Tennessee overwhelms Lady Buccaneers

By Wes Holtsclaw

STAR CORRESPONDENT
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The East Tennessee State volleyball faced one of its biggest challenges of the season Tuesday night against the University of Tennessee.
   The Lady Vols brought their 'A-game' to Brooks Gym and powered over the tough knit Lady Bucs winning 3-0 in straight games.
   "I liked our effort out here tonight," said Tennessee coach Rob Patrick, "We just had a great contest on Sunday, took a day for practice and came up here. We had some serving and hitting errors, but we played with aggression. I was pleased with the team."
   "Our overall effort was really good," said Lady Buc coach Deanne Webb. "Nicole Ryan and Kate Steidle hit over 200 for us, and sported double-digit kills. I saw some good things there."
   "Tennessee was there and was executing what they needed to be more precise. They had a big block, and they were too much to overcome sometimes."
   ETSU played Tennessee very tough in the first game with some good action from Kate Steidle and Nicole Ryan. Tennessee's Kelli Scott bounced the Lady Vols to an early lead, but was overwhelmed by a big hit from the Bucs' Lissa Allen.
   It was a two-point game throughout the majority of the contest before Michell Piantadosi overpowered a comeback from Meghan Connolly to take a nine-point lead for Tennessee.
   Freshman Jasmine Fullove bounced into the contest for the Lady Vols and helped Tennessee take a 30-17 advantage with two straight plays to win the first game.
   Allen and Steidle helped ETSU battle back-and-forth with Tennessee throughout the beginning of the second game. Kristin Andre bounced the Lady Vols back with some assistance from Alex Compeau to take a 17-10 lead over the Lady Bucs.
   Tennessee's Fullove and Julie Knytych battled their squad out to an eight-point advantage before Katie Ralph helped ETSU cut into the Lady Vols. However, a late violation sent the orange-and-white into halftime with the 30-23 win in the second game.
   As it appeared that the Lady Buc momentum had dried up, they bounced back onto the court with a strong effort against the Lady Vols.
   With big plays from Nicole Ryan and Renee Vesey, with a few blocks from Katie Ralph, the Lady Buccaneers battled ETSU to an overwhelming lead in the final game.
   Nicole Ryan got on fire for ETSU, with both squads displaying a strong effort. However, the Lady Vols roared back behind Kristen Andre to take a lead back from East Tennessee.
   The Lady Bucs never quit, bouncing within a point of closing in on Tenneseee, but a late block from the Lady Vols pushed them over ETSU with a 30-28 win in game three, and the overall win on the road.
   Junior Kate Steidle had 16 kills for the Lady Bucs, and hit .278 on the contest, with 36 takeaways.
   "Our team was up for it," said Steidle, "We came in aggressive and ready to play. We put together a lot of streaks. Our downfall was mental lapses, that's something we need to work on."
   The Lady Bucs continued to get strong play from their freshmen in this contest, especially Nicole Ryan who sported ten kills and 34 takeaways with a .206 percentage in the contest.
   Said Ryan: "The name (Tennessee) made us step up tonight, and we did a good job of it. We brought it hard. We could've stepped up a little more, but I'd love to play them again."
   Michelle Piantadosi and Kristen Andre had big games for the Lady Vols, both hitting over .300 in the contest with 12 and 11 kills respectively. Tennessee's Whitney Gifford had the highest percentage with .444 made agaisnt ETSU.
   The attendance of 450 was the largest for the Lady Bucs this season, while the Scub crowd continued to show support for their squad.
   ETSU drops down with an 8-20 record, while Tennessee improves to 19-9 with their victory. The Lady Bucs host UNC Greensboro for their final conference matchup this Friday at 7:00 p.m.