Tennessee volleyball names Eve Rackham as new head coach

Eve Rackham was named as the new head coach of the Tennessee volleyball program on Wednesday afternoon by Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer. Rackham was a setter for North Carolina from 1999-02 and led the Tar Heels to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Rackham returned as part of the Tar Heels staff in 2009 as a recruiter and offensive developer.

During Rackham’s tenure, North Carolina registered a 210-77 record and made seven straight NCAA Tournaments from 2010-16. She also was awarded AVCA Division One Assistant Coach of the Year in 2014. Rackham’s contract is a five-year deal, with a 175,000-dollar salary in her first year.

“I intend to help return the volleyball program to national relevance,” Rackham said. “Tennessee is a special place with top-notch facilities, tremendous school spirit, strong academics and a tradition of champions.”

Rackham helped coach North Carolina to ACC Championship’s in 2014 and 2016, including a program best No. 6 national ranking and No. 5 RPI ranking in 2016. The 2016 Tar Heels team also boasted the best offense in the program in over three decades. North Carolina had seven players with over 100 kills last season.

On the recruiting trail, Rackham had nationally recognized classes in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Her best recruiting class came in 2012 when Rackham had the No. 8 class nationally, which produces three All-Americans.

“Thank you to Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer, who has expressed his support and desire to return Tennessee volleyball to prominence and for having the confidence in me to lead the program,” Rackham said.

In her time as recruiting coordinator at North Carolina, she signed 17 top 100 players and recorded the No. 3 overall class in the nation in 2016. Before her returned tenure in Chapel Hill, Rackham was an assistant and recruiting coordinator at Florida International. The Panthers reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time and also won a Sun Belt Regular-Season Championship in 2008.

Previously, Rackham started her coaching career at Colgate in 2004, and coached at East Carolina in 2005, where she gave the Pirates their third 20-win season in program history.

Rackham was more successful as a player than a coach in her time as a Tar Heel. She racked up All-ACC and first team All-Region honors in 2002, and tallied a 110-27 record at North Carolina. Rackham won over 80-percent of the games she played in a Tar Heels uniform, and she graduated from North Carolina in 2003.

“I am confident recruits will see the opportunities available to them here, and I look forward to fostering a winning program the community can embrace,” said Rackham.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of North Carolina Athletics

Rob Patrick resigns as Tennessee’s volleyball coach

Rob Patrick, who holds the record for most wins (409) in Tennessee volleyball history has resigned as head coach of the program on Wednesday. Patrick coached 16 All-Americans and 64 All-SEC players and South Region honors.

“We’re very appreciative of Coach Patrick’s longstanding service to the University of Tennessee. Our program made tremendous progress under his leadership, and we wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future,” said Associate Athletic Director Angie Boyd-Keck.

With the absence of Patrick, assistant coach A.J. Bonetti will take over as interim head coach of the Lady Vols. Bonetti, “demonstrated a tremendous ability to recruit and coach at a very high level,” according to Patrick. Before coming to Tennessee two years ago, Bonetti spent seven seasons at UNC Wilmington.

Tennessee’s best seasons under Patrick came in 2004 and 2005. In 2004, the Lady Vols notched a program high 32 wins and won the SEC Championship. Shortly after, Patrick received SEC and National Coach of the Year honors. In 2005, Tennessee cruised to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament as Patrick once again received Coach of the Year honors.

Patrick led the Lady Vols to 20-win seasons 11 times during his tenure in Knoxville, and finished outside of the top four in the SEC standings just once from 1997-2012. More recently, Tennessee attended a program-record five straight NCAA Tournaments from 2008-2012.

“I would like to thank the University of Tennessee—and especially Joan Cronan—for hiring me and giving me the opportunity to coach at this special institution,” said Patrick. “Finally, I must extend my heartfelt thanks to the incredible assistant coaches I worked with, along with all the talented student-athletes who worked hard and sacrificed for the success of Tennessee volleyball.”

Although Patrick was the most decorated Volleyball coach in Tennessee history, the recent records of the team were less than impressive.

The Lady Vols have produced just one winning season in the last five years and tallied a 12-15 record in 2017 with a 5-13 record against SEC teams. Patrick and Tennessee had two four-game losing streaks against conference opponents this season and finished 11th in the SEC.

“This is the proper time for me to move on to other opportunities, which will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and two young daughters,” said Patrick. “I am very proud of the academic and athletic successes we have accomplished during my tenure.

Tennessee will now begin looking for a replacement for Patrick according to the press release from the University.

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports 

Tennessee volleyball falls to LSU 3-2

In its final game of the season, Tennessee volleyball lost to the LSU 3-2 on Friday night inside Thompson-Boling Arena. The win is LSU’s first win against the Volunteers since a 3-1 win in 2015 in Baton Rouge. Both teams split the season series 1-1 with Tennessee beating LSU in straight sets on Oct. 29.

