The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga volleyball team got the atmosphere it wanted for its home opener, and the Mocs played well at times. But mistakes at crucial moments allowed visiting Tennessee to come away with a 3-0 (25-11, 25-22, 25-21) win in the opening match of the Country Inns & Suites Invitational on Thursday night.
"The atmosphere was probably the best that we could ever ask for," said UTC sophomore Briana Reid. "The response from people knowing we were playing Tennessee was amazing. We didn't get the ideal result, but I think we learned a lot today.
"I think that our fans really kept us in the game when we really needed them. There were some points when we really needed some energy, and they gave us a big boost and we really appreciated that."
UTC (0-4) set a volleyball attendance record with 1,532 packing Maclellan Gym, and after a slow start the Mocs gave their fans something to cheer for in the second set. They rallied to take a 22-21 lead late in that set before Tennessee (3-1) scored the final four points to take a 2-0 match lead.
It was more of the same in the third set, with the Mocs falling behind before putting together another furious comeback to take leads of 14-12 and 15-13. But Tennessee again reclaimed the lead and finished off the straight set victory.
"The energy in the building was great," UTC coach Travis Filar said. "When we played to our level and our potential, I think we gave the crowd something exciting to see. But there were way too many moments where Tennessee didn't have to work too hard to score points.
"They're a great team. They're very athletic and they're very well-coached. When you play a team like that you can't give them easy points, and we missed way too many serves and made way too many unforced errors."
Reid lead the Mocs with 18 assists, and Allied Davenport had a team-high eight kills. Davenport also had two aces for UTC but made four service errors. Julimar Alvarado, Kendal Sexton and Sarah Batterton each had five kills for UTC.
Tennessee was led by Jamie Lea's 12 kills, and Lexi Dempsey had 33 assists in the win.
Play continues today and Saturday in the tournament with matches starting at 10 a.m. both days. UTC will take on Charlotte tonight at 7, and Tennessee will face UNC Asheville at 12:30 p.m.
Contact Jim Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6478.