Georgia volleyball's dreadful October came to an end Sunday, with the Bulldogs losing to Tennessee in five sets. Georgia entered October 11-4 but now will start play on Nov. 2 against Alabama with a 12-10 record after going 1-6 in the month.
Georgia held a 2-0 set lead over Tennessee but the Volunteers came back and forced a winner take all fifth set, which Georgia lost 15-11.
“It’s similar to what we’ve been taking from other five-set matches,” head coach Tom Black said when asked what his team would take from the loss. “I see us getting better, especially the first two sets, I thought the things we are working on happening a lot more often. We just have to get back to work and keep pushing for those two or three extra points.”
T’ara Ceasar struggled on Friday night against Kentucky in what was easily her worst performance of the season. Watching her play Sunday, especially early in the match, one might have thought that game never even happened.
Against Tennessee she was right back to the dominant attacking force she’s been her entire Georgia career. She came out strong and finished the first set with six kills, the same number she had in the entire Kentucky match. Ceasar finished with 21 kills and nine digs.
“I think [T’ara] and Meghan [Donovan] had a really good video session this morning and were able to get on the same page a little bit more,” Black said. “I thought they were clicking really well.”
Rachel Ritchie was second on the team with 15 kills. Meghan Donovan finished with 46 assists and 12 digs. Kendall Glover led the team with 14 digs.
In its loss to Kentucky on Friday, Georgia struggled to finish plays at the net over Kentucky’s size. Georgia flipped the script on Tennessee to start the first set of Sunday’s match, with Donovan, Ritchie and senior Majesti Bass giving Tennessee’s attack problems at the net as the Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead.
Georgia’s early run in the first set gave the Bulldogs some breathing room as the teams started to trade points, and the Bulldogs held onto a comfortable lead for most of the set. Tennessee called its second time out with the score 18-13 in Georgia’s favor and answered back, starting one of the scoring runs that plagued Georgia in its last match.
A successful Tennessee challenge brought the score to within three, but Georgia did what it was unable to do against Kentucky and answered, firing off a run of their own to win the first set 25-19 with a set point coming on a Donovan block.
Georgia took an early 4-3 lead in the second set. The team’s strong play continued, carrying it to a 14-9 lead. Tennessee once again fought back, bringing the score to within three at 18-15, and Georgia called its first timeout up 20-18.
Out of the time out, Tennessee couldn’t connect on offense, and several attacking errors helped Georgia to take 24-19 lead. Another Ceasar kill gave Georgia the set and a 2-0 lead in the match.
“We attacked at a really high level [in the first two sets],” head coach Tom Black said. “We were hitting close to .300 as a team, putting service pressure on them, that’s going to lead to good results when you do that.”
With a comfortable 2-0 lead in the match, Georgia came out slow in the third, allowing Tennessee to get off to a 10-7 lead. After a miscommunication led to a hittable ball dropping in between several players, Georgia took its first timeout.
Tennessee continued its run out of the timeout, stretching its lead to 12-7 before Georgia won another point. Georgia answered with a 5-2 run to bring the margin to two points and force a Tennessee time out. However, the early deficit was too much for Georgia to overcome, and a lengthy run gave Tennessee the set 25-19.
Tennessee came out hot again in the fourth set, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and looking like a completely different team than the one that Georgia dismissed in the first two sets. Tennessee held onto its lead for the entire set and earned set point at 24-15. A Georgia run proved to be too little too late, as Tennessee tied the match at 2-2 with a 25-22 set win.
The fifth set once again featured an early Tennessee run and a 3-1 deficit for Georgia. The Bulldogs fought back but were unable to beat Tennessee in the race for the final 15 points and dropped the set 15-11 and the match 3-2.
This was Georgia’s tenth five-set match this year. The Bulldogs have a 3-7 record in those games.