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Volleyball burned by the Flames in five, drop four-setter to unbeaten Toledo

Kenline named to Cardinal Classic All-Tournament Team

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It came down to a fifth-set showdown in which the Tennessee Tech volleyball team held a late lead but could not finish off the Liberty Flames in the Golden Eagles first of two matches on Saturday afternoon at the Cardinal Classic. Tech dropped the marathon match, 3-2 (29-27, 22-25, 25-18, 10-25, 16-14). The Golden Eagles were also tripped up, 3-1 (25-18, 25-16, 21-25, 25-23), in their second match against Toledo to fall to 1-8 on the season.

Senior Katie Kenline earned all-tournament team honors for the third straight week after leading the team with 46 digs (3.54 digs/set) in three matches. Kenline, who surpassed 2,000 career digs in Friday's match, now has four all-tournament team honors in her career.

The first set against Liberty (4-4) was a back-and-forth battle featuring 15 tied scores and seven lead changes. With the score tied 24-24, the Golden Eagles right-side hitter Teresa Craig put down her fourth kill of the set to give Tech its first of three set-point opportunities. However, the Flames were able to side out down the stretch before capitalizing on their first set-point chance to give them the opening set, 29-27.

Craig led the team with five kills and a .714 hitting percentage in the opening stanza. Freshman Kelsey Gray added four kills with a .429 hitting percentage along with three blocks, while junior Melanie Culp handed out 14 assists.

The Golden Eagles raced out to a 7-3 lead early in the second set and extended their advantage to 12-5 on a kill by junior Leah Meffert. Liberty chipped away at TTU's lead and came within one point at 20-19, but Tech regrouped and used kills from Meffert and junior Marie Peddicord to take a three-point advantage, 22-19. The Flames kept it close at 24-22 before Meffert's fourth kill of the set evened the match at 1-1.

After Liberty took the third set by a score of 25-18, the TTU block showed up to start the fourth. The freshman duo of Katrina Dvorken and Gray teamed up for two stuffs in the first six points of the match before Peddicord and senior Amanda Lindgren roofed a Liberty attack to give Tech an 8-3 lead. Tech then capitalized on an error-prone Flames attack to take a commanding 16-4 advantage. The Golden Eagles cruised from there and fittingly wrapped up the set, 25-10, on block by Dvorken and Gray.

In the deciding set, Tech fell behind early, 6-2, but came back with four consecutive points to even the score at 6-6 thanks to a pair of kills by Lindgren. With the score tied at 8-8, the Flames committed back-to-back attack errors before Culp tipped in her first kill of the match to give TTU an 11-8 lead. Liberty cut the lead to one, 11-10, and that margin would remain until 13-12 when the Flames scored two in a row to take the late lead. Tech fought off one match point on a kill by Meffert, but Liberty converted on its second match point to take the set 16-14.

Meffert finished with her fourth double-double of the season as she led the team with 19 kills and 16 digs. Four Golden Eagles reached double figures in kills as Lindgren and Gray tallied 12 and Peddicord added 10. Lindgren hit at a .393 clip to lead all players while Craig, Gray and Peddicord all hit better than .300. 

Culp finished the match with a career-high 59 assists, while Gray also set a new career-best with seven blocks.

As a team, Tech hit .262 compared to .161 for Liberty. The Golden Eagles also led in kills (64-60), assists (63-56) and digs (62-56). Both teams tallied 10 blocks.

In Tech's second match of the day, the Golden Eagles fell behind early and never could recover as they fell to undefeated Toledo (9-0) in four sets. The Rockets took the opening set 25-18 after hitting .429 as a team. In the second set, Toledo played from ahead the whole way and captured the set, 25-16. The Golden Eagles put up a solid block, stuffing four Toledo attacks, but the Rockets hit .343 with 16 kills during the frame.

Tech found new life in the third set as the team turned an 11-9 lead into an 18-13 advantage following kills by Meffert and Dvorken. However, Toledo went on a three-point run to cut the Golden Eagle lead to 18-16, causing a TTU timeout. Craig got Tech back on track with an off-speed kill out of the timeout that started a run to put the Golden Eagles ahead 23-19. Meffert and Gray combined for a block and then Meffert put down the set-winning kill to force a fourth set.

Toledo started the final set on a 4-0 run, but Tech scored six of the next eight points highlighted by a pair of kills from Craig to even the score at 6-6. The Golden Eagles kept the rally going as they won several long rallies before taking a 12-8 lead on an ace by Craig. Toledo closed the gap to one, 13-12, when Meffert smashed a ball down the sideline to win another long rally and ignite another Tech run. Meffert scored five straight points for TTU, four kills and one solo block, and Gray added a kill to put the team in front, 19-15. The Rockets evened the set at 20-20 following a four-point run before closing out the set and match, 25-23.

Meffert led the Golden Eagles attack for the third consecutive match, finishing with 19 kills. Kenline picked up 19 digs to lead the team, while Gray added a match-high six blocks.

Tech finished up its pre-conference tournament schedule and now looks forward beginning OVC play next weekend. The Golden Eagles open conference play at home on Friday at 7 p.m. against Southeast Missouri St. before meeting up with Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m. on Saturday.