Tennessee (12-15, 5-13 SEC) took the opening set 25-19 to go up 1-0. Tessa Grubbs led in attack with six kills behind nine attacks after the first set.

The Vols would go up 2-0 after taking the second set 25-21. Tennessee started with a 3-0 run before a service error by freshman Callie Williams gave LSU its first point in the set. The Vols led the whole time and never allowed the Tigers to take the lead in the set.

Down 16-23 in the second set, LSU never gave up and attempted a comeback, outscoring the Vols 5-2 at the end of the set. Ultimately, the scoring deficit was too much for the Tigers as a kill by Williams gave Tennessee its final point of the second set. Grubbs and freshman Madison Coulter each had five kills in the set.

LSU (20-9, 11-7 SEC) took a thrilling third set 25-23 to cut Tennessee’s lead to 2-1. The set featured 13 ties and eight lead changes and remained close until the very end. The Tigers looked certain to take the third set at 19-16 in the set after a kill by Jacqui Armer. The Vols, however, would go on to score four straight points to go up 20-19 with Grubbs having three kills during the scoring run.

The Tigers prevented Tennessee from coming back in the set as LSU’s freshman phenom Taylor Bannister had a kill to give the Tigers a 24-23 lead. An attack error by redshirt sophomore Breana Jeter gave LSU its final point of the set.

In the fourth set, the Tigers fought to win 25-22 to send the match into a decisive fifth set. Much like the third set, both teams were involved in back-and-forth action. Despite nine scoring ties in the fourth set, LSU never allowed Tennessee to take the lead and evened the match at 2-2.

LSU won the fifth and final set 15-19 and ultimately, the match 3-2. An attack error by Jeter gave the Tigers their final point.

The LSU offense produced 67 kills in its win against the Vols. They were led in attacks by Bannister who finished the match with 16 kills behind 44 attacks. Armer and Toni Rodriguez contributed with 15 kills each.

Despite the loss, the Tennessee offense produced high attacking numbers. They were led in attacks by Grubbs who finished the match with 23 kills behind 58 attacks. Freshman Callie Williams finished with a career-high 55 assists to set up play throughout the match.

Tennessee concludes its 2017 season with the loss to LSU and finishes with a 12-15, 5-13 SEC record. Prior to the match, seniors Stephanie Buss, Mackenzie Cooler, Kanisha Jimenez, and Kendra Turner were honored for senior night. In addition, Coach Rob Patrick honored LSU’s seniors for their last match in their volleyball careers.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports

Tennessee volleyball defeats Ole Miss 3-1

Photo by Sumner Gilliam.

Tennessee volleyball defeated the Ole Miss Rebels 3-1 on Friday night inside Thompson-Boling Arena. The win marks the Vols’ first win since sweeping LSU in three sets this season on October 29 in Baton Rouge. Tennessee is now 9-4 at home.

Ole Miss (16-13, 7-9 SEC) took the first set 25-20 to take a 1-0 lead. Tennessee led most of the set leading as much as six points at 14-8 in the set after a kill from sophomore Alyssa Andreno. The Rebels would come back to earn the only lead change in the set at 18-17 off a kill from Lexi Thompson. A kill by Kate Gibson would give Ole Miss the final point of the set. Gibson would finish the opening set with seven kills.

Tennessee (12-13, 5-11 SEC) won the next two sets 25-15, 25-10 to go up 2-1 in the match after dropping the opening set. In both the second and third sets, the Lady Vols led the whole time and never allowed the Rebels to gain the lead. Redshirt sophomore Breana Jeter gave Tennessee a boost in offense with four kills in the third set. One crucial kill came in the final point of the set to give the Vols the 2-1 lead.

Both teams played a competitive fourth set as the set featured six ties and three lead changes. The final lead change came when a ball handling error by Lauren Bars put Tennessee up 14-13. Ole Miss would be unable to regain the lead, but attempted a short comeback at the late stages of the set. Ultimately, two errors from Ole Miss gave the Vols their final two points to win the set 25-19 and the match 3-1.

Emily Stroup and Kate Gibson combined for 27 kills behind 88 attacks for Ole Miss. Ultimately, errors kept the Rebels from getting points at crucial moments throughout the match as Stroup and Gibson also led in errors with a combined 25 errors on the night.

For Tennessee, sophomore Tessa Grubbs led the team offensively with 13 kills behind 35 attacks. Andreno led the team defensively with nine blocks.

Notably missing was Tennessee’s main setter sophomore Sedona Hansen who has registered 14 double-doubles this season. Freshman Callie Williams didn’t miss a beat in Hansen’s absence as Williams finished the match with 46 assists and 12 digs.

