Panthers claw past the Golden Eagles

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Tech volleyball held late leads in all three sets on Saturday afternoon but could not find a way to close as the Golden Eagles dropped a three-setter (26-28, 23-25, 22-25) to Eastern Illinois. With the defeat, Tech falls to 1-11 overall and 0-2 in the OVC, while EIU evens its record at 7-7 overall and 1-1 in conference play.

The Panthers flashed some impressive defense throughout the game and finished with an 11-2 advantage in blocks and a 74-66 lead in digs. EIU also held advantages in kills (45-44) and hitting percentage (.194-.148).

For TTU, Amanda Lindgren and Leah Meffert led the way with 12 and 10 kills, respectively. Kelsey Gray added eight kills with a .412 hitting percentage, while Marie Peddicord tallied seven kills.

Melanie Culp led the team with 31 assists and also chipped in 13 digs for her second double-double in as many matches.

Defensively, Katie Kenline had a team-high 20 digs followed by Culp, Meffert (11) and Teresa Craig (11).

Meffert started off Saturday's match by showing off her jump serve and helping the Golden Eagles to a 4-0 lead. Tech maintained that advantage until 21-17 when EIU rattled off four consecutive points to tie the score at 21-21. Back-to-back kills by Meffert and junior Laura Pierce gave the Golden Eagles a two-point cushion, but the Panthers came back to take a 25-24 on three straight kills. Lindgren and Craig both put down big kills down the stretch, but it was not enough as Eastern Illinois used a block and subsequent kill to close out the first set, 28-26.

The second set was even at 13-13 when TTU went on a five-point spurt to grab an 18-13 lead behind the serving of Craig. Lindgren put down four kills during the stretch. The Golden Eagles maintained their five-point advantage, 21-16, when EIU did one better and put together six straight points to gain a 22-21 lead. Tech tied the score at 22-22 on Gray's kill, but the Panthers blocked Tech's next attack and put down a pair of late kills to steal the second set, 25-23.

It was the same old story in the third set at the Golden Eagles held an 18-12 late in the period before the Panthers chipped away and went on a late five-point run to take the match, 25-22.

Leading the way for the Panthers were Alex Zwettler and Melanie Boykins. Both players hit better than .300 while posting 16 and 13 kills, respectively.

The Golden Eagles return to action on Tuesday, September 22 when they take on Jacksonville State at the Eblen Center. Game time is set for 7 p.m.

Photo by Alex Mullens