The Tennessee volleyball team finished second in the North Carolina State Double Tree Classic, dropping their first game of the season to NC State Saturday night in Raleigh.
The Vols opened their final non-conference tournament by taking on the Hampton Pirates on Friday. They got out to a dominating start, defeating Hampton 3-0 (25-11, 25-15, 25-12) to take the first of three games for the weekend.
Tennessee’s matchup with Hampton was about more then just winning. It was about setting records. The Vols scored 12 aces as a team, which not only set a season-high, but also was the most three-set match aces the Vols have recorded since a 2007 meeting with Appalachian State, when they recorded 16. The 12 aces were also good enough for third-most aces in the rally scoring era at Tennessee.
Freshman Brooke Schumacher recorded four aces to lead the Vols, while Junior Bri Holmes led the team with nine kills. Tennessee improved to 13-0 with the win, which is the best start for a Vols volleyball team in the NCAA era.
Saturday, the Vols took the court against Campbell in their first of two games on the day. Tennessee improved their winning streak to 14 games as they beat the Camels, 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-15).
Campbell did not make it easy for Tennessee to pick up the win, taking an early lead in the first set. But later in the game, sophomore Kanisha Jimenez put the Vols up 15-14 on an ace. An attack error by Campbell gave the Vols a 17-14 lead, which would end up being the last lead change of the set.
Tennessee took a 4-3 lead in the second set on a passing error by Campbell and kept the lead the rest of the way, winning the set, 25-15. The error was one of eight by the Camels.
As the teams went into the break, Tennessee was led by two great performances from Jimenez and junior Raina Hembry. Both players had nine kills. Jimenez only played in the first two sets, but she nearly recorded a double-double, with eight digs to go along with the nine kills. Hembry added three blocks.
“I thought we started a little sluggish in the first set, but I was proud of how the team righted itself and took care of the ball midway through the first set and onward,” said Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick.
The Vols were down early in the third set, but went on a 7-0 run after a timeout. Kelsey Bawcombe helped to lead the run and Hembry beat a block at the net for a kill to cap the run, putting Tennessee up, 10-7. The Volunteers would not relinquish, winning, 25-15.
Senior setter Lexi Dempsey also neared a double-double with 30 assists, eight digs and two blocks. “Give Lexi credit for setting a great offensive game plan,” said Patrick.
While the Volunteers’ football team was playing Western Carolina, the volleyball team took on the the host of the tournament, the NC State Wolfpack, in the finals. While the Vols got a win on the football field, the volleyball team wasn’t so lucky, losing for the first time this season, 3-0(25-22, 27-25, 25-22).
NC State pulled off three set wins that came down to the wire. The Vols had two set points in the second set, but could not convert them for a win.
“It’s always good to put yourselves in the opportunity to win championships, but it doesn’t always happen,” said Patrick. “They played fantastic defense. We made a few more hitting errors than we normally do, and you can’t do that against a really good team.”
Hembry led Tennessee with 13 kills and six blocks, while Dempsey led the Vols with 27 assists. Both players were named to the all-tournament team.
Tennessee will begin SEC play on Friday at Auburn. The game is set for 8 p.m.
Edited by Cody McClure
Sam Forman is the lead sports staff writer for the Tennessee Journalist and is a senior studying Journalism and Electronic Media with a focus on sports broadcasting and reporting. He has been with TNJN since the fall of 2014. He is also a DJ for WUTK 90.3 fm. and a member of the Rock Solid Sports team. Sam has spent six years marching in the Pride of The Southland Marching Band. When he is not covering or talking sports, you can find him outdoors, playing music or hanging out with friends. You can find him on twitter: @samWforman