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Jacksonville State defeats Golden Eagles in three sets


COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In their first home outing, the 3-0 Jacksonville State Gamecocks defeated the Golden Eagles 3-0. The loss was tough, but the team overcame obstacles they have been battling for the past month. 

Set scores for the Gamecocks were 25-22, 25-20 and 25-23. 

The volleyball team has had a rocky first month, but returning to their home court definitely provided a jumpstart. The Golden Eagle fans were loud and proud, making a large difference in the attitude of the players. The team that played tonight is capable of making a splash in conference play. 

"We have 15 conference matches left and we have the belief that we can win every one of them," said head coach John Blair. "Every day you're going to have a challenge placed in front of you. How are you going to approach that? Are you going to let the hurdle win or are you going to jump over it."

Tech has hurdled many obstacles: injury, illness, countless setbacks facing some of the top competition in the country. Now, proven tonight, they are playing well. They aren't being outplayed by opponents, they are being outscored. 

"We're working on things everyday that will change that. In the three conference matches we've played, we've just been outscored. Once we find those keys, we'll be the ones in control."

Two key differences to tonights match was the impact of the freshmen. Audrey Lewis had her first seven kill performance in her career on 30 attacks while recording 13 digs. Cody Dodd logged four terminations on 14 swings and added one block assist. 

"There's a reason they're here. We believe they could be outstanding volleyball players and we saw glimpses of that tonight," said Blair. 

Senior Kelsey Gray led the Golden Eagle attack with her third straight nine-kill match. Gray lead the team with six blocks, three solo blocks and three block assists. Madison Keyes had a season high five kills and Natalie Penrod chipped in with four. 

Defensively, Tech was led by Courtney Smith who sprawled for 30 digs, a career-high. Madison Comperry dove around for 13 digs, and Penrod added six. Katrina Dvorken logged five blocks, one block solo and four block assists. Keyes also had a hand in three blocks. 

Each set was tight, all three going down to the final moments for a game decision. Set one was tied at 21-21 and kills were exchanged until back-to-back kills and a Golden Eagle attack error gave Jacksonville State a 24-21 advantage. A kill from Penrod paused a win for the Gamecocks, but it wasn't enough as a kill from JSU ended set one 25-22. 

In set two, Tech jumped to an early 4-0 lead, but the Gamecocks snuck their way back into the match. The set was tied 12-12 before a seven point run by JSU placed the Golden Eagles in a difficult spot. Tech fought back to within five, but ran out of time as the set ended at 25-20. 

Set three was another barnburner. The set was tied at 23-23 when back-to-back kills by JSU again won the set and match, 25-23. 

The Golden Eagles return to action Saturday, Sept. 29 at the Hooper Eblen Center. They face UT Martin in a match slated to begin at 2:00 p.m. CT.