Libero Madison Bryant(12)  passes the ball in serve receive in Thompson-Boling Arena on September 5th, 2021.

The No. 22 Tennessee volleyball team got back to its winning ways Sunday, sweeping Ole Miss in three sets (25-17, 26-24, 25-20) at Thompson-Boling Arena. The win marked the 12th time the Lady Vols have swept their opponent this season. 

“I’m really proud of our group,” head coach Eve Rackham-Watt said. “It’s been a tough stretch, and Ole Miss is a good team. I know our team was happy to be back home playing in front of our crowd. It was a hard victory, I think we played as well as we’ve played in a while — it’s a really good team win.”   

Tennessee (17-6, 9-4 SEC) was firing all cylinders with outstanding performances by graduate student Breanna Runnels and junior Morgahn Fingall. Runnels notched a double-double with a team-best of 14 kills and 11 digs. Fingall was right behind her with 12 kills of her own and 5 digs. The Lady Vols would end the match with a stellar .400 hitting percentage. 

Ole Miss (17-6, 6-6 SEC) struggled to contain the Lady Vols and never could overcome the constant offensive pressure. The Rebels had their four-game winning streak end in heartbreak on Rocky Top. 

In the first set, the Lady Vols shared the ball offensively with four different Lady Vols getting at least 3 kills. Defensively, the Lady Vols would put up 4 blocks stunting any Rebel momentum. A quick kill from outside hitter Felts gave Tennessee a 4-point lead going into the first timeout. While Ole Miss rallied in the final minutes Tennessee held on and won set one 25-14. 

Tennessee was dominant in the opening minutes of set two, putting up 5 unanswered points. Ole Miss struggled to contain Tennessee’s explosive offensive threats like graduate student Breanna Runnels and junior Morghan Fingall. Ole Miss, however, adapted and tied the set at 15.

In the final minutes of set two, both teams battled back and forth. The set was tied nine different times before the Lady Vols finally closed out the set. Tennessee ended the set with a .341 hitting percentage.

Tennessee looked to complete the sweep in the third and final set. Going into the first timeout Tennessee held just a 2-point lead over Ole Miss. Coming out of the timeout, Tennessee continued to build its lead and played tight defense. The dual-threat of Fingall and Runnels proved too much for the Rebels. Up 24 to 20, senior middle blocker Danielle Mahaffey scored the game-winning kill to complete the sweep.  

“I think winning like this is just a huge relief,” senior Ava Bell said after the match. “It’s just confirmation that we are a great team and we have so much talent that we have to use every time. I think we proved to ourselves that we have a bright future ahead of us.”

As Tennessee enters its final stretch of games this season every win is important. Looking ahead, the Lady Vols will travel down to Starkville, Mississippi, to face Mississippi State in a two-game road series starting Saturday. 

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