Posted on August 27, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Starting two freshmen and playing five total newcomers, the Tennessee Volunteers volleyball team opened the year with a 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 22-25, 25-23) victory over Cincinnati on Friday night at the DISH Tennessee Classic.

Freshman outside hitter Tessa Grubbs and setter Sedona Hansen started in their career debuts to help lead Tennessee to the four-set win. Grubbs finished with 14 kills, seven digs and six blocks, while Hansen recorded 39 assists.

By the end of the night, 13 of the Vols’ 19 total players entered the match. Seven players recorded at least one kill and eight players had one dig or more.

“We’re excited because we have a lot of players who can play at a high level and we’re still trying to figure out what our lineup is, so it’s kind of fun to play a lot of people and still play at a high level,” Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick said.

In addition to Grubbs’ double digit kill effort, two returning starters had 10 kills or more. Sophomore Erica Treiber hit .550 with 11 kills and seven blocks, while senior Raina Hembry had 10 kills.

In the first set, the Vols went on a 7-1 run to break a 7-all tie to go ahead 14-8 on a kill by Treiber and never looked back. Senior libero Bridgette Villano, returning from a season-ending knee injury last year, recorded back-to-back aces to seal the set 25-16.

Villano helped Tennessee with her serving again late in the second set, registering back-to-back aces again to give the Vols a 23-21 lead. Hansen dumped the ball over the net for a kill on set point to put Tennessee up 2-0 at halftime.

In the third set, Cincinnati grabbed the first four points and never trailed. Tennessee cut the lead to two points at 23-21 but the Bearcats eventually took the set 25-22.

The fourth set came down to the wire. Cincinnati went ahead 23-22 but the Vols won the final three points to clinch the match. Grubbs and Hembry blocked a shot from Jordan Thompson to end the match 25-23.

Villano had a team-leading 11 digs to go along with her four aces.

In addition to Grubbs and Hansen starting, Tennessee ended up playing five newcomers as freshman middle hitter Alyssa Andreno started the third set, and junior transfers Mackenzie Cooler and Britney Vallez also played.

“I’m really excited about our new players coming in,” Patrick said. “It was exciting to see the new blood on the court. What newcomers always do is they bring energy, and I thought that happened tonight.

The DISH Tennessee Classic continues Saturday as the Vols play a pair of matches, taking on Louisiana Monroe at noon and Middle Tennessee at 7 p.m.

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