By Jocelyn VerVelde, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech volleyball team (4-7, 0-1) fell to a feisty Murray State (11-4, 1-0) squad Friday night in a thrilling, five-set battle to open Ohio Valley Conference play. In front of a crowd of about 650, Tech fought tooth-and-nail for a home victory, but fell just short in set five.
Set one followed what has become a trend for the Golden Eagles, as they traded points with the Racers keeping it with one point the entire match until the end. With Tech up 21-20, Murray State was forced to call a time out. Following the break, the Racers were able to pull away on a few Tech errors, and squeezed out of set one with a narrow, 25-23 win.
Freshman setter Sharon Anderson was given the reins in set two to run the Golden Eagle offense. Anderson directed the Golden Eagles by putting up 17 assists in that set alone, which resulted in 18 kills for Tech, while hitting a clip of .271 as a team. However, again following suit, Tech fought back-and-fourth with Murray as they kept the game within one up until the 15-15 mark. From there, Tech's offense was no match for the Racers as the Golden Eagles out-scored the visitors 10-4 to win the set, 25-19. Senior Elise Robertson put down seven of her 13 kills in set two.
Trading rally-for-rally, the Golden Eagles again kept the score within one point, this time to the 9-9 mark in set three. But some untimely errors and key plays by Murray gave the Racers an advantage as they took an 18-13 lead. Tech was able to shrink the gap to a score of 22-20, but were never quite able to close the deal. Tech lost set three, 25-21, despite having 18 team kills and hitting .244. However, Murray made just three errors in the set to win.
Set four was filled with chaos. Scrapping back and forth, Tech and Murray traded points through the early part of the set. Then Murray out-scored the Golden Eagles 6-3, gaining an advantage. However this was not enough for the Racers to win the set. Following an out-of-rotation call on the Racers, Tech was able to tie the match at 18. From there, the Racers looked shaken. Murray State libero Katlyn Hudson was reprimanded with a yellow card by the official, but Tech was not given a point. Leading 21-18 following the incident, two sophomore Cody Dodd kills forced the Racers to take a time out. A Racer kill brought score to 23-20, and just a few plays following the first yellow card, the TTU fans were given a yellow card, awarding Murray State a point and bringing the score to 23-21. This drama, however, did not faze the Golden Eagles as they were able to put away set four with a score of 25-21. With another 18 team kills, Anderson put up 17 assists and orchestrated the offense to a hitting percentage of .240. Dodd put away eight of her career-high 17 kills in set four.
In the fifth and deciding set, the Golden Eagles and the Racers fought back and forth just as they did all match long. When the teams switched sides, Murray led 8-7, as the two teams traded points until that point. A Tech error and four straight Racer kills gave Murray State a 13-8 lead. Tech was never able to regain an advantage in the set, and lost the set 15-13 to give Murray the match win, 3-2.
Anderson finished with a career-high 54 assists as well as a career-high 21 digs, giving her her second double-double on the season. Dodd hit an impressive .438 while recording her career-high 17 kills, she also added three digs and three blocks. Junior outside hitter Ellen Conti put down 18 digs, while digging up 18, tying her career-high in digs. This marks Conti's fourth double-double of the season. Robertson added five digs and three blocks to her 13 kills, and senior Natalie Penrod put down 18 kills as well. Junior libero Courtney Smith added 30 digs. Freshman Irem Sile was a bright spot from the service line as she led the team with two aces, a personal best.
Prior to the game, head coach Dave Zelenock (photo at left) was given a commemorative game ball in recognition of his first career win as a head coach. The Golden Eagles will be back in action at home Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. CDT as they take on Austin Peay.