Tennessee 3, Texas A&M 1



KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee volleyball team (32-2) topped Texas A&M (19-9) on Saturday night, 30-21, 24-30, 30-23, 32-30, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1984. The Lady Vols, seeded 12th nationally, will face No. 5 Ohio State (29-3) on Friday in Minneapolis, Minn., at either 5 or 7 p.m. CST.

The Orange and White have now won two NCAA Tournament matches in the same year for the first time in school history. The Big Orange reached the regional semifinals three consecutive years from 1982-84, having advanced with a trio of first round victories in the smaller brackets. Tennessee has never advanced to a regional final.

With the win over the Aggies, ranked No. 18 in the final regular-season USA Today/CSTV Coaches Top 25 poll, Tennessee improves its 2004 mark against ranked opposition to 6-1. Prior to this season, the Lady Vols had won three matches against elite competition in the past 22 years combined and nine overall. Six wins occurred in 1982 alone.

UT now has run off 14 straight wins, its longest such streak since the 1980 squad won 22 consecutive from Oct. 2-31.

Leading the offense for the Orange and White in the historic win were junior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif. / Kelseyville H.S.) with 18 kills and a .333 hitting percentage (18-5-39) and senior outside hitter Michelle Piantadosi (Boca Raton, Fla. / Olympic Heights H.S.), who also had 18 kills to go with seven blocks, one off her career block record.

Sophomore middle blocker Sarah Blum (Tulsa, Okla. / Bishop Kelley H.S.) had two match highs, a .417 hitting percentage (11-1-24) and eight blocks, while freshman outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanova (Sofia, Bulgaria / 81 SOU Victor Hugo H.S.) and junior outside hitter Amy Morris (Michigan City, Ind. / Penn State) compiled 10 kills each.

Junior setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill. / Lyons Township H.S.) tallied 56 assists, her fifth-highest total in a four-game match this season. Sophomore libero Cynthia Buggs (Compton, Calif. / Long Beach Poly H.S.) tallied 28 digs, the second-highest total by a Lady Vol this year, while Morris had 19 and recorded her 17th double-double of the season.

The first game saw Texas A&M take an early 5-2 advantage and hold the lead until UT ran off six straight points helped by five Aggie attack errors and a kill from Knytych for a 17-13 Lady Vol advantage. The Big Orange would keep the Aggies at bay the rest of the way, winning, 30-21.

In the second game, the Aggies once again came out strong, grabbing early 3-0 and 5-2 leads, but UT would come back to take the advantage, 8-7. After a 19-19 tie, Texas A&M outscored the Lady Vols, 11-5, the rest of the way to win, 30-24, to tie the match at one.

Tennessee dominated game three, taking a 28-16 lead until Texas A&M went on a 7-1 run before an Aggie service error ended the rally and gave UT the final point and a 30-23 victory.

Texas A&M nursed a lead throughout game four, never letting UT take greater than a one-point advantage until the final rally. From the time UT led, 20-19, until the Lady Vols had a 31-30 advantage, neither team could muster greater than a one-point lead. After Texas A&M took a 26-25 lead, the teams traded the next nine rallies. UT fought back from two game points to score the final three points for the 32-30 victory.

In the other regional semifinal in Minnesota on Friday, Georgia Tech (27-6) will face host and fourth-seeded Minnesota (30-4). Match times for the two contests will be at 5 and 7 p.m. CST with the game time assignments still to be made. The regional final begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday and will be broadcast nationally by CSTV.

-- Courtesy Tennessee