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October 30, 2008

Golden Eagle volleyball team hoping 2008 is history in the making

By Thomas Corhern Herald-Citizen Assistant Sports Editor

COOKEVILLE -- It's a clich?, but for Tennessee Tech volleyball, it truly is history in the making.

The Golden Eagles have six games remaining in their regular season, but for the first time since 1983, the Golden Eagles are in contention for an Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship.
True, Tech did win the 1997 OVC Tournament, but the Golden Eagles finished second in the regular season.

Tech hosts its final home series of the season this weekend as the team that the Golden Eagles currently find themselves tied for the top spot, Morehead State, comes into town Friday night.

The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Eblen Center. Admission is free.

Eastern Kentucky, currently tied for seventh in the league, is Tech's final regular season opponent in the Eblen Center on Saturday afternoon.

Friday's match is conceivably one of the biggest games in Tech volleyball history.

"It ranks right up there," said coach John Blair, who leads his team in with a 13-9 record, 10-2 in the OVC. "It's right up there with the 1997 team that won the OVC tournament. That's certainly what our goal is -- regular season and tournament.

"These are historic times. Since the advent of the league's expansion, our team's never had a 10-2 record and competing for first place. It's always been a 'catch them from behind' thing. This is new territory for us."

And the players themselves are excited by the prospects.

"We're pumped," said junior libero Katie Kenline. "This game is important for us because it could put us in first place and in position to host the tournament."

If the Golden Eagles can hold on to their current streak and win their first league title since '83, Tech will host the OVC Tournament from Nov. 20-23.

Granted there's still a lot to play, but the Golden Eagles are looking unstoppable at the moment.

But that's not getting the Golden Eagles off their game.

"It's been a great season so far, but we really haven't accomplished anything yet," said senior setter Katherine "Kappy" Lang. "We're all looking forward to this weekend. We want a strong start against Morehead. But we want to host the tournament."

Yet, it's still history in the making.

"For our program, I think so," Lang said. "We've come a long way from my freshman year. I don't think any of us are going to be satisfied until we accomplish what we want to and that's win the tournament."

"We all came in together and, hopefully, we'll all leave with a championship and a ring," Kenline said.

Kenline entered the same season with Lang and fellow seniors Jessica Asplund and Caitlin Bullock, but Kenline was redshirted after an injury.

"We've been fortunate to have a great group of seniors," Blair said. "They've worked really hard this year and committed themselves to be where they are today."

But Morehead isn't a slouch by any means though.

"That's the team we want to beat," Kenline said. "They beat us earlier in the season."

The Eagles claimed a 3-1 win in Morehead back on Oct. 4. After winning its first nine straight league matches, Morehead State has fallen in a slight dry spell.

"They've had a nice run," Blair said. "About four years ago, they were right there even with us because of what their personnel rollover was. They've been a bit quicker and the last couple of years, they've been right there. I feel like we've been chasing them. We lost to them 17-15 last year at the conference championships.

"We've been neck and neck with them. Sometimes it's a break there, a point here."

Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles have won 12 straight sets, sweeping Tennessee-Martin, Jacksonville State, Tennessee State and Austin Peay.

And in recent weeks, the Golden Eagles have been dominating the OVC's weekly awards. Lang received her sixth setter of the week nod earlier this week, while Kenline was tabbed as the league's defensive player of the week.

"Those really are coming from how we are playing as a team," Lang said. "It's nice to be recognized, but we wouldn't be recognized if we weren't doing well as a team. That's what matters."

Kenline added, "Everyone on our team is deserving of awards, but they can't give one to everybody."

Blair echoed those sentiments.

"With as well as our team as played, it's easy to showcase a few players," Blair said. "In this sport, nobody gets there on their own."