COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Still in search for their first conference win, the Tech volleyball team hits the road for a second chance at Morehead State Friday night and Eastern Kentucky Saturday. The Golden Eagles faced the both teams earlier this season, and lost to each in four sets.
GOLDEN EAGLE PREVIEW
With the end of the season drawing near, the Golden Eagles only have six matches remaining. Despite their record, Tech remains one of the best defensive teams in the conference. Several teams have had to make adjustments to the wall the Tech block has placed at the net.
The net is anchored by senior Kelsey Gray, who is currently ranked 14th in the NCAA with 1.46 blocks per set, out-blocking players from some of the best programs in the country, inluding Penn State, Nebraska, Texas and UCLA. Gray leads the OVC in the same category, with .29 lead over Morehead State's Ann Gruenschlaeger, the second-ranked blocker 1ith 1.17 blocks per set.
Leading the backcourt is sophomore libero Courtney Smith. Smith averages 5.23 digs per set, placing her third in the OVC. Smith is leads the Golden Eagles with a .944 serve reception percentage, controlling over one-third of the Golden Eagles serve receive.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles are led by Gray with 2.31 kills per set. Outside hitters Natalie Penrod and Ellen Conti have surpassed the 100 kill mark with Gray this season. Penrod averages 2.11 kills per set, and Conti proves 1.80 kills per set.
As a team, Tech averages 9.35 kills, 14.19 digs, 2.49 blocks and 0.91 aces per set.
TECH (2-20, 0-10 OVC) vs. Morehead State (18-6, 10-0 OVC)
MSU leads the series 54-17.
Earlier this season, Morehead State defeated the Golden Eagles in four sets, 25-13, 22-25, 25-17 and 25-15.
TECH vs. Eastern Kentucky (7-14, 4-6 OVC)
EKU leads the series 47-20.
EKU defeated Tech earlier this season 3-1. Set scores were 25-22, 23-25, 25-15 and 25-19.
LOOKING AHEAD: For their final home appearance of the season, the Golden Eagle volleyball team will return to Hooper-Eblen Center Homecoming weekend, Nov. 2-3. Friday night, the Golden Eagles will take on SIU Edwardsville at 7:00 p.m and then host Southeast Missouri Saturday at 5 p.m. Saturday, the Tech will honor its three seniors: Madi Comperry, Katrina Dvorken and Kelsey Gray as they will play their final game in the Hoop.
OUTBLOCKING THE OVC: Tennessee Tech sits atop the conference in blocks per set with 2.38. The majority of the team's blocks come from 6-2 senior Kelsey Gray, whose average of 1.33 blocks per set ranks first in the OVC and 40th in the NCAA.
100 MILESTONES: Two Golden Eagles have reached the 100 kill mark this season, outside hitter Natalie Penrod and middle hitter Kelsey Gray have each reached the season milestone. Gray has accumulated 117 kills so far this season, and Penrod has 100 kills.
CAN YOU DIG IT? Courtney Smith had a career weekend, recording a match high 24 digs at Austin Peay (a career high) and a team high 15 digs against Murray State. She had a .953 reception conversion, taking 64 of Tech's serve reception. Smith averaged 5.57 digs per set over the weekend, well above her 4.86 season average.
CONFERENCE ACTION: This season, with the addition of Belmont University to the conference, the OVC will break down into two regions, expanding tournament play to the top eight teams (from six in previous years). The winners of each division get automatic berths into the conference championship, while the seeding will be determined by winning percentage.
Tech will play in the East Division along with Belmont, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Morehead State and Tennessee State. The West Division includes Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, Murray State, Southeast Missouri, SIUE and UT Martin.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Kelsey Gray received her second All-Tournament selection this season at the Samford Bulldog Invitational. Gray had two double-digit performances in kills, 11 against Gardner-Webb and 14 against Alcorn State. She hit a whopping .462 attack percentage against Alcorn State. Gray put up a wall at the net, blocking just about every ball that went toward her. Gray had seven solo blocks and 10 block assists over the weekend. Against Gardner-Webb, Gray had five solo blocks and four assists forcing GW's top player to have three straight errors, and to be pulled from the match. Gray's blocking effort held opponents to a .161 attack percentage, the lowest of any tournament this season.
Natalie Penrod was selected to the Western Kentucky all-tournament team, marking her second all-tournament honor this season. Returning to her home state of Kentucky, Penrod earned all-tournament honors in a five-team tournament with opponents like #10 Dayton and Ohio State. Penrod led Tech with 22 kills despite facing a triple block most of the weekend. Penrod was responsible for 25 of Tech's 99 points, and a third of Tech's total offense.
Gray earned a spot on her first all-tournament team at the Xavier Invitational. Gray hit an outstanding .667 against Xavier. She recorded nine kills, leading the team. Against the second best team in the Big East, Marquette, Gray had eight terminations, again leading the team and hit .500. As a middle, Gray hit above and beyond against three top-tier teams.
Penrod netted all-tournament honors at the Country Inns & Suites Invitational hosted by UT Chattanooga. Penrod recorded 35 kills (3.89 k/s), hitting at a .260 clip.
Prior to the 2012 season, 56 Golden Eagles have earned all-tournament honors, dating back to 1994.
RECORD BREAKING SEASON: Tech opened the 2012 season at the Country Inns & Suites Invitational and set the first record of the season. The Golden Eagles didn't allow a single block against Alcorn State, tying the Golden Eagle team record for fewest total blocks allowed.
SENIORS: There are three seniors leading the 2012 squad. Madi Comperry, Katrina Dvorken and Kelsey Gray lead the Golden Eagles and are looking to get back to the OVC tournament. The trio has a career record 26-63. They have accumulated four tournament wins and appeared in two OVC tournaments.
HEAD COACH: John Blair continues his reign as head coach by reaching the decade mark, becoming only the second coach in Tech history to do so.
During the 2011 season, Blair reached another milestone, earning his 100th victory at UT Chattanooga in a five-set thriller. Blair has had continued success since he lead the Golden Eagles to a conference championship in 2008, making it to the OVC tournament four out of the past five seasons.
Blair earned his 69th OVC victory last season when the Golden Eagles defeated Eastern Kentucky on November 11. Blair now has 373 wins after 27 years as a head coach, including 104 career wins at Tennessee Tech, making him the third winningest coach in program history.
CATCH THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Fans can catch Live stats via PrestoSports Prime Time via Tennessee Tech here. For conference play, games will be broadcasted on the Ohio Valley Conference Digital Network here.
OVC DIGITAL NETWORK: The Ohio Valley Conference has launched the OVC Digital Network the new and improved home for live streaming of athletic contests involving OVC member institutions, including Tennessee Tech.
The Conference is entering its seventh year of web streaming athletic contests, and this investment in improved quality, rebranding and launch of the Digital Network coincides with the OVC's partnership with SIDEARM Sports (SAS), which debuted as the new OVCSports.com in July and is the host of the OVC Digital Network.