Despite season-high performances from sophomore setter Meghan Donovan and the tandem of freshmen outside hitters T’ara Ceasar and Rachel Ritchie, Georgia fell in a 3-2 decision to Tennessee on Wednesday in the newly renovated Stegeman Coliseum.
Sophomore Meghan Donovan guided the offense with 56 assists, matching her career-high match against Texas A&M in 2016. The setter added two service aces and 13 digs. The double-digit accolades in assists and digs combine for a team-leading eight double-doubles on the season.
Ceasar and Ritchie led the attack with 19 kills apiece, complimented by junior Majesti Bass with 12. Before Ceasar and Ritchie joined the program, the last pair of players to have 18 or more kills in a match was in October of 2012. The freshmen have done so three times this year, including tonight, with the previous two against Davidson and Texas Tech. Ceasar also tacked on her sixth double-double of the year with 12 digs.
“The first 75 percent of the match, there was a lot of good, and the last 25 not so much,” head coach Tom Black said. “So we’ll just have to learn from it and keep getting more consistent each match.”
Georgia (12-8, 2-5) jumped in front at the start of the match with Donovan behind the line, stringing together seven straight points with three kills from Ceasar. The Bulldogs secured the lead for the remainder of the set, taking a 25-15 first frame, capped by a Bass kill from Donovan.
The second set featured 11 tied scores and three lead changes, as Tennessee (9-7, 2-5) and Georgia traded points back-and-forth. Trailing 19-15, the Bulldogs put together four-straight kills from Ritchie, Bass, and Donovan to even the score. Despite back-to-back kills from Ceasar to cut the Tennessee lead to one, the Volunteers held on for a 25-22 advantage.
With the match tied at one, Georgia controlled the third set, leading by as many as nine points. Another offensive ambush led Georgia to its 20-19 margin with kills from Ceasar and senior Amanda Dachs, who had eight kills, nine digs and four blocks on the day. Tennessee was unable to overcome Georgia’s command as the Bulldogs took the set 25-17.
Georgia remained in front for the first half of the fourth set, until Tennessee tied the match at 18. The two teams flipped the set margin back-and-forth, evening the score at 19, 21, 24 and 25. Tennessee, however, used a pair of kills to force the match into a fifth set, sealing the match with a 15-5 final.
The five-set match with Tennessee marks Georgia’s fourth of the season, and the third in the last four matches. The Bulldogs’ last contest to go five sets ended in a 3-2 victory over South Carolina.
Up next, Georgia travels to face Mississippi State on Sunday. The match will be streamed on SEC Network Plus, with live stats on georgiadogs.com. The next time Georgia plays in Stegeman will be on Oct. 25 against Arkansas.