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Golden Eagles go out fighting, fall to Tulane in NCAA Tournament

DAYTON, Ohio - Nobody will ever say that the Tennessee Tech volleyball team went down without a fight. A great fight. A battle that took the Golden Eagles right to the brink before falling to Tulane, 3-1, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Golden Eagles overcame a 25-21 loss in the first set to lead wire-to-wire and win the second set, 25-22. Tech led most of the third set before a late Tulane rally gave the Green Wave a 25-22 win.

The Golden Eagles then led much of the fourth set, fell behind and fought back to force three match points before Tulane - seeded 16th overall in the 64-team tournament field -- was able to clinch the victory, 27-25.

"It was a heck of an effort by a game team and I think Tulane knows who Tennessee Tech is now," said TTU coach John Blair. "I think we represented ourselves well, and I'm certainly proud of every one of our kids.

"We talked about representing the conference, as well as Tennessee Tech and ourselves, and I thought we did a good job of that," Blair said. "Hopefully our conference can continue to move ahead and think about moving forward instead of being happy just to be here."

Tech matched Tulane in kills with 58 apiece, and the Golden Eagles managed a better overall hitting percentage. Tech hit .292 for the four-set match while Tulane hit .277. The Golden Eagles had more digs (53 to 49), more assists (57 to 55) and were within one in total blocks (10.5 to 9.5).

Even the difference in the service game, while it was a minor factor, didn't turn the contest. The Green Wave posted 10 aces and five errors, while Tech had six aces and eight serving errors.

Individually, Tech players had some strong numbers, led by junior Amanda Lindgren with 19 kills and 11 digs. Lindgren, one of three Golden Eagles to record a double-double, hit .417 with just four errors in 36 attempts.

Sophomore Marie Peddicord didn't have a hitting error, and finished with 13 kills in 25 swings for a .520 hitting mark, along with three total blocks. Sophomore Leah Meffert had a double-double with 14 kills and 11 digs.

Senior setter Kappy Lang wrapped up her career with 50 assists and a team-high 12 digs.

Jessica Asplund, another senior who saw her career come to a close, had a solid night with eight kills and a .389 hitting percentage, along with six blocks total.

Conference USA Player of the Year Sara Radosevic led a balanced Tulane attack with 14 kills. She also had five service aces and three blocks. Bridget Wells had 14 kills, while both Visnja Djurdevic and Ksenjija Vlaskovic added 12 kills apiece.

Libero Jenn Miller had a match-best 20 digs, while both Green Wave setters contributed - Visnja Djurdevic had 29 assists and Rachel Lindelow added 21 assists.

Asplund kick-started the Golden Eagles in the second set, helping Tech jump to a 5-0 lead by knocking down three early blocks. Tech didn't give up an ace in the second set, and Peddicord had five kills to lead the way to the win.

The Golden Eagles ran out to a 17-11 lead in the third set, and held the edge late into the set before the Green Wave were able to get the equalizer at 22-22. Tulane came up with a couple of blocks to finish the set and grab the 2-1 lead.

Lindgren had six kills in the fourth set and Tech hit .433, as the Golden Eagles worked to avoid elimination. Tech got up 6-2 in the early going, and the score was tied 15 times as the two teams hammered back and forth. The Golden Eagles pulled ahead 20-19 on a block by Caitlin Bullock, then had to come back five times after that after slipping behind.

Down 23-22, the Golden Eagles got things back to even at 23-23 on a kill by Lindgren. Trailing 24-23 and facing the first match point, Lindgren came up with another kill to tie it at 24-24. A kill by Radosevic gave Tulane another match point at 25-24, and once again Lang set Lindgren for a kill to make it 25-all.

Finally, Visnja Djurdevic recorded a kill for a 26-25 Tulane lead, and the contest ended when Lang's attack came down outside the line for the 27-25 final count.

"We got off to good starts," Blair said, after his team had leads in all five sets. "I think we really had Tulane off balance because we did the things that we knew we needed to do, and that was control the ball. That would give us options. We did a real good job of spreading the court early on, and giving our attackers more of the court.

"I knew they were going to keep playing and stay aggressive, and they had some individuals step up in certain situations and make runs and close some gaps. We gave away a couple of points instead of making them earn them. We put ourselves in position to win the match, and it's hard to ask a whole lot more of this group than that," Blair said.

The Golden Eagles, who won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament championships, ended the year with a 19-13 overall record. Tech's win in the second set marked the first time in eight years that an OVC school won a set at the NCAA Tournament.

Tulane improved to 28-5 overall, and advanced to the second round Saturday against the Dayton/Western Michigan winner.