Vols tally first SEC sweep since 2015 against Alabama

Until Sunday afternoon, Tennessee had yet to accomplish a series sweep over an opponent this season. However, the Vols (15-9) changed that by notching their first in-conference sweep since 2015 over Alabama.

After losing three straight games prior to their series with the Crimson Tide, the series sweep sets Tennessee back on track.

“I’m still kind of elated at the fact that we won a series, which is our goal, and then you throw another win in there,” Volunteers Head Coach Tony Vitello said. “It’s like having two desserts after one meal.”

Tennessee kicked off their SEC home opener in front of a crowd anxious for a Vols win. The orange-and-white got on the scoreboard early after senior outfielder Brodie Leftridge hit an RBI single to center field to bring home sophomore infielder Andre Lipcius in the first inning.

Next, Tennessee freshman Evan Russell drove an RBI single to left field in the fourth inning to score Leftridge. Russell finished with two hits and two RBI’s on the day. Alabama scored the next three runs of the game, taking a 3-2 lead heading into the top of the fifth inning.

The teams faced a tie score in the bottom of the ninth inning at 4-4. The Vols had the bases loaded with Russell at the plate. Russell drew a game-winning walk, which brought home senior catcher Benito Santiago to lift Tennessee a 5-4 win in the first game of the series.

“I was expecting to be in that certain situation,” Russell said of his patience at the plate. “I was excited about it. I knew he was going to have to come to me and he never came to me.”

Game two was originally set for Saturday night, but inclement weather pushed the game back to Sunday at noon. Sunday saw a double-header of two seven-inning games that Volunteers fans won’t soon forget.

In game two, both Tennessee and the Crimson Tide’s bats went cold. Although there were 10 total hits in the game, the teams combined for just three runs. Alabama struck first in the top of fifth inning, but the Vols got the last laugh.

Sophomore outfielder Justin Ammons scored on an error, and Russell once again drew another bases-loaded walk to score Lipcius in the sixth inning. Tennessee came out with a 2-1 victory and the series win, but they weren’t finished.

Sophomore Garrett Stallings pitched all seven innings in game two for the orange-and-white, giving up six hits and only one run. Stallings also struck out five batters in his start and moved to 4-1 on the season.

“It’s definitely a big change in the game, but every time I go out I want to pitch the whole game,” Stallings said about the unique seven-inning format. “It made it a little bit easier to do that, but I was happy we got away with the win.”

The two opponents got right back into action just one hour later for the final game of the series. Like Stallings in game two, junior Will Neely pitched a full game for Tennessee in game three. Neely struck out four batters and gave up five hits in Sunday’s win, as the stout Vols defense gave up no runs.

Tennessee scored all three runs in the game, as Santiago hit a single to center field in the first inning to bring home Lipcius. Sophomore outfielder Jay Charleston trotted in on an Alabama fielding error.

The final run came from an Ammons single, as Russell made it to home plate in the bottom of the third inning. Nothing much happened after the Vols big inning, as they won 3-0 and swept the series over Alabama.

Up next, Tennessee will face Western Carolina on the road on Tuesday. The Volunteers won their previous matchup with the Catamounts this season by a score of 5-0.

Written by Cole McCormick

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

No. 15 Tennessee looks to continue hot streak at Alabama

Tennessee (18-5, 8-3 SEC) will go on the road to battle Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) Saturday evening at 6 p.m. The Vols have been red-hot lately, winning their last six games and coming off their first win at Kentucky since 1999.

Rick Barnes has Tennessee rolling right now thanks to the defense. The Vols have been stingy on the defensive side of the ball, allowing slightly over 66 points per game on the season.

The Vols haven’t allowed over 65 points to an opponent in the last eight contests.

If Tennessee wants to succeed at a sold out Coleman Coliseum Saturday, it will have to make shut down star point guard Colin Sexton.

The former five-star prized recruit for Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has lived up to his rating this season. Sexton is third in the SEC in scoring with 18.6 points per game.

Sexton went head-to-head earlier in the season with Oklahoma point guard Trae Young and bettered him in the contest. To say the least, the Tennessee guards will have their hands full in this one.

Tennessee has balanced scoring on its side. Barnes’ top seven players in minutes played average over seven points per game.

Both Lamonté Turner and James Daniel III make huge plays off the bench for Tennessee, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

The Vols bottled up Tremont Waters, a freshman standout for LSU, and sent him home after scoring only seven points on 1-9 shooting.

