Tech takes on Southeast Missouri on Friday, Eastern Illinois on Saturday
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - After spending the first three weeks of the season on the road, the Tennessee Tech volleyball team will get a chance to play in its own gym finally when the Golden Eagles take on Southeast Missouri and Eastern Illinois this weekend, marking the start of OVC competition. The opportunity to open conference play at the Eblen Center is a welcome one for the Golden Eagles who have gotten off to a 1-8 start in 2009.
"It's a relief to be at home - all the travel can wear on you," said senior captain Teresa Craig. "Playing at home puts us in our comfort zone. Plus, the atmosphere at home is energetic, and the support of our fans is incredible."
Despite the team's slow start, Craig and company are confident that Tech will be able to turn things around during the OVC season.
"We played a very competitive pre-conference schedule and put up a good fight against those teams," Craig said. "We all know what we need to work on and have kept a positive outlook. It's always exciting to start OVC play. We have the opportunity to start fresh this weekend and come out with a winning record in conference."
The Golden Eagles has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but consistence has been one key that the team has lacked up to this point. However, two players that were new faces in the starting lineup at the beginning of the year - setter Melanie Culp and middle blocker Kelsey Gray - are now starting to get more comfortable, which should pay dividends for TTU.
Culp earned Setter of the Week honors for her performance in last weekend's Cardinal Classic after handing out 124 total assists. The junior recorded a career-high 59 helpers against Liberty and currently ranks third in the OVC in assists.
Gray has been a major reason why the Golden Eagles' block has come to life of late. The freshman leads the team with 22 stuffs this season, 13 of which have come in the team's preview two matches combined. She has also picked up her offense and currently ranks third on the team with 60 kills.
In addition, senior Katie Kenline - who gathered her third consecutive all-tournament team recognition last weekend - has been a steady competitor for the Golden Eagles this season. The libero is already Tech's all-time leader in digs, and she surpassed 2,000 career digs in last weekends match against Louisville. Kenline currently leads the team with 152 digs.
It will take a strong team effort this weekend to come away with the pair of wins. The Golden Eagles take on Southeast Missouri (3-6), chosen third in the OVC preseason poll, on Friday evening at 7 p.m. and then meet up with Eastern Illinois (6-6) on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
Craig is hopeful that this Golden Eagle team has what it takes to make another run this conference season.
"This team is competitive and hardworking," Craig said. "We are constantly pushing each other to get better, and we're dedicated and driven to having another successful season in the OVC."