Volleyball vs Purdue

Lady Vols celebrate a point made against Purdue in Thompson Boling Arena on Aug. 27, 2022.

Tennessee volleyball is seeking consistency ahead of hosting the Rocky Top Classic this weekend at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Lady Vols are coming off a 2-1 weekend at the NC State Classic where they defeated Elon and swept the host NC State, but lost to Colgate.

“For us we’re searching for a consistent lineup, consistent performances, kind of having to figure out some of the pieces as we have not been totally healthy,” head coach Eve Rackham Watt said. “I like a lot of the things we’re doing — we just have to become more consistent.”

The Lady Vols started out sluggish last Saturday morning, making errors that cost them the match against Colgate. Earlier in the year, the Lady Vols also lost an early Saturday match to Purdue. Rackham Watt attributed these mistakes to their youth.

“I’m hoping experience is going to teach us,” Rackham Watt said. “It’s tough with younger players, less experienced players, they really have to go through it to get it. No matter how many times we say we have to be ready to play at 11 a.m. They’ve got to go through not playing well and maybe losing a match to learn.”

Tennessee plays Norfolk State Saturday at 12 p.m. ET. The Lady Vols have only won once on a Saturday so far this season, and it was a 7 p.m. start. Senior setter Natalie Hayward believes the Lady Vols must start fast in every game to prevent any more sluggish Saturday matches.

“I think we just have to learn from what happened last weekend,” Hayward said. “We’re two weekends into the season now, so we have a little bit better of an idea of what this team needs to do to be successful, and that’s starting fast in all 3 games of the tournament.”

Rackham Watt is looking for Hayward to help lead the Lady Vols going into this weekend.

“We rely heavily on Natalie Hayward to run the offense,” Rackham Watt said. “She's our setter, she’s a fifth year, and she's experienced. We rely on her to run the offense, know what's going on, help the younger players.”

In addition to Hayward, the Lady Vols rely heavily on Morgahn Fingall on the offensive side. Fingall, the senior right-side hitter, leads the Lady Vols in kills this season with 98. She averages 4.08 kills per set.

“Morgahn Fingall, same thing (as Hayward), takes a lot of swings for us, relied on heavily offensively,” Rackham Watt said.

Rackham Watt also looks towards Paola Laborda to help the Lady Vols succeed. Laborda, in a new role as libero this year, leads the team in digs at 81, averaging 3.38 digs per set.

“She's in a new role this year with being the libero. And learning what it takes to sustain success,” Rackham Watt said. “Last year she didn’t have as many opportunities, but this year she is out there every point.”

Besides Hayward, Fingall and Laborda, Rackham Watt needs some other players to step up in order to succeed this weekend.

“I think those three players are key for us to pull everything together,” Rackham Watt said. “Then we have to have a good performance or two out of some of the others.”

The Lady Vols open the Rocky Top Classic Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET against New Hampshire (5-3) in Thompson Boling Arena. Tennessee has two games Saturday against Norfolk State (0-4) at 12 p.m. and The Citadel (2-4) at 6:30 p.m. ET. 

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