Tech nearly sinks league-leading Morehead State, falls 3-2

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Kaitlin Craven and Ellie Roberson kept Morehead State's championship hopes on course Friday night as the Eagles survived an upset bid to claim a 3-2 Ohio Valley Conference volleyball victory over Tennessee Tech in Eblen Center.

Cruising toward an apparent OVC title, Morehead State nearly ran aground against an inspired Golden Eagle squad. Tech claimed the first and third sets for a 2-1 lead before Craven bailed out the visitors in the fourth set and Roberson took control in the fifth set.

Morehead State improved to 17-9 overall and 10-1 in OVC play. The Golden Eagles, who host second-place Eastern Kentucky Saturday at 2 p.m., slipped to 6-15 overall and 4-6 in the league.

Craven finished with a match-high 19 kills, while Roberson and Holly Evans added 14 kills each. Three Eagle players reached double digits in digs, led by Liz Schiler with 16, while setter Kirstie Brangers had 56 of the team's 59 assists. Morehead had nine team blocks, topped by Emma Keough with five total blocks.

Senior Leah Meffert had 17 kills and 23 digs for the Golden Eagles while classmate Marie Peddicord (pictured above) added 14 kills on a solid .444 hitting performance. Sophomore Kelsey Gray had 16 kills and four total blocks. On the back row, freshman Allison May had 26 digs while setter Melanie Culp provided 57 assists. Freshman Elise Robertson also chipped in with good numbers, hitting .625 on the way to five kills and adding a team-best five total blocks.

Tech finished strong in the first set to claim a 25-21 decision. After trailing by three a couple of times, the Golden Eagles used a kill by Meffert to begin their rally. Down 16-15, Tech went on a 9-4 stretch that included two kills by Peddicord and blocks by Gray and Robertson. Gray had five kills in the set.

Morehead State bounced back with a strong presence at the net in the second set, getting four blocks on the way to a 25-17 victory to knot the match at 1-1. Following a 4-0 start by the Golden Eagles, MSU put together a 12-2 run to build a 12-6 lead. That was followed by a 5-1 run that pushed tha margin to 17-10 and the Eagles eased their way to the finish line. Craven had five kills in the set.

Tech played one of its best sets of the season in the middle set to claim a 25-20 victory, posting a .457 hitting mark with 18 kills and only two errors. Peddiccord had five kills in six chances while Gray and Meffert added four kills, Natalie Penrod three and Robertson two. Evans kept Morehead close with six kills and a .556 hitting mark.

The fourth set saw Morehead dominate on the way to a 25-15 decision to force the fifth set. Craven had three kills in a 9-2 run that turned an 11-10 MSU lead into a 20-12 margin. Roberson and Keough also provided kills and the Golden Eagles struggled with four errors in that span.

A key play in the final set came midway through with MSU holding a 7-6 lead after a kill from Meffert. As Culp got into position to set a pass, Keough's long reach over the net earned a kill and an 8-6 lead.

Roberson followed with back-to-back kills for a 10-6 cushion and Tech never got closer than three after that. Craven's kill made it 14-9 and Evans earned match point for the 15-10 score.