The No. 19 Tennessee volleyball team went the distance against No. 6 Illinois, but lost in five sets in front of a record-setting crowd of 3,342 inside Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday.
“The crowd was incredible, and it was probably the largest crowd I have ever seen and they brought the energy which helps us so much with home court advantage,” senior Sedona Hansen said. “We have a lot to work on, but it is only the first match and we are gonna play them again at their home on Sunday.”
Tennessee (0-1) took the first two sets to the tune of 26-24, and 25-23, respectively. The Fighting Illini captured the momentum and won set three, 25-22, and set four, 25-17. The final set came down to extended play with Illinois (1-0) prevailing with a 21-20 victory in set five with the match ending in favor of Illinois, 3-2.
Tessa Grubbs, former All-American, set a personal best 29 kills in the match. Grubbs is now tied for ninth in program history and tied for the most in the 25-point rally-scoring era. She also became the 22nd member of the 1,000-kill club in Lady Vols history.
Hansen earned her first double-double of the young season and added to her all-time total to make it 48. Hansen led her team in assists with 47, and tied a team high in digs, 29, which also marks a career best for her.
“We are going to rely on them a lot, they are senior veteran players who have played in a lot of matches and have a ton of experience,” said head coach Eve Rackham. “Sedona leads the way with her decision making, she runs the floor, and she is an incredible defender. Tessa had a tremendous night and when we have a player like her we know we are going to rely on her and she knows that is her role, and she definitely did that tonight and we need that to continue.”
Madison Coulter finished the match with 29 digs, which ties her career high. The last time she achieved this was in the 2018 NCAA Tournament against Colorado State in the first round.
Illinois’ unanimous Preseason All-Big Ten honoree, Jacqueline Quade, led her team with 30 kills with Morgan Cooney and Ashlyn Fleming following with 17 and 15, respectively. Diana Brown was Illinois’ assist leader with 61.
“They are a really good serving team and they have a First-Team All-American on the outside who we had a really hard time stopping,” said Rackham. “I think they exposed us from the service line quite a bit as the match went on. Our defense also began to get a little undisciplined but that is what good teams do, they get you out of your comfort zone.”
Up next for the Lady Vols is a trip to Champaign, Illinois to finish up the home-and-home weekend with Illinois. This match will take place on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
Illinois was 15-2 when they played at home last season and lost to two ranked opponents in Minnesota and Wisconsin.