Tech volleyball finds groove in second set, downs Chattanooga 3-1

Tech volleyball finds groove in second set, downs Chattanooga 3-1

By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It took one set, but Tennessee Tech volleyball worked out the kinks and then started piling up the points on Chattanooga en route to a 3-1 win. The victory gives Tech a winning homestand with three wins and two losses, and improves its record to 5-3.

"We really executed our game plan well tonight," said coach Jeannette Waldo. "We knew (Chattanooga) wanted to run a really fast offense so we tried to do some things to hinder them like serving to the right half of the court and creating awkward angles for the setter to approach the ball. It took us a little bit to get some momentum, but it worked out pretty well."

Tech hit just .176 as a team in conceding an extremely tight first set to Chattanooga. Rachel Thomas, one of three Golden Eagles to record double-digit kills on the evening, had six of her 13 kills in the opening stanza, which featured six lead changes, 16 tie scores, and never saw the two teams separated by more than two points.

The pivotal second set remained just as close as the first until the midway point, which was when TTU middle blocker Taylor Dorsey introduced herself to the home fans.

With Tech trailing 14-13, Dorsey, along with redshirt sophomore Ali Verzani, ignited a 12-4 run to close the set, scoring a combined eight points down the stretch to clinch the victory, 25-18.

Verzani would notch seven of her team-high 15 kills and a .455 attack percentage in the second set, her best marks of the night. She would go on to record the only double-double for either team with 11 digs, along with a .289 attack percentage for the contest.

The run proved to be Tech's impetus in marching on to victory, as it would never lose the momentum over the final two sets.

"We were playing more like us," said Waldo of the second set. "We were celebrating big points, we were having fun, we were enjoying the moment more, and we were playing cleaner."

"We talked about how they were making mistakes and we couldn't feed into that. We had to play clean volleyball and take control on our side and I think we did a pretty good job of that."

The Tech offense spread the ball around effectively in the third set, getting three kills each from Dorsey, Thomas, Verzani and Shealene Little. More importantly, TTU attacked efficiently in the third, committing just three errors to Chattanooga's nine.

Much like the second set, the first half of the third set was played close until the Golden Eagles were able to separate themselves for a six-point victory, 25-19.

Dorsey was once again the story in the final set, recording six kills on seven attacks for an astronomic percentage of .857, and scoring the final two points of the night with back-to-back kills. She would finish with 14 kills, four blocks and a team-best .478 attack rate for the match.

"(Dorsey) really came alive in the middle," said Waldo. "Susie (Jeziorowski), our setter, and Taylor really connected well and you saw the fire she was playing with after she got points. She's here to play, and I think she's made her name a little more well-known now."

"The first weekend she was coming off a concussion so she hadn't been in the gym practicing, and she was just kind of learning her way through the first few games. Since then, she's been in practice, she's been able to connect with our setters, and now, she just wanted to perform, and obviously, she did that."

Dorsey had some help in the final set, as Verzani and Little each killed three balls.

Little also turned in a .429 attack percentage for the fourth set. She would finish one kill and one dig away from a double-double.

Jeziorowski recorded at least 10 assists in each set for a total of 49 for the match, the third-best mark of her career. At just a shade under 11 assists per set for the season, she currently ranks third in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Backcourt stalwart Kirsten Brugere tallied 25 digs, giving her three performances of 20-plus digs for the season.

"We played pretty well tonight, other than a couple things," Waldo said. "We knew this was the lineup we were going to go with for a couple days so we had an opportunity to practice with it, and there was a lot of trust out there on the court tonight. We need to clean up our serve receive before we go to Memphis, for sure, but we have some time to do that in the gym so I think that will work its way out."

In Memphis, Tech will take part in the Tiger Invitational this weekend, playing three games against North Alabama, Memphis and Louisiana-Monroe.

Photo by Thomas Corhern