Tech volleyball comes up just short of OVC Tournament bid, falls to UT Martin 3-1

Tech volleyball comes up just short of OVC Tournament bid, falls to UT Martin 3-1

By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In a match that featured so much buildup, and essentially functioned as an OVC Tournament playoff clash on Saturday afternoon against UT Martin, Tennessee Tech volleyball just had one of those matches where nothing seemed to go right.

"It started with our serving and passing," said coach Jeannette Waldo of her team's off-day. "That's something that we've been good at this year, and it just kind of broke down tonight for some reason. Bad passing led to bad offense, and it put us in positions where we could only do certain things to try and score."

Even in the loss, freshman middle blocker Taylor Dorsey put together an excellent performance, leading the offense with 13 kills on 29 swings for a team-high .310 hitting percentage. She was also Tech's premier frontline defender with five blocks.

The newcomer from Mobile, Ala. seemed to find her groove over the last seven matches of the season, posting hitting percentages of .300 or better in five of them, and double-digit kills in four.

Erica Grant and Ali Verzani were Tech's next-highest producers with six kills and five kills respectively.

Verzani also added 16 digs in support of libero Kirsten Brugere, who quarterbacked the defensive effort with 17 digs. Grant and Abigail Duncan also dug nine balls each.

Susie Jeziorowski did what she could despite Tech's offensive woes, totaling 28 assists.

"We had some players who performed better than others, but I think part of that is for a lot of them it was their first opportunity to be in this kind of position," Waldo said. "What I'm proud of is that even in the fourth set, we were still enjoying the moment out there, we were still playing for each other."

"One thing we talked about in the locker room was how good it was that we were playing under this pressure. We could have just been playing for kicks, and not have anything at stake. You want to be in this position and have games like this."

For as poorly as they started, Tech did get better as the game went on. After a rough first set, Tech seemed to bring things together in the second, as they swapped leads with the Skyhawks, and remained within two points late at 22-20.

The Golden Eagles took another step forward in the third set, as they pulled away early using a 9-2 advantage to build a 12-6 lead. Tech stayed out front by a handful until the late stages, when they put the pedal to the floor again with a 7-2 run to close out a 25-14 set victory.

Just when it looked like the home team was headed for the comeback trail, UTM regrouped in the fourth set, vaulting to an 11-5 lead out of the gate that garnered the necessary momentum to clinch the match victory.

Poor performances in high-stakes matches can often ignite the motivational fire for success down the road, and Waldo believes this scenario could fit the bill for her Golden Eagles.

"Oh yeah, for sure," she said. "Plus, we had our 2019 class looking over what happened here today. They're going to remember this and remember that they don't want to be in that situation."

Following Saturday's match, a recognition ceremony was held as the Tech program said goodbye to its five-member senior class:

Libero Kirsten Brugere has appeared in more than 420 sets over 117 matches, and  totaled more than 1,450 digs and 75 service aces in her four years. Last season, she earned her first career All-OVC honor as a second team selection. The housing and design major from St. Charles, Mo. minors in business, and will graduate this coming May, after which she plans to work for an architecture and engineering company as a drafter.

Middle blocker Shaneice James has played in more than 340 sets over 96 matches, recording over 460 kills and 200 total blocks. The Cleveland, Ohio product will graduate in May with a degree in exercise science and a concentration in pre-physical therapy. She plans to go on to graduate school.

Setter Susie Jeziorowski was a team captain, and played in more than 250 sets over 79 matches. She accumulated more than 2,000 assists, 130 kills and 460 digs in her four-year career. The Green Lake, Wis. native is a computer science major with concentrations in software applications and cyber security, and upon graduation in December, will continue at Tennessee Tech to pursue her master's degree in computer forensics.

Outside hitter Shealene Little was also a 2018 team captain, appeared in over 300 sets and more than 100 matches in her career, and compiled nearly 700 kills and over 630 digs. The Culver, Ore. native is an exercise science major in fitness and wellness, and plans on becoming a collegiate strength and conditioning coach after graduating in May.

Libero Jessica Oliver played in over 125 sets over 65 matches, and recorded nearly 100 digs and 18 service aces. A dual major in Spanish and international business and cultures, the Murfreesboro, Tenn. native will graduate in December, and plans to earn her master's degree before pursuing a career in international relations.

"I was just trying to give them the respect they deserve, and let them have their moment," said Waldo of the presentation of her first departing class. "It wasn't until we got in the locker room that it got hard."

Tech finishes its first season under Waldo's leadership with an 11-19 overall record, and a 5-11 mark in the OVC.

Photo by Jim Dillon