COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Golden Eagle volleyball squad wraps up tournament play, traveling to Birmingham, Ala. to play in the Samford Invitational Sept. 14-15. Tennessee Tech will face a familiar opponent in Alcorn State, the Golden Eagles lone win of the season, as well as new foes Gardner-Webb and Samford.
This weekend's competition will be the closest to the caliber of play by Ohio Valley Conference teams that Tech has faced all season. The Golden Eagles open the tourament against Gardner-Webb Friday afternoon and then face tourney host Samford Fridy evening. Tech wraps up the invitational against Alcorn State Saturday at noon.
Friday, Sept. 14
2:00 p.m. CT - Tech vs. Gardner-Webb
Online Coverage: Live Stats
12:00 p.m. CT - Tech vs. Alcorn State
Online Coverage: Live Stats
Tournament Central can be found here.
*** Please check back Friday for updated links to all live stats and video.
GOLDEN EAGLE PREVIEW
The Golden Eagles are starting to come together as a team, after facing some of the toughest competition in program history. More digs are popping up, communication on the court is more efficient, and the flow of Tech's game is that much more unpredictable. With OVC play drawing near, this weekend is a final tune-up, and the Golden Eagles are ready to soar.
Tech is coming off a great performance in the Lady 'Topper Invitational. The Golden Eagle defense held opponents below their season averages, and gave its best offensive performance since the Country Inns & Suites Invitational.
Outside hitter Natalie Penrod led the charge, earning her second all-tournament honors in the 2012 season. Returning to her home state of Kentucky, Penrod earned all-tournament honors in a five-team tournament with strong opponents such as #10 Dayton and Ohio State. Penrod led Tech with 22 kills despite facing a triple block most of the tournament. Penrod was responsible for 25 of TTU's 99 points, and a third of the team's total offense.
Captain Kelsey Gray remained consistent on the court, terminating 13 balls over the course of the weekend. But it was Gray's defensive performance that made the senior stand out. Gray anchored the net with 14 total blocks, holding #10 Dayton to a .103 attack percentage in the third set. Gray also had two solo blocks while assisting in 12 at the pin. Gray's blocking effort also held Western Kentucky to a .061 attack percentage in the first set and a .184 clip in the second set. Gray's blocking propelled her to sixth in the OVC in average blocks per set.
Libero Courtney Smith continues to control the backcourt, averaging 4.52 digs per set, while sitting at sixth in the OVC. Outside hitter Ellen Conti continues to pick up 1.83 digs per set in Tech's defensive effort.
Quarterbacking the net is Ashleigh Hancock, dishing out 4.63 assists per set and Madi Comperry with a 3.37 assists per set average of her own. The Golden Eagle offense is currently averaging a .123 attack percentage.
TECH (1-8) VS. Gardner-Webb (2-10)
This is the first meeting between Tech and Gardner-Webb.
Scouting the Runnin' Bulldogs
Gardner-Webb is coming off its second win of the season when they defeated North Carolina A&T in three sets, breaking a four-match losing streak.
As a team, Gardner-Webb averages 10.84 kills, 13.44 digs, 1.89 blocks and 1.11 aces per set.
The Runnin' Bulldogs are lead by Tyler Cockrell with 115 kills, averaging 2.61 kills per set. Erin Anderson adds 2.02 k/s, averaging a .139 clip. Setter Heather Feildman has reached the 1,500 career assist mark, averaging 9.38 assists in the 2012 season.
Last weekend Gardner-Webb went 0-3 at the Runnin' Bulldog Classic. GWU fell to Delaware State 3-2 (25-20, 23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-17), UM-Kansas City 3-2, (27-25, 22-25, 22-25, 27-25, 9-15) and Charlotte 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 23-25, 25-20, 12-15). In a mid-week match against North Carolina A&T, the Runnin' Bulldogs captured a 3-0 victory (25-13, 25-16, 25-15).
TECH VS. Samford (5-6)
This will be the 12th meeting between the 'Dogs and the Golden Eagles. Tech leads the series 7-4. In their most recent meeting, 2010, Samford won the match in three sets.
Scouting the Bulldogs
The Samford Bulldogs have totaled four wins in their last five matches. The Bulldogs are coming off a 3-1 loss against Alabama Tuesday, but earned three wins in the Georgia State Invitational.
As a team, Samford averages 13.4 kills, 14.1 digs, 1.4 blocks and 1.1 aces per set.
Sophomore outside hitter Michaela Ressor leads the team with 128 kills to average 3.1 kills per set. Senior hitter Elizabeth Neisler adds 2.9 kills per frame and senior middle Lauren Hutchinson pitches in with 2.6 kills per set with a .333 hitting percentage. Senior setter Casey Garvey has 448 of the teams 522 assists this season, averaging 12.73 assists per set. From the back court, libero Alexis Bauer leads the team with 4.56 digs per set and Chelsi Carter adds 2.22 digs per set while leading the team with 11 aces in 2012.
Last weekend Samford went 3-0 beating Georgia State 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-21), South Alabama 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 18-25, 25-18) and Mercer 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-22, 33-31). In the Bulldogs mid-week match against the Crimson Tide, Samford dropped a 3-1 decision (25-23, 16-25, 13-25, 14-25).
TECH VS. Alcorn State (1-6)
This will be TTU's and Alcorn's second meeting, and Tech leads the series 1-0. The Golden Eagles defeated the Braves earlier in the 2012 season at the Country Inns & Suites Invitational at UT Chattanooga, sweeping Alcorn State 3-0 (25-5, 25-20, 25-7)
Scouting the Braves
The Braves picked up their first win of the season last weekend against Dillard.
LOOKING AHEAD: Tech begins conference play Sept. 21 at Murray State, and faces Austin Peay the following day. Volleyball will finally return to the Hooper Eblen Center Sept. 25 against Jacskonville State.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Natalie Penrod was selected to the Western Kentucky all-tounament 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.
Kelsey 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.
Natalie 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.