Lady Vols vs Auburn
Tennessee's Madison Coulter (3) attempts to save the ball during the game against Auburn University on Wednesday, November 27, 2019 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The University of Tennessee volleyball team was defeated by Georgia at Thompson-Boling Arena on Thursday night. The Bulldogs (2-2, 2-2 SEC) defeated the Lady Vols (1-3, 1-3 SEC) in five sets (23-25, 25-23, 25-18, 15-25, 15-13). 

Two Out Swinging

Tennessee went into the third set tied at one all. It very quickly tilted towards Georgia’s favor. The Bulldogs hit .270 in the third frame, their best mark of the night, and committed just five errors. While on the other side of the net, Tennessee managed to hit just .125, while making six errors on just 10 kills. Georgia would go on to take the set, 25-18. 

The roles changed in set number four. Tennessee got out to a big lead early and didn’t look back. The Lady Vols played their best volleyball of the night in set four. As a team, they hit .303 with 13 kills and had four blocks, with just three errors. Georgia wasn’t able to find any kind of rhythm in their 25-15, fourth set loss. The Bulldogs hit .000 thanks to eight errors and just eight kills. 

The final set was a battle between the two programs. Georgia got out to a 7-3 lead, quickly, before Tennessee marched back to take a 10-7 lead. Georgia would call a timeout and go on a 7-1 run, after the break, to bring them one point away from victory. The Lady Vols would score two more points to make the score 14-13, Georgia before a Giana Pellizzon error would give the Bulldogs the match point. 

“I just told them in the locker room that losing teaches us a lot,” head coach Eve Rackham said. “I don’t take any moral victories that we played hard, that’s a given that we show up for an SEC opponent. I expect a battle and I expect we are going to play hard. We have been talking a lot about two point sets, and obviously, we had three of them tonight and it shows our ability to close out and play clean when it counts. For us, yeah we fought. I was especially proud of the kids that came in. Emily Merrick, [Nicoletta] Capizzi, those kids haven’t played for us much and that was kind of their first bit of action. I was happy for them that they came in and contributed, that was definitely a bright spot.”

Freshman Standout

Jasmine Brooks has bounced back nicely for the Lady Vols since her first two games against Kentucky. 

The freshman outside hitter totaled just nine kills in her two games against the Wildcats, while also committing nine errors. Her Rocky Top debut was a much different story. Brooks swatted 12 kills in game one against Georgia. She also tallied three digs and three blocks. 

In game two, the Toney, Alabama native notched 17 kills which were second-most on the team, behind Lily Felts’ 19 kills. Brooks also finished the game with one assist, four digs, and two blocks. 

In the Dawg House

Since taking the head coaching job at Tennessee, Rackham has faced Georgia five times and has won just two matches. 

“It was kind of a reversal from last night,” Rackham said. “Last night, we won the serve and pass battle and I think tonight, they won the serve and pass battle. We had a hard time keeping ourselves in the system which put a lot of pressure on the attackers because they weren’t seeing as many good opportunities. Georgia serves really well, and we didn’t handle that pressure well. I think that we had to shuffle the lineup a little bit and they forced us into some things that were very good for us.”

Last season, the two schools faced off twice with the final score reading 3-1, in Georgia’s favor both times. In the first game, Tennessee struggled to get much going on offense, despite Sedona Hansen’s 25 assists and 11 digs. 

In game two, Tennessee played much better, as they hit .284 while committing just 17 errors. Grubbs finished the match with 25 kills, Hansen tallied 47 assists and Felts recorded 13 kills and 11 digs. 

Before last night's 3-1 win, Rackham’s Lady Vols defeated Georgia back in the 2018 season. In that game, Tennessee would drop the first two sets of the match before marching back to take the 3-2 victory. Former Lady Vols, Tessa Grubbs, finished with a then-career-high 27 kills. 

Up next, Tennessee will welcome South Carolina to Thompson-Boling Arena on November 6 at 7 p.m.

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