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September 22, 2009

Golden Eagles drop five-setter to visiting Jacksonville State

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - It was a night of momentum shifts, and the last wave went to Jacksonville State as the Gamecocks outlasted Tennessee Tech in five sets Tuesday night to claim an Ohio Valley Conference volleyball match in Eblen Center.

The Gamecocks gave up an early 1-0 advantage as Tech rebounded to win the next two and take a 2-1 lead. Jacksonville State tied things at 2-2, then used a couple key points in the middle of the final set to clinch the match, 3-2 (25-22, 16-25, 10-25, 25-16, 15-11). 

JSU improved to 10-5 overall and remained unbeaten in the early stages of the OVC race with a 3-0 mark. Tech slipped to 1-11 overall and 0-3 in league play.

Tech was stretched to five sets for the second time in five days and the fifth time this season. A couple of critical hitting errors down the stretch were Tech's undoing, and the Gamecocks took advantage.

Caitlin Vorbeck topped JSU with 16 kills, while Alyx Schulte and Brittney Whitten added 10 each. The Gamecocks posted 94 team digs, led by Lauren Harkins with 23, Whitten with 20 and Schulte with 19. Brooke Schumaker had 33 assists for the Gamecocks, who hit just .087 for the match.

Tech was led by Leah Meffert with 13 kills and Amanda Lindgren with 12. Katie Kenline posted 23 digs, one of four Golden Eagles in double digits in the back row. Teresa Craig added, 14 Melanie Culp 13 and Meffert 12. Culp had 35 assists. Marie Peddicord led Tech at the net with six blocks total, tying her career high, and helping the Golden Eagles post 13 team blocks. 

In the final set, Vorbeck's emphatic kill gave JSU a 7-4 lead, but Peddicord answered with a kill down the right side to make it 7-5. Meyer scored off the block to make it 8-5 at the turnaround. After the Golden Eagle sliced the difference to a single point, 9-8, the Gamecocks put the next four points on the board for a 13-8 lead.

Tech made one last push, scoring three straight to pull within 13-11, but a serving error by the Golden Eagles and a kill by Whitten capped off the action. 

The Gamecocks pulled out a 25-22 win in the first set, fighting back after Tech built a 15-10 lead. JSU scored 10 consecutive points to go on top 20-15, and seemed to take control of the first set. However, the Golden Eagles outscored the visitors 6-1 to tie things at 21-21 before the Gamecocks rallied back with kills from Schulte and Whitten, and back-to-back hitting errors by Tech for the three-point win.

Tech came storming back in the second set behind Lindgren's six kills and a huge improvement in hitting percentage. After hitting -.061 in the first set, Tech improved to .344 in the second. The Golden Eagles broke an 11-11 tie with a 7-0 run  for an 18-11 lead. Tech held that cushion to the finish line for a 25-16 victory to tie the match at a set apiece

The third set was nearly a record-setting performance by the Golden Eagles, who rolled off 13 straight points and went on top 24-4, with Meffert recording all seven of her kills in the set during that 13-0 run. The Gamecocks rattled off the next six points to make it 24-10, before Tech earned set point on a JSU serving error for the 25-10 victory and a 2-1 lead in the match. The Golden Eagles hit .458 and limited the Gamecocks to a -.041 mark.

Jacksonville State forced the fifth set by capturing a 25-16 win in the fourth. After Tech took an early 5-2 lead, the Gamecocks ran off the next nine points for an 11-5 lead. Jen Meyer had two kills and Brittney Whitten two service aces in the run.

Tech pulled to within four points three times, including 18-14 on back-to-back kills by Lindgren, but the Gamecocks recovered for the nine-point win. Caitlin Vorbeck notched six kills in the set as JSU improved to a .244 hitting mark and Tech connected on just .050 for the set.

The Golden Eagles continue their five-match homestand this weekend, hosting UT Martin Friday at 7 p.m. and Murray State Saturday at 2 p.m.

Photo of junior Marie Peddicord by Jim Dillon.