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TTU cannot hang on against SEMO in home opener, falls 3-2

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - After taking the first two sets of Friday night's match convincingly in front of a supportive Eblen Center crowd, it looked like the Tennessee Tech volleyball team would make quick work of visiting Southeast Missouri. However, the Redhawks rebounded to capture the final three sets and escape with a five-set victory (25-18, 25-19, 18-25, 21-25, 15-17) in both teams' first OVC action of the season.

The Golden Eagles out-hit SEMO, .192-180, and finished with six more blocks (11.0-5.0) than the Redhawks. Both teams tallied 104 total digs.

Leading the way for the Tech attach was freshman middle blocker Kelsey Gray who finished with a team-high 15 kills and a .324 hitting percentage. She also made her presence felt on the defensive side of the net, tallying six blocks.

Joining Gray with double-digit kills were four Golden Eagles, including Leah Meffert and Amanda Lindgren with 13 apiece and Teresa Craig and Marie Peddicord with 10 apiece. Meffert, Lindgren and Craig all posted double-doubles as each one of the trio added 10-or-more digs. Craig notched 19, while Meffert had 12 and Lindgren finished with 11.

Setter Melanie Culp, fresh off of being named OVC Setter of the Week last week, handed out 51 assists and also added 14 digs for TTU, while reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Year Katie Kenline led the team with 29 digs.

In the first set of Friday's match, the teams were tied 18-18 when the Golden Eagles went on a seven-point run to close out the set fueled by the serving of junior Laura Pierce. Tech took advantage of three Redhawk errors and used a pair of kills by Meffert in closing out the first stanza, 25-18.

Tech took control of the second set much earlier, grabbing a 10-6 lead after a put-back kill by Gray on a SEMO overpass. The Golden Eagles pushed their lead to six, 14-8 on a block by Peddicord and Lindgren, forcing a timeout by the visitors. The Redhawks came out of the break strong and cut Tech's lead to two, 17-15, but a pair of kills by Gray and three Southeast Missouri attack errors late gave the Golden Eagles a 23-18 lead before they closed out the set, 25-19, on a kill by Peddicord.

After dropping the third set, 25-18, Tech found itself ahead late in the fourth set, 20-19, before SEMO scored the next three points to take a 22-20 lead. Culp set up Meffert for a well-needed kill to cut the deficit to one, but the Redhawks responded with another three-point run to force a fifth set.

In the deciding period, neither team could gain much of an advantage as the teams battled to 14 tied scores while the lead changed hands nine times. The Golden Eagles had two match points washed away by Southeast Missouri kills before the Redhawks (4-6, 1-0 OVC) were able to capitalize on their first match point opportunity of the night, sending the Tennessee Tech's record to 1-9, 0-1 OVC to begin the season.

The Golden Eagles will have a chance to regroup and pick up their first OVC victory of the season on Saturday afternoon. Tech hosts Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m. in the Eblen Center.

Photo by Alex Mullens