By Jocelyn VerVelde, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Tech volleyball team heads to the University of Akron this weekend to compete in the Akron Invitational on Friday and Saturday. Tech looks to continue it's momentum from a 2-1 start on opening weekend. Tech will be facing host Akron along with Milwaukee and Niagara.
"The third match last weekend really showed some growth for us as a group and for the program," said head coach Dave Zelenock. "We played with energy, we played fast, and we held our technique for long stretches of time. If we can start the weekend near that level and continue to improve our efficiency, I really couldn't ask for more. If we happen to get some wins while we're at it, that would be nice too, but we're looking at the long term and have an eye on the Ohio Valley Conference. Our big focus is making sure we're making improvements throughout the non-conference so we're ready for that."
"This weekend will be another great test for our team," Zelenock said. "Akron is a team I know very well, they have a great balance of technique and athleticism. They are fighters and we know going in that we will have to take every point, they aren't going to give us anything. I expect Milwaukee to be very good, they have played some very good teams already this year and come up just short. Being from the Midwest, I know almost everyone on that roster and they have quality kids who know how to play. Niagara is coming off an 0-3 weekend so I'm sure they will be playing hungry. I don't know their team or staff as well, so it's hard to say what they will throw at us, but we will scout them on film and in person."
Versus Akron (Live Stats / Video Stream)
The Zips opened up their season 2-0, beating both Indiana State and Ohio Valley Conference opponent SIU Edwardsville. Akron was led by senior outside hitter Alex Cocklin, who had 23 kills on the weekend, and was named Most Valuable Player of the SIUE Cougar Classic. Tech plays Akron at 12 p.m. CDT Friday.
Versus Milwaukee (Live Stats / Video Stream)
The Panthers went 0-3 in their opening weekend, losing to Oklahoma, Western Michigan and Northwestern. Panther senior middle blocker Rachel Neuberger led the team on the weekend with 35 kills and 11 blocks. Tech plays Milwaukee at 3:30 p.m. Friday.
Versus Niagara (Live Stats / Video Stream)
The Purple Eagles started the 2013 season 0-3, losing to Buffalo twice and once to Temple. Niagara was led by sophomore middle blocker Melissa McGwin, who had 23 kills and 11 blocks. Tech plays Niagara at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
"We have some challenges in front of us this weekend, some on our end and some coming from across the net. The real test is going to be how this group reacts to the challenges. How the team bands together and fights is going to be fun to watch," said Zelenock.
Things You Should Know
Senior Elise Robertson and juniors Ellen Conti and Madison Keyes return to their home state of Ohio this weekend as Tech heads to Akron. Robertson is from Strongsville, Ohio, which is located one hour from Akron. Conti is from Grove City, Ohio, which is two-and-a-half hours from Akron, and Keyes is a Cincinnati native and is from roughly four hours away.
Hancock sets career-high … twice Senior setter Ashleigh Hancock set a career-high with 32 assists in Tech's match up with Savannah State, besting her previous high by one. She then turned around in the very next match versus Fordham to dish out a career-high 38 assists.
Smith and Dodd named to Winthrop Invitational All-Tournament Team
Junior libero Courtney Smith and sophomore middle blocker Cody Dodd were named to the Winthrop Invitational All-Tournament Team after leading Tech to a 2-1 record. Smith led the TTU defense with 30 digs on the weekend, including a season-high 15 versus Fordham. Dodd was stellar all weekend, tallying 26 kills and just five errors for a hitting percentage of .438. She also added seven blocks and five service aces. She ended her awesone weekend with a thunderous match-winning kill versus Fordham (Click here for video evidence).
Tech starts season 2-1
The Tennessee Tech volleyball team opened up the season with wins over Savannah State and Fordham and a loss to Winthrop at the Winthrop Invitational. The two wins for Tech marks the first time the program has left an opening weekend with a winning record since 2007. It's also only the third time it has happened in the past 11 seasons.