By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With three seniors playing the final home match of their careers in the comfort of the Hooper Eblen Center, the Tennessee Tech volleyball team kept its hot streak rolling Saturday afternoon with a 3-1 victory over in-state foe Belmont.
The Senior Day win marked the Golden Eagles' third in-a-row to close out the regular season and came off the heels of a 3-0 win over Tennessee State Friday evening that clinched the purple and gold a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. The triumph over the Bruins clinched Tech the seventh seed in the league's upcoming postseason event, which will take place at Jacksonville State, the No. 1 overall seed.
Senior middle blocker Rachel Thomas enjoyed an incredible performance in her swan song in front of a Golden Eagle crowd, leading Tech with 16 kills backed by an eye-popping 60.9 hitting percentage. Fellow middle blocker Taylor Dorsey paced the home team in total points, racking up 20.5 to lead the match. The sophomore hit .308 with 13 kills and a total of 11 blocks (two solo and nine assists), not to mention a service ace.
Junior outside hitter Ali Verzani totaled 11 kills in the match, her 10th consecutive game totaling double figures in kills. Freshman libero Carly Skrabak tallied 12 digs to mark the 22nd time in the past 23 matches hitting double digits in the category. Leading the team in digs was senior utility player Abigail Duncan, who totaled 13 on the night. Sophomore setter Ashley Hand led the match with 38 assists.
Set one seemed to favor the visiting Bruins early on, who built as much as a 9-6 lead, but behind a supportive crowd cheering on the purple and gold for the final time in the building in 2019, Tech rallied, forcing a tied at 9-9. Neither side could break away, tied as far into the set as 19-19.
One attack error by the visitors seemed to spark the Golden Eagles as freshman Emma Osterbur took over the serve. After a second attack error by Belmont gave Tech a 21-19 advantage, a pair of seniors took over the rest of the way to help the purple and gold to a 25-19 win. Outside hitters Emily Brooks and Rachel Thomas each managed a pair of kills to put it away for a 1-0 lead.
Tech carried that momentum into set two, erupting for an early 6-1 advantage. The Bruins pulled to within a point at 9-8, but four straight points helped the Golden Eagles never allow its opponent to get closer than three back. The purple and gold took set two, 25-20 to move to a 2-0 lead.
Set three proved to be an awesome, see-saw battle, with neither side ever gaining more than a three-point advantage. Belmont finally found the daylight it was looking for after forcing a tie at 25-25, edging past Tech to claim the set 28-26.
Motivated by the previous outcome, Tech rallied from an early two-point deficit to set an 8-8 tie. From that point on, the Golden Eagles more than doubled the Bruins' output the rest of the contest, cruising to a 25-16 victory in the clinching set.
Photo by Jim Dillon