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November 14, 2009

Tech falls at EKU in finale; Heads to OVC Tourney as No. 5 seed

RICHMOND, Ky. – It was a must-win situation for the Eastern Kentucky volleyball team Saturday. For Tennessee Tech, it was pretty much a can’t lose proposition.

So, even though the Golden Eagles dropped the season finale, 3-1, to the red-hot Lady Colonels, coach John Blair’s team has begun making plans for next week’s Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

By winning one set over EKU, the Golden Eagles clinched the No. 5 seed in the six-team conference tournament, which will begin Thursday at Jacksonville State.

After Friday’s contest, the Golden Eagles had secured their spot in the tournament and wouldn’t have moved any higher with a victory.

That didn’t mean Blair’s squad didn’t put up a fight before bowing out. Tech made things interesting with a couple of rallies in the fourth set before heading home on the short side of the scoreboard. It also allowed Blair to feature a couple of his freshmen and both Kelsey Gray and Katrina Dvorken responded with solid performances.

The Lady Colonels, who upset regular season champion Jacksonville State on Friday night, had to win Staurday against Tech to keep its hopes alive for a berth in the OVC tournament. Now, EKU must make it three wins in three days by beating Eastern Illinois on Sunday in order to earn a postseason trip. The match, which was rescheduled from two weeks ago, will be played at 3 p.m. CST on a neutral floor at the University of Evansville.

EKU handed Jacksonville State its first conference loss of the season on Friday and then avenged a 3-0 loss earlier this season to the Golden Eagles.

After EKU won the first set, 25-17, Tech battled back to tie the match with a 25-23 win in the second set. The Lady Colonels regained momentum with a 25-17 win in the third set, then outlasted Tech for a 27-25 victory in the fourth set to capture the match.

Junior Leah Meffert led the Golden Eagles (10-17, 9-9 OVC) with 12 kills while senior Amanda Lindgren and Gray each recorded eight kills. Gray led Tech at the net by adding four blocks. Dvorken (left) put down seven kills in 11 attempts without and error for a .636 hitting percentage. She also had two blocks. Melanie Culp had 28 assists and nine digs, while senior Katie Kenline paced the back row with 16 digs.

Lauren Snyder led EKU (9-18, 8-9 OVC) with 19 kills. She also had 14 digs. Lindsey Loescher finished with 16 kills, a .333 attack percentage and nine digs, while Kate Hendle registered a match-best 52 assists and Abby O’Connor led all players with 27 digs.

The fourth set was tied 12 times and saw six lead changes. An ace by Loescher and an Eastern Kentucky attack error gave the Colonels an 18-12 lead, but the Golden Eagles fought back. Four unanswered points by Tech tied the score at 21-21. Meffert’s ace capped the run. The set was tied four more times.

A kill by Loescher gave Eastern match-point at 24-23. Then TTU scored two straight, reaching set-point on a kill by Lindgren and an EKU attack error.

The Colonels scored two straight to reach match-point again. A kill by Loescher and a Tennessee Tech attack error put EKU in front 26-25. On the next series, a kill by Amanda Fago ended the match.

Regardless of what happen on Sunday, the Golden Eagles will maintain their No. 5 seeding via a tie-breaker with the Lady Colonels. If EKU defeats EIU, then Tech and the Lady Colonels would end up tied in the standings at 9-9. In head-to-head play this season, the teams split their two matches with Tech winning 3-0 in Cookeville and EKU claiming a 3-1 victory in Richmond. By winning one set Saturday, Tech owns a 4-3 record in sets against EKU and gets the higher spot.

Complete OVC Tournament pairings and schedule will be announced by the OVC office Sunday evening, following the EIU-EKU match. Most likely Tech will play Murray State in the first round Thursday at Jacksonville State.