By Layne Weitzel, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE – The 2017 Tennessee Tech volleyball season came to an end Saturday afternoon in the state capital, with the Golden Eagles falling in four sets to Belmont (11-25, 25-23, 19-25, 20-25).
Belmont (14-14, 9-7 OVC) came out strong in the opening set after honoring its senior class. Its 8-1 run toward the end of the set helped the Bruins take set one by a score of 25-11.
Tech responded in a big way during the second set. After Belmont started off with a 5-0 lead, the Golden Eagles answered with four-straight points and hung around until late in the set when they took a 19-18 lead. Belmont retook the lead at 21-19, but a kill each from Shealene Little and Lexi Kingree and a Bruin attack error put Tech ahead by a point. Two more points from Belmont put it ahead 23-22, but Tech scored three unanswered points to end the set at 25-23.
"It was just letting their seniors calm down," said head coach Dave Zelenock. "They were obviously quite hyped about it. They came out like a tornado, and we just had to kind of weather their storm and let it pass. They calmed down in the second. If Belmont played all season the way they played that first set, they'd be undefeated. They were just too good that first set."
The third and fourth sets were much more competitive as well. Tech trailed 11-10 in the third until a 5-0 Belmont run put the Bruins ahead 16-10. Tech went off on its own 6-1 run to cut Belmont's lead again to one point, but the Golden Eagles would only score three more points in the remainder of the set, which Belmont took 25-19.
Tech led 17-14 late in the fourth set prior to an 8-1 Belmont run, giving the Bruins a 22-18 lead. A kill from Little and a service ace from Rachel Thomas cut Tech's deficit to just two points, but Belmont finished off the set with three kills to win 25-20.
Seniors K'Vonna Johnson, Allison Morrett and Kellie Williams put on purple and gold jerseys for the last time Friday afternoon. Johnson led the team with 11 kills, and Morrett collected six digs and a service ace in Tech's finale.
"They were not only one of my first classes, but I think the first ranked recruiting class in TTU history," said Zelenock. "The impact that they had that second year – we jumped up to fourth (in the OVC) and we were in the semifinals, and the next year we were fifth and in the semifinals. They were on the floor their whole careers; those three have been out there, barring injury. Unfortunately, they just broke down a lot this season. We barely had Kellie at all, KK was in and out and Allison came in and out a little bit too this year. They were a huge impact on that, especially year two and three when we were in the tournament."
Redshirt freshman Lexi Kingree continued her outstanding weekend performance, hitting .357 and totaling seven kills, 25 assists, two digs and two block assists. Libero Kirsten Brugere put up 20 digs for a total of 45 in the last two matches.