By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Tennessee Tech volleyball got off to a good start Tuesday night against Jacksonville State, but could not find consistent scoring in the middle stages of the match, which led to an eventual 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Gamecocks.
"We bookended tonight's match really well," said coach Jeannette Waldo. "We started out strong, and it felt great to win that first set, but our offense had a hard time scoring in the next couple."
"We got down by a good amount in the fourth, but I was really proud of the way we battled and played with some fire and got some blocks to close the gap. We just stepped on the gas a little bit too late."
TTU had to rally from a 4-0 deficit at the beginning of the first set, but answered quickly, swarming JSU to the tune of an 11-3 run that opened an 11-7 advantage.
The Gamecocks would eventually claw back to tie the set at 16, but Tech continued to fight, matching JSU point-for-point.
Then, trailing 23-21 and staring at a set loss, Susie Jeziorowski and Taylor Dorsey combined for a block that seemed to turn the momentum. A JSU attack error tied it up, and then Ali Verzani recorded two of her team-high 10 kills to put Tech within a point of a comeback victory. The finishing touches would come courtesy of a Rachel Thomas kill, which clinched it for the Golden Eagles, 27-25.
Jeziorowski and Dorsey led a superb defensive effort at the net for the Golden Eagles, as Jeziorowski collected three solo and six assisted blocks, while Dorsey turned in one solo and seven assisted blocks. That tandem spearheaded the team's 17-block performance, the most it has recorded in a single match all season long.
"Susie does a great job of lining up her attackers when she blocks, and she gets really hyped up when she gets them, which makes it a lot of fun and really helps boost our energy," Waldo said.
"We made a point to serve aggressively tonight, and because of that, we affected the way they operated their offense and forced them into quite a few out-of-system attacks. When they were off-balance and uncomfortable in those situations, we were able to take advantage and pile up some blocks."
In addition to leading the team in scoring, Verzani had nine digs, the most on the team behind libero Kirsten Brugere's 13, and one short of another double-double.
Thomas was next with eight kills, took the team's second-highest attack percentage at .250, and contributed in the blocks department with four.
Shealene Little killed seven balls and collected eight digs.
Dorsey and Shaneice James recorded six kills apiece, and James was TTU's cleanest attacker with a .333 hitting percentage on 12 attempts.
Abigail Duncan continued with her commitment to the defensive end from her outside hitter position, coming up with seven digs.
Jeziorowski's blocking efforts were a supplement to her offensive duties as the setter, where she recorded 35 of the team's 39 assists.
After hanging with the Gamecocks for much of the second stanza, the TTU offense would sputter in the late stages, as JSU would mount a 10-4 run to clinch set two 25-18.
The struggles would continue in the third set as Jacksonville State took a 2-1 match lead with a 25-14 victory.
"We missed on a lot of connections in the second and third sets and couldn't seem to assemble the right pieces at the right times," said Waldo. "They were very big up front, and, to their credit, made it pretty hard on us. Even when they weren't blocking us, they were taking away large chunks of the court, which made us uncomfortable in our offense."
Tech did not start well in the fourth set, but showed a lot of grit and toughness in making the set score as close as it was at 25-21.
Down to its last point with the score 24-15, TTU's front court went to work.
After sparking the rally with back-to-back kills, Dorsey teamed up with Jeziorowski to score the next three points for the Golden Eagles, as they blocked JSU outside hitter Kaylie Milton on three straight attacks.
An error by the Gamecocks brought the score to 24-21 and made things interesting, but JSU's freshman middle blocker Lena Kindermann, who led all scorers with 18 kills, ended things on the next rally.
"We'll come home and work on making our offense more fierce and creative for the rest of the week," said Waldo. "We want to have all of our weapons at our disposal and clicking on all cylinders heading into Saturday's match with (Southeast Missouri)."
First serve for that match with the Redhawks will be at 2 p.m. in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Photo by Thomas Corhern