Final tune-up has Golden Eagles ready for NCAA Tourney opener

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Tech volleyball team went through a one-hour closed practice Friday morning in Dayton, a final tune-up for its 4 p.m. CST match against Tulane University in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Fans who have followed Tennessee Tech have kept up-to-date on their team. So, what's Tulane's take on its match with the Golden Eagles? Here's the Tulane point of view on Friday's match (from

The Tulane University volleyball team opened the 2008 season with the expectation to make its mark on the national scene.

On Friday evening, the Green Wave will have a chance to do just that as the No. 16 nationally-seeded team opens play in its first-ever NCAA Tournament against Tennessee Tech at 4 p.m. in the Frericks Center on the University of Dayton campus.

"Obviously, this is a very exciting time for this program," Tulane head volleyball coach Liz Kritza said. "The team is in good spirits, they feel that they are well prepared and this is a moment that we have all been working really hard towards the last couple of years. But at the same time, we have found that balance where we focus on the task at hand, and for us the task at hand right now is a really tough match tomorrow night against a quality opponent. I fully expect Tennessee Tech to challenge us and we are expecting to advance our level of play tomorrow night.

"We have fared pretty well throughout the conference portion of our season, but now we have to draw on our experience from our pre-conference games and some of those teams that we traveled all over the country and played to get us to this point right now. I am relying on a good class of seniors and some strong leadership. These players understand the importance of every single match, every single set and every single point. I am completely confident that they will be ready to go tomorrow night and they will represent this University well as they have all season."

The Green Wave enter the 2008 NCAA Tournament 27-5 on the year, Conference USA regular-season champions with a 15-1 league record, and earned an automatic bid to the postseason after winning the C-USA Tournament with a 3-2 decision over UAB on Nov. 23 in Memphis, Tenn., at the Elma Roane Fieldhouse. Tulane has won 25 of its last 26 matches, including a school-record 16 straight victories.

As a team, the Green Wave are averaging 14.01 kills, 13.10 assists, 14.60 digs and 2.11 blocks per set. Senior outside hitter Sara Radosevic leads the squad with 3.56 kills per set, junior libero Jenn Miller paces the club with 3.88 digs per contest, and senior middle blocker Jen Linder headlines the team with 1.03 blocks per outing.

Tulane is hitting .256 (1639-601-4062) on the season while allowing opponents to attack at a .172 clip (1354-669-3983). Green Wave opponents are averaging 11.57 kills, 10.81 assists, 13.62 digs and 2.28 blocks per set in 2008.

Tennessee Tech, meanwhile, enters the NCAA postseason 19-12 on the year, co-champions on the Ohio Valley Conference with a 14-4 league record, and earned an automatic bid to the NCAAs after winning the OVC Tournament with a five-set victory over Murray State on Nov. 22 in Cookeville, Tenn.

As a team, the Golden Eagles are averaging 13.39 kills, 12.37 assists, 15.27 digs and 1.92 blocks per set. Leah Meffert leads the squad with 3.17 kills per set, Katie Kenline paces the club with 4.90 digs per contest, and Jessica Asplund headlines the team with 0.80 blocks per outing.

Tennessee Tech is hitting .214 (1513-637-4103) on the season while allowing opponents to attack at a .202 clip (1390-597-3930). Golden Eagle opponents are averaging 12.30 kills, 11.06 assists, 14.57 digs and 2.21 blocks per set in 2008.

"Tennessee Tech is a good, solid ballclub similar to the teams in Conference USA that have fared well against us," Kritza said. "They are a very disciplined group that can control their team systems well, so we expect them to play very good defense against us and not to be very error prone. They would not be here in the NCAA Tournament if they were. They know how to play this game well. Their coaches do a good job of matchups and making adjustments during the course of play.

"We are expecting a tough match tomorrow night. It is a good thing that we have had plenty of tough matches this season and we look forward to raising our level of play with every level of the postseason."

Friday's NCAA Tournament match between Tulane and Tennessee Tech marks the third meeting between the two teams, and the Green Wave hold a 2-0 advantage in the all-time series. The two teams, however, have not played since Oct. 20, 1978, when the Green Wave defeated Tennessee Tech 15-1, 15-1 in the Memphis Tournament in Tennessee. The only other meeting between the clubs came on Oct. 23, 1976, when Tulane downed the Golden Eagles, 14-16, 15-1, 15-7, in Memphis, Tenn.

"We want to remember this history-making season as much more than just a trip to the NCAAs," Kritza said. "It is much more than that because it is a realistic goal for us to advance deep into the tournament. We feel that we still have a lot to prove to the national volleyball community, the media and to ourselves that we truly are amongst the nation's elite in college volleyball."

The winner of tomorrow's match will advance to the NCAA Second Round where the victor will take on the winner of host Dayton and Western Michigan on Saturday at 5 p.m. for the right to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Dayton, Ohio bracket is matched up with the University Park, Penn., bracket - which features No. 1 national seed Penn State, Long Island, Yale and Ohio - on Dec. 12 on the campus of Penn State University. The winner of that match will advance to the final eight and the winner there moves on to the NCAA Volleyball Championships in Omaha, Neb., from Dec. 18-20.