The Tennessee volleyball team (26-6, 16-2 SEC) lost to No. 16 seed Washington State (22-10,12-8 PAC-12) in four sets (28-30,18-25,25-19,25-13) on Saturday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The loss ended the Lady Vols’ season with their best finish in the tournament since 2011.
The Lady Vols’ comeback attempt was their second one in as many days. After trailing 0-2 on Friday to Colorado State, the Lady Vols found themselves in the same situation on Saturday, but they came up short against the Lady Cougars.
“We (had) been in this situation before, and (had) done this before,” junior Tessa Grubbs said. “We have the grit to do it and it was just a matter of execution is what it really came down to.”
Grubbs led the offensive attack with 21 kills on the night. Senior Erica Treiber was second on the team with 13 kills while recording the Lady Vols’ only service ace in the match and leading the team on Saturday with five blocks.
Freshman Lily Felts led the team in digs with 14 while also recording six kills. Sophomore Madison Coulter recorded 11 digs against the Lady Cougars. Sedona Hansen was third on the team in digs with 10, while leading the team in assists with 38.
The bright spot for the Lady Vols was the third set. After racing out to a 15-7 lead, Tennessee would close out the set and cruise in to the fourth set with some momentum.
“We were playing a lot cleaner and playing true Tennessee volleyball compared to what we did in those other sets,” Treiber said. “Our mentality was great going in because we knew we had the grit and were trying to give it all we had.”
As a whole, the match was competitive. The Lady Vols recorded 59 kills as a team compared to 58 from Washington State. The teams also stayed close in the defensive category, as Tennessee had 56 digs and the Lady Cougars recorded 60.
In the end, it was the hitting percentage with aces and blocks that made the difference in the match. The Lady Vols hit for a .219 percentage while making 25 attacking errors. The Lady Cougars hit for a .273 percentage throughout the match and only made 19 attacking errors.
Treiber recorded the lone ace for the Lady Vols while Washington State recorded six aces from three different players. Tennessee only had seven blocks on the defensive end, and that would prove to be out-matched by the Lady Cougars’ 13.
Tennessee’s season went longer than expected. After finishing 12-15 last year, the Lady Vols have out-performed expectations under the new coaching staff. Heading in to the offseason, the Lady Vols believe they have much to be proud of.
“I am proud of our team,” Coach Tyler Adams said. “Throughout the year, this team has found a way to win to get us to this point. Washington State played great … We were going to keep playing our game no matter what the score (was) and we are going to play our brand of volleyball.”