Tennessee 3, Minnesota
Tennessee 3, Minnesota 2Dec. 3, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee volleyball team (23-8) moved on to the NCAA Regional Championship rounds with a dramatic fourth-game comeback from 25-20 down for a 30-19, 24-30, 20-30, 30-27, 15-11 win over defending national finalist No. 17 Minnesota (25-8) on Saturday evening. The Lady Vols, seeded 15th nationally and ranked 23rd, will take on host and No. 2 Penn State (31-2) at either 4 or 6 p.m. on Friday. The other semifinal match will see No. 10 Missouri (24-4) play seventh-ranked Hawaii (27-6).
In the fourth game tonight, the Lady Vols held on by a tenuous thread. Minnesota's biggest edge came at 23-17 and the Golden Gophers had a commanding 25-20 lead before Tennessee, determined not to let its season end, stormed back with an incredible rally, going on an 8-1 run for a 28-26 lead. After a Minnesota point, a kill from sophomore outside hitter Yuliya Stoyanvoa (Sofia, Bulgaria) set up game point at 29-27. At that point, Minnesota's Jessy Jones, a middle blocker, went up for an attack and 5-9 senior setter Julie Knytych (LaGrange Park, Ill.) blocked it straight down on Minnesota's side of the court to clinch the 30-27 win and keep Tennessee's season alive.
The fifth game was all Tennessee as the Lady Vols rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 UM leads for 9-4 and 12-6 advantages. At that point, the Golden Gophers rallied for four straight points to cut the lead to two at 12-10, but kills from Andre and Blum gave UT match point at 14-10. Following a Golden Gopher kill, Blum sent a ball straight down to the middle of Minnesota's side of the court to earn Tennessee one of the most dramatic wins in school history.
Senior libero Amy Morris (Michigan City, Ind.) broke the school record for digs in a season as her match total of 15 moved her season sum to 455, breaking the former record of 445 held by Stephanie Ehlers (1988). She tied the mark with a dig in the 27th rally of the second game which resulted immediately in a kill from junior outside hitter Kelsey Fautsch (Chisago Lakes, Minn.) from freshman setter Chelsea Noble (Vandalia, Ohio). The record breaker came in the 36th rally of that game.
Leading the Lady Vols in digs was Knytych, just the third time this season she has done so. Fautsch contributed 12, while Noble had 11. Junior middle blocker Sarah Blum (Tulsa, Okla.) set the pace in blocks with seven.
Offensively, Stoyanova had 16 kills to lead the Lady Vols in that category, while senior middle blocker Kristen Andre (Kelseyville, Calif.) and Fautsch had 14 each and Blum tallied 10. Knytych had 35 assists in the contest.
Knytych and Fautsch each earned double-doubles in the match..
The first game was close early as neither team had greater than a two-point advantage until UT grabbed a 10-7 edge before extending it to 15-9. The lead extended once again to 10 at 24-14 and 25-15 before the Lady Vols had their greatest advantage at the end of 30-19.
Minnesota took immediate control of the second game by scoring five-of-six points to start the stanza, but Tennessee rallied to tie the contest, 7-7. Minnesota responded with a 6-1 run and a 13-8 lead. From the point that the Golden Gophers had a 13-9 lead until their 25-21 advantage, the edge fluctuated from 2-4 points. Minnesota then pulled away for the 30-24 win.
The Golden Gophers had control of the third game throughout, never relinquishing the lead and grabbing a 16-7 advantage on the strength of a 6-0 run and claimed the 30-20 win. The highest advantage of 11 came at 24-13, 26-15 and 28-17.
Tennessee has now won all 13 home matches this season, 19 straight and 28-of-29 contests played in Knoxville dating back to 2003.
The Lady Vols next play in State College, Pa. The two semifinal winners will play at 4 p.m. next Saturday live on ESPNU for a spot in the national semifinal round in San Antonio, Texas.
-- Courtesy Tennessee