Breana Runnels (6) passes the ball in serve receive in Thompson-Boling Arena on September 5th, 2021.

The No. 21 Tennessee volleyball team suffered its second consecutive sweep of the season against No. 5 Kentucky (25-15, 25-19, 25-19) Wednesday at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols now hold an overall record of 16-5 and an 8-3 record in the SEC.

Here are four takeaways from the Lady Vols’ loss to the Wildcats.

Lady Vols’ block defense continues to struggle

Tennessee could not defend against the Wildcats seemingly all night. Looking back on the three sets against Kentucky, the Lady Vols put up little resistance to the Wildcats, despite ranking third in the nation in blocks per set with 2.98 blocks per set.

The Wildcats dominated set one and put up 20 kills in the opening set alone. Sets two and three saw much of the same with Tennessee unable to block Kentucky. The Lady Vols only recorded 5 blocks throughout three sets. This is the second consecutive match where the Lady Vols had 5 or fewer blocks.

Tennessee’s offensive threats minimized

It’s not a secret that the Lady Vols had multiple scoring options. In the midweek matchup against Kentucky, the Wildcats were able to shut down Tennessee and minimize its offensive effectiveness. Only two Lady Vols — Breanna Runnels and Morgahn Fingall — would notch double-digit kills. Starting senior outside hitter Lily Felts would notch just 5 kills.

“When you can’t get anything going, it doesn’t really feel like you’re in the match,” head coach Eve Rackham Watt said. “I feel like every time we would make a good play we would follow it up with an unforced error or Kentucky would go on a run. We just couldn’t string anything together.”

Outside hitter Runnels led the team with 12 kills but her efforts were not enough to secure the win for the Lady Vols. The team will look to put the match behind them and not dwell too much on the tough loss.

“We always say the next match is the most important match of the season,” Runnels said.

Record-breaking crowd

Thompson-Boling Arena was packed for Tennessee’s home matchup against Kentucky Wednesday. With 3,376 people in attendance, it was the largest crowd the Lady Vols have played in front of this season. It was three times larger than the previous attendance record of 1,006 people against the Baylor Bears earlier in the season.

The electrifying atmosphere’s impact was limited as Tennessee dropped three consecutive sets to close out the match.

Long break for the Lady Vols

The Lady Vols have a week off before their next match-up against Florida. It is the longest break away from the court for the Lady Vols this season. The time off should give the team ample time to think about and fix the mistakes made in their most recent loss against Kentucky.

“We have got to figure it out how do we get this team back to playing the volleyball that we need to,” Rackham Watt said. “Our goal is still the end of the year. We have got to get out of this rut we’re in.”

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