Dec. 5, 2008

Courtesy Clemson Athletics

CLEMSON - Clemson's seniors Danielle Hepburn and Jeannette Abbott helped lead their team to victory Friday night against the Tennessee Lady Vols in Jervey Gym. The Tigers won in five sets (25-19, 19-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-12) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This marks the first time that Clemson has advanced to the second round if the play-offs in back-to-back years.

"We are thrilled that we won tonight," said Clemson Head Coach Jolene Hoover. "It was a great match. Tennessee gave us everything we could handle. I thought we did an excellent job in continuing to fight. When they went up on us our team had great patience so we could take back the lead. We also played really well defensively."

Clemson will play Utah in the second round of the NCAA tournament Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in Jervey Gym

The Tigers routed the Vols 25-19 in the first set to establish a tempo. Clemson was led by ACC Player-of-the-Year Hepburn early on. Down 1-0, Hepburn had a kill to even the score. Then, being down 4-1, Hepburn started the Tigers 3-0 comeback with a kill. From there, Abbott took over as she had back-to-back kills that ignited 7-0 run for the Tigers. They led 11-5. The Vols were resilient, however, and went on a 3-0 run to bring the deficit to four (15-11). But, after two kills from Hepburn and a couple from Abbott and Lia Proctor, the Tigers closed out the set. Abbott and Hepburn had five kills and four respectively.

Tennessee rebounded during the second match and defeated Clemson 25-19. After a kill and a block from Abbott, Clemson led 4-2. Yet, Tennessee's Farren Powe killed the ball followed by a kill from Kylie Marshall. Later in the match tied at eight, the Vols went on a 4-0 run to lead 12-8. Marshall contributed two serving aces during that run. Clemson then turned around and had a 3-0 run led by kills from Abbott and Hepburn to come within one point (12-11). Tennessee continued making little runs and it proved to be too much for Clemson.

Emotions were high during the third set of the match. The two teams went back and forth with points in the beginning. Kelsey Murphy blocked the ball to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. The Vols had two kills in a row from Alyssa Hilby and Kelsey Mahoney. The Vols then gave a point to the Tigers with a serving error from Hilby. The Vols were leading 10-9 when Clemson went on a 3-0 run with kills from Abbott and Hepburn. The third point came from a red card given to Tennessee Head Coach Rob Patrick. Clemson dominated after the incident. They went on a 7-0 run to lead 20-12. Tennessee continued to fight but were ultimately defeated 25-19.

The roller coaster continued as Tennessee barely beat Clemson 25-23. Clemson jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Vols' Nikki Fowler put them on the scoreboard. Down 7-4, Tennessee scored three straight times with kills from Milan Clarke and Marshall and a block from Hilby. Tied at nine, Marshall had a kill to take the lead. Clemson took the lead back (13-12) after a 3-0 run with a key kill from Hepburn. Down 16-14, Tennessee went on a 5-0 run. Late in the game down 21-19, Clemson's Hepburn had a block and a kill back-to-back. Abbott then killed the ball. Clemson took the lead 22-21. Mindy Flynn killed the ball for Tennessee to tie the game at 22. Hepburn retaliated with a kill to take the lead. But, Tennessee would score the last two points to take the match to a fifth set.

Abbott had three kills in the 8-0 early run for the Tigers. They led 10-2. The game was not over though. Tennessee inched their way back into the game with their serving and offensive attack. Down 13-6, Tennessee went on a 5-0 run to come within two points (13-11). Proctor killed the ball to widen the lead. It only seemed fitting that Hepburn, who had the first initial kill for the Tigers in set one would have the final kill in set five. Clemson won the set 15-12.

"We had great starts in all the games," said Coach Hoover. "It would have been great to win game four, but we didn't. So it was key for us to be positive going into the fifth match."

Abbott led the Tigers with 17 kills. Hepburn followed with 16 and Proctor had 14.