Tennessee is approaching the conclusion of its season and will play its final last two matches at home. The next match will be on Sunday, Nov. 19, against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Lady Vols defeated Georgia in a thrilling five-set match in Athens earlier this season. The match will air at 1:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network+ on WatchESPN.

Edited by Seth Raborn

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports

Tennessee volleyball falls to South Carolina 3-1

Tennessee Volleyball (11-10, 4-8 SEC) lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-12, 4-7 SEC) 3-1 on Friday night inside Thompson-Boling Arena. The win marks South Carolina’s fourth straight win over Tennessee. South Carolina completed its series sweep over the Lady Vols by winning both matches this season.

The Gamecocks won the opening set 25-22. In a set that featured seven ties and five lead changes, both teams came out attacking with South Carolina finishing the set out with 16 kills and Tennessee finishing the set out with 13 kills. Ultimately, four attacking errors, three ball-handling errors and two service errors by the Vols gave South Carolina the slight advantage in the first set.

Tennessee took the second set 25-23 to even the match at 1-1. Much like the first set, the second set would be a back-and-forth battle between both teams. The set featured 15 ties and four lead changes.

Redshirt sophomore Breana Jeter delivered two kills that came at crucial times in the second set. One kill put Tennessee up 23-22 to give the Vols the last lead change in the set. The other kill came at match point to win the second set.

South Carolina would go on to take the third set 25-18. The Gamecocks opened the set on a 4-0 scoring run and led from start-to-finish. The Vols were unable to gain any momentum and were held to only nine kills. The Gamecocks were led offensively by Mikayla Shields who had 17 kills behind 30 attacks after three sets.

In the fourth set the score remained close early, but South Carolina pulled away in the end to win the set 25-21 and ultimately win the match 3-1.

Despite staying on pace with the visitors for much of the final set, Tennessee’s errors gave South Carolina free points in the end. Both freshmen Madison Coulter and Callie Williams had two service errors that came at crucial moments in the set. Coulter’s error gave South Carolina the lead at 19-17 in the set, and William’s service error gave South Carolina its final point of the match.

Similar to their first match earlier this season, South Carolina’s offense dominated Tennessee once again. Shields would finish the match with 23 kills behind 43 attacks. In addition, Claire Edwards and Mikayla Robinson combined for 22 kills.

In the loss, junior Erica Treiber and sophomore Tessa Grubbs had a strong offensive showing. Both players combined for 21 kills behind 50 attacks. Sophomore Sedona Hansen finished the match with 23 assists to help set up the Tennessee attack. In defense, junior Brooke Schumacher had 20 digs to help keep the Vols stay in play throughout the night.

Tennessee will continue its weekend with another home match on Sunday afternoon. They are set to take on Florida who defeated Tennessee in straight sets earlier in the season in Gainesville. The match will air at 1:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network+ on WatchESPN.

Tennessee volleyball sweeps LSU

Tennessee (11-9, 4-7 SEC) defeated LSU in straight sets on Sunday afternoon inside Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge. The win marks just Tennessee’s second road win this season. In addition, the win is the Lady Vols first clean sweep of an SEC opponent this season.

LSU (16-6, 7-4 SEC) led early on in the opening set, jumping out to a 16-9. The Vols went on a 7-0 scoring run to tie the match at 16-16 before a serving error by freshman Callie Williams ended the run. The remainder of the set would be a back-and-forth battle with several scoring ties. Tennessee would eventually outlast the Tigers 25-23 to win the first set. Sophomore Tessa Grubbs led the Vols with five kills behind 12 attacks.

The Lady Vols won the second set 25-19 in dominating fashion. Tennessee never allowed LSU to gain a lead, and led as much as 13 points in the set. The Tigers attempted to comeback towards the end of the set with a 6-0 scoring run, but the scoring deficit was too much to overcome. Tennessee was efficient offensively with 10 team kills, as they only committed one error in the set.

Tennessee won the third set 25-21 to complete the sweep. Both teams were evenly match in the final set, with the Tigers leading early on. At 6-6 in the set, an attack error by LSU’s Toni Rodriguez gave Tennessee a point lead, and the Tigers were unable to regain the lead. A kill by Grubbs would give Tennessee the final point to win the match.

LSU has been one of the most dangerous teams in the SEC this season, having forced No. 6 Kentucky to five sets in their previous match. In this match however, the Tigers committed too many errors. Three LSU players alone combined for 21 errors.

Grubbs led the Vols offensively with 11 kills behind 24 attacks. Junior Erica Treiber and redshirt sophomore Breana Jeter led the team defensively, combining for nine blocks.

After three straight matches on the road, Tennessee will return to Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday night. The Lady Vols are set to take on South Carolina who defeated Tennessee 3-1 earlier this season. The match will air at 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network+ and on WatchESPN.

Edited by Ben McKee

Feature image courtesy of UT Sports