Golden Eagle Volleyball drops five-set thriller

 

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Golden Eagle volleyball  team dropped its first five-set thriller of the season to UT Martin Saturday afternoon in Ohio Valley Conference action.

The Skyhawks won the match 3-2. Set scores for the Skyhawks were 25-14, 19-25, 28-26, 20-25, 15-8. 

"This loss will generate more focus on the areas that we still need to improve in. There are still so many areas that need improvement but that is in our control," said head coach John Blair. "We just made too many mistakes. We're serving better and receiving better as a whole, our reception at critical times is still breaking down. We are playing the way we practice but the team is starting to understand how to be aggressive." 

UT Martin barely edged out Tech in all statisticall categories, but Tech's defense was again the glue that held the team together. The Golden Eagles recorded 12 team blocks, five of them solo. Madison Keyes lead the team with six blocks, two solo and four block assists. Kelsey Gray, who currently leads the OVC with 1.30 blocks per set, logged one solo block and three block assists while Dvorken, and Dodd had a hand in one block with one solo block respectively. 

Courtney Smith continued her trend of breaking career highs, sprawling for 31 digs and a .960 serve reception percentage. Three other Golden Eagles contributed double digit digs, Outside hitters Natalie Penrod and Audrey Lewis recorded 17 and 12 digs, while setter Ashleigh Hancock chipped in with 11 digs. 

Hancock and Madi Comperry quaterbacked an offense that hit .124 as Hancock dished out 21 assists while Comperry tallied 24. 

Penrod led Tech with 14 kills with Lewis and Gray each adding 10. Gray also contributed four service aces in the match. Keyes tallied six kills and Dodd collected five. 

The first set had six tie scores and two lead changes as neither team never let more than two points go unanswered. at 12-13, the Skyhawks took advantage of back-to-back Golden Eagle attack errors and went on a five-point scoring spree. At 20-14, UT Martin again had the serve and rattled off five straight points to win set one 25-14. 

Set two was all purple and gold as the Golden Eagle block held UT Martin to a .109 attack percentage, forcing nine attack errors. Tech led the entire set, and when Gray went to the serving line at 22-19, there was nothing stopping Tech from entering the break with a win. A power kill from Lewis gave Tech a 23-19 thanks to an extrodinary effort from Gray in the backcourt. The senior middle hitter known for her blocking and attack effort, held her serve and sprawled for all three of her digs in the match giving Tech the 25-19 win. 

After the break, the Golden Eagles charged to a 15-10 lead, thanks to Comperry's serving effort, but the Skyhawks charged back to within two and continued to tie the match at 20. A kill by Gray brought the Golden Eagles to set point, but a service error by Gray extended the set. Points were exchanged until back-to-back kills by UT Martins Emily Keaton brought the Skyhawks to set point and a Tech attack error gave them the win at 28-26. 

Tech bounced back from an early deficit early in the fourth set as Gray redeemed herself with a nine-point serving spree beginning at 15-16, giving the Golden Eagles their first lead at 23-17, then two Skyhawk errors handed the Golden Eagles set four 25-20. 

Set five was domintated early on by the Skyhawks, with the Golden Eagles falling to an early 8-2 deficit. Tech continued to battle, bringing the set within three, but ran out of time in the short 15-point set, losing 15-8. 

The Golden Eagles return to OVC action next weekend in Nashville taking on Tennessee State at 7:00 Friday evening and the newest addition to the conference, Belmont, at 2:00 on Saturday.