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The Tennessee Lady Volunteers rallied in the final two games to beat Ohio 3-2 in the season opener Friday night at the Comcast Lady Vol Classic in Thompson-Boling Arena.
With three freshmen starting and senior leader Kayla Jeter out for the season with a knee injury, the Lady Vols were looking for players to take charge on court.
In a close match to start the year, those individuals were sophomores Kelsey Robinson and Carly Sahagian.
Robinson posted a career-high 27 kills and Sahagian pitched in 21 digs to guide a young Lady Vols lineup to a 23-25, 25-13, 18-25, 25-17, 15-7 comeback victory.
“We expect to maybe play a little uneven here at the beginning of the season, but I was very excited about how mature they played on the court, how organized they were and how they played the big points today,” Tennessee head coach Rob Patrick said. “We were able to turn around some patches of play that were inconsistent and pulled out the victory.”
Tennessee (1-0) will finish the two-day annual classic Saturday against Villanova (1-0) at 10 a.m. and Maryland (0-1) at 7 p.m. Live streaming will be available at UTLadyVols.com/allaccess.
The Lady Vols found themselves in a must-win fourth game after losing the third. The squad settled down and took an early lead on their way to capturing the game 25-17 to force the deciding set.
In the fifth game, Robinson rifled a kill down the left side to give Tennessee a 4-3 lead in the final game, and the Lady Vols never looked back. The team jumped on a 6-0 run to go ahead 9-3 just a few minutes later.
Freshman setter Mary Pollmiller dumped in a point at the net to win the game 15-7 and clinch the match.
While Robinson is just a sophomore, she automatically had more on-court college experience than the trio of freshmen — Pollmiller, Tiffany Baker and Shealyn Kolosky — who started for the Lady Vols. She earned a considerable amount of playing time her first season at Tennessee, earning SEC All-Freshman honors.
“I definitely feel like I have some experience under the belt,” Robinson said. “It makes it easier to lead when you have been on the court more than anyone else, but I had some great help from everybody. When the block was zoning in on me, Carly and Tiff came through and made huge plays and just made it easier for me to have more court to work with.”
Robinson’s 27 kills eclipsed her previous career best of 16 last season. Her five aces were also a career best.
“Kelsey and Carly did a great job this summer of putting themselves in a position to be in great shape and working on their game, and it really showed today,” Patrick said. “Kelsey Robinson came up big and really carried the team when we needed someone to get us through patches of uneven play.”
Meanwhile, Sahagian led the Lady Vols in nearly every other category, finishing with 12 kills, 21 digs and six blocks. All were career highs.
“Carly, I always call her the Assassin or the Ninja, you don’t even really see her until you look at the scoresheet and all of a sudden, she’s leading us in blocks, digs, second in kills,” Patrick said. “She just really filled up the stat sheet today. I told her this is what you practiced for. I’m not surprised that you did this. I’m really happy for her.”
Tennessee also excelled on the defensive end as a team Friday, limiting Ohio to a .134 attack percentage and no aces. For players had at least 10 digs.
Villanova 3, Maryland 1: In the other Friday match of the Comcast Lady Vol Classic, Villanova beat Maryland 3-1. Kirsta Andersen had 14 kills and Kim Maroon had 25 digs.
• The Lady Vols started just one upperclassman in junior DeeDee Harrison. Three freshmen (Shealyn Kolosky, Mary Pollmiller and Tiffany Baker) and three sophomores (Kelsey Robinson, Carly Sahagian and libero Ellen Mullins).
• Shaelyn Kolosky's first collegiate serve was an ace.
• Tennessee did not sub until the second game, when Jasmine Brown came on to serve in place of Kolosky.
• Countdown Continues: Head coach Rob Patrick has 293 wins at Tennessee, putting him just seven away from No. 300. Now in his 15th season, he is already the winningest coach in program history.
• Last season’s match against Ohio on the road also lasted five games with the Lady Vols winning that meeting too.



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