Tech dismantles Hampton in home tournament opener, 3-0

Tech dismantles Hampton in home tournament opener, 3-0

By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – As far as home openers go, the Tennessee Tech volleyball team did it about as well as it can be done, dominating all three sets against Hampton in the first game of the Golden Eagle Invitational to move to 3-1 on the year.

In a season of new beginnings for head coach Jeannette Waldo's program, the victory was the first in the Hooper Eblen Center. 

"Hopefully the first of many," said Waldo with a laugh. "Winning last weekend was special, but it just feels different being here. It's awesome."

Tech's third win of the season comes much earlier this year, as Waldo's group got the job done one whole month earlier than the 2017 squad, which beat Morehead State, 3-1, on September 30 for victory No. 3.  

The Golden Eagles came out like a team with something to prove, clicking on all cylinders and overwhelming Hampton with 11 of the game's first 12 points on its way to a 25-10 win in set one.

TTU hit an eye-popping .500 with just two attack errors in the opening stanza, paced by freshman Erica Grant, who racked up six kills on her first eight attacks with no errors (.750).

The outside hitter from Lindenhurst, Ill. also recorded a pair of service aces, both coming during Tech's furious rally to open the contest. She finished with game-highs in kills (14), attacks (25) and attack percentage (.480).

Rachel Thomas and Ali Verzani also supported the early onslaught with three kills and two kills, respectively.

Hampton was on its heels throughout the set, committing eight attack errors.

"I need to remember what I said in the locker room, maybe write that down," joked Waldo of the first set. "They were just feeling it. They wanted to play at home so badly. They've been waiting throughout all of preseason and they wanted to show the fans what they've been working so hard to achieve, and hopefully they got a few fans on their side tonight."

Tech was on the early offensive again in the second set, using kills from Abigail Duncan, Susie Jeziorowski, Thomas and Verzani, and taking advantage of more Hampton errors to claim a 9-4 lead before a Pirate timeout.

It was more of the same after the break as a balanced Golden Eagle attack swelled the margin to 18-8. Hampton played TTU even from that point on, but it was too little, too late, as Tech's .355 hitting percentage led them to a 25-15 victory and a 2-0 lead in the match.

Grant took center stage again in the third, recording six more kills for the Golden Eagles, who hit .325 in the set, their lowest mark of the night.

Senior middle blocker Shaneice James, who has battled injury up to this point in the season, started the third set and contributed immediately, tallying four kills.

Verzani added three kills in the third set as part of her eight for the game, while Thomas recorded two kills for a total of seven. Both players attacked at a high level throughout the contest, posting percentages of .316 and .438, respectively.

Susie Jeziorowski handled nearly all of the setting duties for Tech, collecting 34 assists. It was the first time this season that Jeziorowski has recorded less than 45 assists in a game. The senior from Green Lake, Wis. has already set up 176 kills on the year, more than 20% of her total output in 2017.

After an impressive showing, coach Waldo had a very simple message for her team afterward.

"I think the first word was, 'WOOO'," Waldo exclaimed. "We cheered, I told them to enjoy the moment, and then after midnight the celebration is over and we only look forward."

"As a coaching staff we were sitting there being picky about this and that, but in the big picture, we were pretty good tonight. They know they need to clean their play up a little bit – shore some things up – but we are absolutely capable of doing that in order to come out and play a couple more good matches tomorrow."

Photo by Jim Dillon