Only a week later, the Tennessee defense held Ole Miss’ standout guards to 20 combined points on 29 total shots. The Vols held Deandre Burnett to 2-13 shooting in the game.

Turner played a key role in the win over Kentucky Tuesday evening. He will need a big game both offensively and defensively for the Vols on Saturday. Turner must offset Colin Sexton, as Sexton will be one of the most versatile guards the Big Orange plays all season.

Alabama head coach Avery Johnson has his team playing very good basketball as of late, but the Tide has been one of the most inconsistent teams in the conference this season. Alabama is one of the few teams to knock off Bruce Pearl’s red-hot Auburn Tigers this season. The Tide also beat No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 23 Florida.

With the good comes the bad, as Johnson’s Alabama team has also been knocked off by far lesser opponents. The Tide lost by double-digits to Georgia, Texas and Ole Miss – all teams ranking in the bottom-tier of their respective conferences.

If Johnson wants his team to be respected come tournament selection time, the Tide will have to prove the good outweighs the bad and knock off lesser teams after a big time win. Both teams will have their hands full in this matchup, but look for the guard play to be the deciding factor.

Johnson and the Tide are 1-1 against Barnes since his tenure in Tuscaloosa. The Vols look to win only their 19th game at Alabama since the rivalry began. Tennessee is 18-44 all-time at Coleman Coliseum.

Edited by Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Tennessee volleyball falls to Alabama in five sets

The Vols fell to the Crimson Tide, 3-2, in their last road match of the season on Sunday afternoon in Tuscaloosa. Brooke Schumacher and Callie Williams led the team with a 1.0 hitting percentage in the loss, and Alyssa Andreno followed with a .450 hitting percentage. Madison Coulter dominated the court with a .407 hitting percentage and led the team with 15.5 points and 13 kills.

Tennessee won the first set, 25-21 after a close, back-and-forth set. Sedona Hansen started the set with a soft serve to win the first point of the match. The two teams exchanged points until Tennessee went on a three-point scoring run over Alabama leaving the score at 10-8.

Alabama built an early lead over Tennessee to start the second set, but Erica Treiber cut the score to a one-point game with a kill. Treiber then followed with a service ace to tie the game at 10-10. Tennessee went on a three-point scoring run and Alabama responded with an 11-1 scoring run to win the set, 25-19.

The Lady Vols regained momentum in the third set and went on a three-point run, forcing Alabama to call a timeout. The timeout didn’t faze the Vols as they continued their run, as they went on a five-point run to build a seven-point lead over Alabama. Tennessee continued to build its lead over Alabama and Tessa Grubbs took the set point with a kill. Tennessee won the set 25-17.

Tennessee couldn’t keep up with Alabama in the fourth set, allowing the Tide to win the set 18-25, to tie the series 2-2.

The two teams battled back and forth in the final set, but Tennessee couldn’t beat the pressure of Alabama allowing them to win the set, 15-11.

The Vols will be back in Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday to play Ole Miss at 7 p.m. ET.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports

Alabama and Tennessee meet for 100th time

Tennessee (3-3) and No. 1 Alabama (7-0) will meet for the 100th time on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The third Saturday in October is typically a top-25 matchup, but this year has a different feel to the game. Alabama opened as a 34-point favorites, and Tennessee has not beaten the Crimson Tide since 2006.

The series has not been competitive as of late, and the closest meeting in the past 10 years was in 2009 when Lane Kiffin led the Vols into Tuscaloosa and lost by two points. Butch Jones and the Vols have been rather close in a couple games, but for the most part, the outcome has gone in Alabama’s favor.

Nick Saban has the SEC by the horns, and until he leaves, the Crimson Tide will keep on rolling over the conference — and the rest of the nation. Saban is a mastermind in college football, and he grabs the opponent by its throat and exposes its weaknesses. Alabama is once again the reigning SEC champion and the front-runner to return to the National Championship game. The Tide have outscored opponents 193-31 in four conference games thus far, and have only allowed three touchdowns in four games.

If you are Tennessee, that is not what you want to hear. The Vols have not scored a touchdown since late in the second quarter against UMass. Tennessee has been lackluster this season in stretching the field vertically, as the Vols longest passes have come on yards after catch, the majority of them by star running back John Kelly.

