The last time the Tennessee volleyball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the freshmen on the team were most likely still in sixth grade. On Friday night, for the first time since 2011, the 19th ranked Lady Vols extended their wave of momentum, beating the Colorado State Rams in five sets (26-28, 20-25, 25-18, 25-21, 15-12) to extend their Tournament run.
It marks just the 10th time in program history Tennessee will make it to the second round and is also its 12th consecutive win. It was not an easy win, however.
Things looked grim early on, as Colorado State rumbled to an early lead, taking the first two sets in close fashion. Needing just one more set-win to seal the entire match, the crucial third set began.
Things slipped out of control for the Rams quickly, as the Lady Vols jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead. They would extend this lead the entire set, never trailing on their way to a 25-18 victory, keeping their hopes alive.
Six Tennessee players finished with multiple kills, and Danielle Mahaffey was responsible for the one that sealed it. Still, Colorado State just needed one more set to take the entire match, and the fourth set was do-or-die for the Lady Vols.
For a time, it was neck-and-neck, with each team trading kills, and the set wound up tied at five points apiece. Back-to-back kills by Tessa Grubbs, a member of the All-SEC team, sparked Tennessee, and it would once more not trail on its way to a 25-21 set victory.
Now, the momentum had completely shifted. The Rams had worn out their cushion and were now on the receiving end of a 2-0 deficit. As it always does, that momentum changed directions once more.
Colorado State came out swinging in the decisive fifth set, jumping out to a 5-4 lead. After that, both teams would swap runs until they found themselves knotted at 11-11. As the box score indicates, the Lady Vols would finish on a 4-1 run to seize the final set, and victory.
Senior Erica Treiber, another All-SEC team selection, was responsible for the winning kill.
Freshman Lily Felts was an offensive force for Tennessee, setting a career high 19 kills, a team high. She was active on the defensive side as well, tying her career high in digs with 15.
The Lady Vols will play the winner of Northern Arizona and the host team, Washington State, in the next round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday evening.