day-to-day.

"I feel good about where we're at,'' Patrick said.

"We've won a lot of good matches. We have a pretty good resume that I'm really happy about.

"We have multiple top-25 wins and a lot of top-50 wins. We'll just have to see.''

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Comments » 1

SummittsCourt writes:

congrats Lady Vols!

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