Lady Vols volleyball resets focus, bounces back against South Carolina

Rob Patrick was looking for focus.

Erupting from his courtside seat with applause, the Tennessee volleyball coach was getting what he wanted from his team, which took the first two sets against South Carolina on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Enter the errors.

"We lost focus, we did that against Arkansas on Friday," Patrick said.

But this time Tennessee had answers en route to an eventual 3-1 victory.

Taking a two-game advantage into the third set, the No. 21 Lady Vols (9-4, 2-2 SEC) surrendered five unanswered points to the Gamecocks (13-2 2-2), dropping the set 25-23.

"We did something we didn't do against Arkansas — we reset," Patrick said.

Enter the answers.

Tennessee fell behind 7-6 in the fourth set, but after a pair of Kelsey Robinson kills the Lady Vols never trailed.

Fronting the Lady Vols' response in the fourth set, Robinson tallied four kills and 11 digs.

"We almost lost our focus in the third set, almost," Patrick said. "We reset ourselves, so I am very happy with that. I was proud of how we closed that fourth set out."

A resilient Tennessee offense saw three players reach double digits in kills, helmed by Robinson who finished the afternoon with a team-best 21 kills and 22 digs.

"I think its more fun to watch (Robinson) play than it is to talk about her," Patrick said. "... When she is playing well it provides energy for our team. She really has an influence on how the team plays."

And the influence showed.

The Lady Vols had at least three players record double digits in kills, digs and assists.

"We were able to play together and fight through the down times and everything as a team today," Robinson said. "The team had great energy."

Sophomore Tiffany Baker provided the fourth-set energy, nailing down three kills in a five-point stretch to give the Lady Vols a late 23-19 advantage. Baker finished with 11 kills.

"If we can play like we did in the first two sets — that's how good we are. Really, we can be that good," Patrick said. "South Carolina got a little momentum on us so I was very proud how we closed that out in the last set."

Senior Kayla Jeter, who accounted for 13 of Tennessee's 75 points, believes the Lady Vols took a step in the right direction heading into their highly anticipated Wednesday night game against Kentucky.

"We have to focus on the little things," Jeter said. "We did a better job of that tonight. But Kentucky is a big fire game and rivalry for whatever reason. We really have to emphasize staying focused throughout the whole match."

Riley Blevins is a freelance contributor.

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