The 19th-ranked Tennessee volleyball team prevailed in an exhibition match against High Point at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday, sweeping the Panthers in Saturday’s contest.
“Our team has great chemistry and I have never been apart of a team that has been so close,” Lily Felts said. “We are all really great friends and we are all just close with each one of the girls. This great chemistry we have helps us to be successful out on the court and to have fun even in stressful situations.”
The Lady Vols decided to give a majority of playing time to three freshman. Setter Kailey Keeble, right side Morgahn Fingall, and defensive speciality/libero Madisen Werdell all saw the court for the first time for the weekend bout.
Tennessee won each of their first two sets by nine points, 25-16, 25-16. Both sets started out close but midway through, Tennessee pulled away in both of them. Looking to build on the momentum they captured a year ago, the Lady Vols’ focus on pressure situations during practice was on full display
“Everyday in practice we are competing hard and play against each other, so when we do get into those close situations we are able to pull away,” Felts said. “We do a lot of drills that simulate close matches on a regular basis.”
The third set stood as an outlier as the Lady Vols won that set 25-11. It ended as Keeble set up Fingall on the right pin as the freshman belted it through the seam to give Tennessee the evening’s victory.
“We have lots to work on but I really liked what I saw defensively, I liked what I saw in blocking, and I liked what I saw in serving,” head coach Eve Rackham said. “Typically your serve has a direct correlation between your block and your defense. We were really good at what we have been practicing and it helped today to play someone to show you what to work on.”
Tennessee will be tested this Friday as No. 6 Illinois comes to Knoxville to kick off the regular season.
This is the second consecutive season in which the Lady Vols have started the season against a ranked Big Ten team. Last season, Tennessee played against Michigan State in a four-set win at home.
“My number one goal for this year is to help us settle into our system, where I felt like it was so new to everyone but this year with all of our returners I hope it makes everything really seamless,” Rackham said. “Today we did well on blocking and returning and the relationship between the two are really strong.”
Focusing on the fundamentals and helping her group settle into the grind that is the regular season, Rackham couldn’t hide her level of excitement in regards to those aspects following the match.
“I am excited about that. Last year we never got to where we thought we could get to but this year we will be able to.”
SEC Network will air the match against the Fighting Illini this Friday at 8:00 p.m ET.