Tennessee’s keys to success:

Over-and-over it seems Tennessee is put on a pedestal by the Crimson Tide, and spanked in front of the nation, as Alabama annually embarrasses Tennessee year in and year out. There might not be much Jones and the Vols can do this year to contend with the Tide, nonetheless beat them. If they want to pull off the upset and snap the 10-game winning streak Nick Saban holds over them, these are the keys to success.

Butch Jones needs to watch the tape on the past two national championships. Jones needs to let Guarantano loose and stretch the field both vertically, and horizontally. Vertically, Alabama is certainly beatable — every big game the Tide has lost, their opponent has thrown for a ton of yards.

Tennessee needs to ride John Kelly for at least 25 carries. Kelly is not touching the ball enough, and he is the Vols best player. Once the run game opens up for Tennessee, it will be able stretch the field horizontally with new starting quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. Alabama did it last year with Jalen Hurts in Neyland Stadium when Hurts ran for 132 yards and three touchdowns.

Alabama’s keys to success:

This is a mean Alabama team, and it’s hard to find things that Tennessee, or any other team can do to beat them. The Crimson Tide shouldn’t have to kick it into overdrive this game in order to beat Tennessee by a couple touchdowns, but crazier things have happened. Clemson recently went down to Syracuse on Friday night, and Washington State was blown out on the same night.

Alabama’s keys to success will simply be sticking to its 2016 script against Tennessee. The Tide ran for 409 yards and averaged 8.5 yards per carry last year. Running back Bo Scarbrough ran for 109 yards and had a game-long 85-yard run to crush Tennessee’s spirits. Scarbrough will be looking for the same kind of success this year, as he only had five carries last year, averaging 21.8 yards-per-carry.

Crimson Tide star running back Damien Harris carried the football 14 times last year for 94 yards against Tennessee. Alabama simply needs to run the same plays they did last year and they will be just fine. Hurts recorded 185 passing yards a season ago against Tennessee, so they shouldn’t have to throw the ball too many times.

Prediction

Absolutely nobody is giving Tennessee a chance in this game. This game isn’t for Butch Jones, it is for the players. Alabama wins, 35-6.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports

Alabama vs Arkansas Preview

The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide travel to Fayetteville this Saturday to face off against coach Bret Bielema and the No. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks. The Tide have won 16 straight games dating back to last year, the longest streak in the nation.

An analysis by the numbers shows that Arkansas does not stand much of a chance. Not only have they lost the last nine games against Alabama, they are also 14-point underdogs this Saturday.

“Their (Alabama) coaches, their players, everybody is really good,” said Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, “Everybody that flies over here is one of the best in the business, but that presents a tremendous opportunity for us.”

If the Hogs are to have any success against Alabama, they must have balance on the offensive side of the football. That includes a heavy dose of sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams III. Williams is second in the conference in rushing yards and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

The match-up of Williams III against Alabama’s front seven could be the most important match-up of the game. The defensive line for the Tide is potentially the best in Nick Saban’s time in Tuscaloosa, with NFL prospects Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen and Da’Shawn Hand.

Unfortunately for Arkansas, they could be missing one of their key pieces on the offensive line. Junior guard/center Frank Ragnow has been away from the team for the week following the loss of his father to a heart attack last Saturday. Ragnow started all 13 games at right guard last season and was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list this preseason.

Bielema announced in his press conference that Ragnow expressed a desire to return to Fayetteville in time to play, but added that all plans are tentative.

The loss of Ragnow puts more pressure on junior quarterback Austin Allen to play the best game of his career. Allen has shown a lot of grit so far this season, accounting for 13 total touchdowns − including the game winner versus TCU in week two.

His opposition, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, will challenge Arkansas’ defensive line that has struggled covering dual-threat quarterbacks. Arkansas’ secondary is also their weakest unit. So look for Hurts to not only challenge the Razorbacks with his legs, but for offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to dial up several deep play calls to superstar pass catchers Calvin Ridley and OJ Howard.

Prediction

This game has been close the past two years. Although the Crimson Tide won last year by 13, the score did not accurately reflect how much of a dog fight the game was. Expect Arkansas to bounce back from their second half struggles last week against Texas A&M. That, coupled with the emotion of playing for Frank Ragnow and his family, leads me to believe Arkansas will come out of the gate firing on all cylinders. However, Alabama is just too talented and too deep on both sides of the ball. Arkansas will cover the spread, but fall just short 31-23.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by Great Degree