The Tennessee women’s volleyball team completed the weekend series sweep against No. 16 Missouri Saturday night with a three-set win (25-22, 25-17, 25-22). The Lady Vols improved to 6-4 (6-4 SEC) on the year, while the Tigers dropped to 8-4 (8-4 SEC).
Tennessee was led by sophomore Morghan Fingall, who turned in a season-high 16 kills, 35 total attacks and a 42.9 hitting percentage.
“What I liked the most was (Fingall’s) mentality about just going after it,” Tennessee head coach Eve Rackham Watt said. “She got some good sets, she got some out of rhythm sets. We used her in servicing, in transition, in front row, back row, she was getting all kinds of different balls. And I just like the way that she went after it aggressively, and took a lot of really good, smart swings.”
Junior Lily Felts was second among the Lady Vols with nine kills, 20 attacks, but led the team in hitting percentage (45%).
Missouri struck first in the match’s opening set, with Anna D’Cruz getting the kill. The Tigers stayed hot, and took a 7-4 advantage, forcing Tennessee to take its first timeout. Following the break, Mizzou took as large as a 12-7 lead, before Tennessee started to rally.
“I feel like it took us about half a set in the first, but once we hit our stride, we felt pretty confident,” Rackham Watt said.
The Lady Vols’ defense stepped up in a big way in the first set. The group kept Tennessee within striking range of the Tigers, with Natalie Hayward and Danielle Mahaffey each picking up a block for the Lady Vols.
Fingall recorded six kills in the first set, and Felts added two of her own, as Tennessee edged out the Tigers to take the first set 25-22.
Missouri and Tennessee traded points to open the second set, and eventually fell behind nine points to eight. Two straight kills from junior Ava Bell tied the set for the Lady Vols, and then took the lead, one that they would not relinquish for the remainder of the second.
Fingall made six kills in that span, and Tennessee’s defense held Missouri to just seven more points in the set, as UT stormed to a 25-17 advantage.
Tennessee was just one set away from sweeping Mizzou in three, as well as the weekend series, but the Tigers did not make it easy. They took a quick 4-2 lead, on a service ace from Claudia Dillon, and kills from D’Cruz, Anna Dixon and Leandra Mangual-Duran.
Tennessee got two straight points to tie the score at four, but neither team found much momentum after that. Neither team could pull ahead by much, before the other tied the score again. The third sent continued like this to a 15-15 tie.
Kills from Hayward, Felts and Fingall gave the Lady Vols an 18-15 lead, their largest of the set. And just when it looked like Tennessee was about to pull away, Mizzou rallied back to tie the game.
Rackham Watt called her final timeout with the score knotted at 18, and her team responded well, surging to a 22-20 lead, just three points away from the win.
The Tigers gave Tennessee some trouble in the end, but it was not enough, as a service error from Missouri’s Emily Brown ended the match.
“I think our team is just really focused on our goals,” Fingall said. “We came in this season wanting to go in the NCAA tournament, since we weren’t able to make it last year. But just having that focus and that drive just made us really competitive, and just going after it and playing to win.”
With the win tonight, Tennessee earned a sweep in its first series since Nov. 19. The Lady Vols are now tied for sixth in the SEC, and have several important matches to play with teams ahead of them in the standings.
Up next for the Lady Vols is a two-game road trip to Ole Miss. The end of the week series is set for Thursday, Feb. 18 and Friday, Feb. 19, with both matches scheduled to start at 3 p.m. ET.