Tennessee volleyball opened its season on a high note, defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 22-25, 25-23) Friday evening during the DISH Tennessee Classic.
The stars of the night for the Vols were both freshman. Tessa Grubbs led the team with 14 kills, while Sedona Hansen recorded a game-high 39 assists.
Both squads went back-and-forth during the beginning of the first set until the Vols scored six straight points, pushing their lead to 13-7. Cincinnati never got within four points for the rest of the set.
In the second set, the Bearcats managed to take a late 21-19 lead, but Tennessee locked in and claimed the set 25-23 to take a commanding 2-0 lead into the break.
Cincinnati bounced back in the third set, scoring the first four points and forcing an early timeout by Vols head coach Rob Patrick. Although Tennessee’s comeback attempt proved futile, the players maintained a positive attitude, a point of emphasis Patrick has repeatedly made.
“The one thing I tell them in the locker room is that I don’t want to know what the score is when you’re playing,” Patrick said. “If I’m watching you play and I’m watching your faces, I should not know what the score is.”
Grubbs echoed his sentiment.
“We never gave up,” Grubbs said. “You can’t tell the score by our faces… we believed that we could win.”
The Vols closed the deal in the fourth set. Like the previous sets, both teams sparred back-and-forth. However, Tennessee found themselves in need of a run after falling behind 17-13. They delivered, scoring five-consecutive points to take the lead.
With the set tied at 23, the crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena erupted onto their feet and cranked up the volume, spurring the team to victory.
Though Hansen and Grubbs are young players, both played beyond their years Friday evening, fitting into the team’s system like a glove.
“The older girls definitely helped keep me in the game,” Hansen said. “It was really, really nerve-racking being in there as a freshman.”
Patrick also praised the team’s cohesiveness in the midst of heavy substitutions while playing a handful of true freshmen.
The Vols are set to take the court again on Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe at 12 p.m. ET.
Featured image by Criag Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics
Edited by David Bradford