COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Golden Eagle volleyball team is looking to dance to their first conference victory as they head to Nashville for two matches this weekend. Tech will take on Tennessee State Friday night and then face the newest addition to the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont Saturday afternoon.
Friday, Oct. 5 7:00 p.m. CT - Tech at Tennessee State
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The Golden Eagles are yet to net an OVC victory, but that is all about to change. With every match, the team gains valuable experience for it's two freshman starters and with injured players on the verge of returning Tech has the potential to turn things around.
Defense continues to be a strength for the Golden Eagles. The Golden Eagles rank second in the OVC with 2.33 blocks per set. Anchoring the net is Kelsey Gray who is also ranked 2nd in the OVC with 1.25 blocks per set. Against UT Martin, fellow middle blocker Madison Keyes had a match-high six blocks, with five other Golden Eagles knocking down blocks.
Courtney Smith continued to rattle off career defining performances, recording 30 digs against Jacksonville State and 31 digs against UT Martin, giving her a 7.62 dig per set average on the weekend.
Offensively the Golden Eagles are paced by Natalie Penrod with 2.50 kills per set. Gray contributes 2.25 kills per set and Keyes averages 1.29 kills per set at a .158 clip. The battle for outside continues in the practice gym as Penrod, Ellen Conti, Audrey Lewis and Christine Maci are all vying for a starting spot.
As a team, Tech is averaging 9.52 kills, 14.11 digs, 2.33 blocks and 1.12 service aces per set.
TECH (2-14, 0-4 OVC) vs. Tennessee State(8-8, 3-1 OVC)
Tennessee State leads the series 35-8.
Last season the Golden Eagles split the series against the Tigers, beating Tennessee State at home in five sets.
Scouting the Tigers The Tigers picked up a pair of OVC wins last weekend and outside hitter Rachel Ambroch was named OVC Offensive Player of the week after tallying 34 kills in two matches.
As a team, Tennessee State averages 12.02 kills, 12.25 digs, 1.25 blocks and 1.49 aces per set.
The Tigers are lead by Ambroch and Naoimi Wells. The duo has combined for 331 kills this season, with Wells ranked fourth in the OVC with 4.11 points per set.
Last week Tennessee State went 2-0 defeating Belmont and Eastern Illinois. The Tigers beat the Bruins on the road in a 3-2 victory, (20-25, 15-25, 25-19, 25-22, 16-14). Tennesse State beat Eastern Illinois at home on Sunday 3-0, (25-16, 25-15, 25-18).
TECH vs. Belmont (6-12, 2-2 OVC) The Golden Eagles lead the series 10-3.
This will be the first meeting between the Golden Eagles and the Bruins since 2010. Tech won the contest 3-1.
Scouting the Bruins
The Bruins finished last week 1-1, after falling to Tennessee State in five sets and sweeping SIUE.
The Bruins are led by Scarlet Gable, Alex Martin, Jen Myer and Jocelyn Youngdahl who have all reached the 100 kill mark this season. Defensively, Jamie Lundstrom paces the defence averaging 5.05 digs per set.
As a team, Belmont averages 11.8 kills, 16.1 digs, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 aces per set.
Last week the Bruins went 1-1. The Bruins lost to Tennessee State 3-2, (25-20, 25-15, 19-25, 22-25, 14-16). In their first home OVC victory, Belmont defeated SIU Edwardsville 3-0, (25-15, 25-14, 25-15).
LOOKING AHEAD: Tech returns home for a four-match homestand next weekend. Friday, the Golden Eagles play Eastern Kentucky for a 7:00 match. Tech will host a PINK OUT event that evening as part of October's breast cancer awareness month. On Saturday Golden Eagles will take on defending OVC champions and the top team in the East Division, Morehead State at 2:00.
OUTBLOCKING THE OVC: Tennessee Tech is ranked second in the conference in blocks per set with 2.33. The majority of the team's blocks come from 6-2 senior Kelsey Gray, whose average of 1.25 blocks per set ranks second in the OVC.
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.
SOCIAL NETWORK: Like TTU Sports on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get updates on the Golden Eagle volleyball team this season. Both sites will be updated live during matches this year.