By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Although it took Eastern Kentucky a full five sets to take down Tennessee Tech in Richmond earlier this season, the Colonels needed just three to defeat Tech Saturday evening (25-22, 25-22, 25-23) in Cookeville.
The score was close throughout each set – neither team gave up more than a four-point lead until Eastern Kentucky (12-16, 10-4 OVC) led by six points at three different times in the third set. Tech came back to take a 12-11 lead, and the set went back and forth from there until two-straight scores from EKU ended the set and match at 25-23.
Tech out-hit the Colonels .200 to .197, out-blocked them 5.0 to 2.0 and recorded just 11 errors to EKU's 21.
"We did a nice job offensively and defensively, just three points here, two points there," said head coach Dave Zelenock. "They're the No. 4 team in the conference, and we're sitting at No. 12 and it's a two-, three-point difference. The margin for error is so small in our conference right now. There's no one who's so unbelievably good or bad that it's just blowouts left and right like you see in a lot of conferences. We're in 12th, and we've lost so many of these sets 25-23. We're missing that one little ingredient."
Individually, Tech's offensive leaders were middles Rachel Thomas and Shaneice James. James hit .312 and Thomas .421, and the pair combined for 15 kills, two errors and 18.5 points. They also totaled two solo blocks and three block assists.
"They were my first real recruiting class," said Zelenock. "They put them in categories, so they were in there with Tennessee, Arizona – big names as far as their impact to the program. Their first two years, that's what they did. They carried us to the (OVC) tournament those first two years.
"Unfortunately, as age catches up with them, their bodies are a little broken down, and that's hard to see because there was so much potential early on. It's just part of the game – who can stay healthy for a whole career. It's a really tough thing. Most people can't. (Allison Morrett) has, but she plays back row. She's been an anchor for us for four years. KK (K'Vonna Johnson) and Kellie, for one way or another, have been on when they're healthy. The only time Kellie's not been on the floor is when she's been injured. She's always been good when she was healthy, even after her ACL (injury). KK played outside, middle and right for us. She just finds a way to get on the court every single year. They're my first real recruiting class, and they did a great job for us."