The Tennessee Lady Vols volleyball team took down the No. 16 Missouri Tigers (8-3) in five sets (27-25, 25-27, 18-25, 26-24, 15-11) in the spring season opener Friday to improve to 5-4 on the year.
The Lady Vols snapped No. 16 Missouri’s six game win streak that dated back to the fall season while Tennessee extended its win streak to three.
Tennessee was led by Lily Felts, who notched her seventh consecutive double-digit kill streak with 16. On top of this, Felts also recorded 18 digs, solidifying a four game streak with a double-double that dates back to November of last season.
"I told my teammates we have to fight, they have more to lose than we do.” Felts said. “We just laid it all out there. I told my teammates make every play, hit the ground as hard as you can, don’t let the ball drop …we have to play harder than them, we have to put pressure on them.”
The Lady Vols wasted zero time putting pressure on Mizzou, winning the first set behind five kills by outside hitter Danielle Mahaffey. A kill by Junior Ava Bell put the Lady Vols up 26-25 before a net violation was called on the Tigers, cementing the 27-25 set one victory.
Set two picked up right where set one left off, seeing the Lady Vols and Tigers go back and forth before Mizzou leapt to a 24-19 lead behind senior all-SEC outside hitter Kylie Deberg. With its back against the wall, Tennessee responded well rallying to take a 25-24 lead. Eventually, the attack became too much for the Lady Vols as three consecutive kills by the tigers, including an ace by sophomore Erin Williamson, gave Mizzou a 27-25 set two victory.
Set three was Tennessee’s weakest on the night. The Lady Vols never led, totaled five service errors, and eventually fell 18-25.
“We didn’t have the same fire or urgency when we came out in that third set" Coach Eve Rackham said.
Set four seemed to tell the same story early. Mizzou jumped out to an 18-12 lead, needing just seven more points to win the match, before Lily Felts took over. The Knoxville native posted her best set of the day, leading the team all the way back to a 26-24 set four win after a coaches challenge solidified Felts’ final attack point.
Set five was a race to 15, and Tennessee was up to the challenge. The Lady Vols and Tigers started the set trading points before Tennessee eventually pulled away to take a 11-9 lead following a kill by Ava Bell. Lily Felts tallied three of the final four points needed to reach 15, which rewarded the Lady Vols their first victory of the spring season, 3-2. The Lady Vols finished with a hitting percentage of .290, and are now 5-0 on the season when hitting better than .250 as a team.
“We get to celebrate until 12 o’clock,” Mahaffey said. “we got two and a half hours then its on to the next game. We won but we have to be able to do it again”
The Lady Vols look to complete the sweep of the Tigers Saturday at 6:30 PM ET at Thompson-Boling arena. You can catch Tennessee on SEC Network +.