The Lady Vols opened conference play Friday night with a dominant 25-20, 25-13, 25-14 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
The win put the Lady Vols at 6-4 on the season, 1-0 in SEC play, while the Bulldogs sit at 5-7, 0-1 in conference.
"To be able to come in here and control the match was very good," head coach Rob Patrick said. "Mississippi State is very young, and our experience held up with more consistency throughout the game."
Sophomore Nikki Fowler had an impressive night, leading the team with 10 kills as well as 11.5 blocks to control the net. Fowler also led the team with 12 points.
"She does a lot more than the stat sheets show," Patrick said. "I told her in the locker room that the reason that some of these other players hit so well, like Mindy Flynn hit .545, or Farren Powe hit .462, is because the blocks are all concentrating on Nikki, allowing our other players to play well."
Junior libero Chloe Goldman had a tough defensive night, collecting 18 digs.
Freshman Kelsey Mahoney looked defensively promising, with 11 digs and 19 assists to balance the floor.
It was the second career double-double for the first-year player from Fort Worth, Texas.
"I really challenged our team to win the serve-pass game today," Patrick said. "I can't say enough about what Nikki (Fowler), Chloe (Goldman), and Kylie (Marshall) do passing the ball. We did win that part of the game which made it easier for us."
The Lady Vols had 40 sets compared to the Bulldogs 18, which played a role in a 42-19 kill advantage.
UT also was able to compile 4 service aces to the Bulldogs 2.
The win lifted Patrick to 227 wins on his career, just three short of passing Bob Bertucci's all-time wins as volleyball coach at Tennessee. Coach Patrick is now 227-129 in his career.
The Mississippi State match was Tennessee's fourth game in their new home of Thompson-Boling Arena, following last week's Comcast Lady Vol Classic.
The players and fans showed enthusiasm in an arena usually reserved for quiet basketball practices this time of the year.
"We love it. It's great for our fans, our players are really thankful for it," Patrick commented. "It's something I thank our administration for allowing us to happen, and coach Bruce Pearl and coach Pat Summitt allowing us to use their building. I think it's one of the best venues in sports to watch basketball and volleyball."