Tech stymies Jax State in five sets to advance at OVC Tournament

MOREHEAD, Ky. -- Leah Meffert picked a great time for a great performance.

Meffert, an all-OVC senior, slammed home 30 kills to lead sixth-seeded Tennessee Tech to a dramatic, come-from-behind 3-2 victory over No. 3 Jacksonville State Thursday in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference volleyball tournament at Morehead State.

The Golden Eagles, who swept all three matches from the Gamecocks this season, battled back after falling behind 2-1 through the first three sets of an extremely even contest.

Tech moves into the semifinals of the OVC Tournament Friday, where the Golden Eagles will meet No. 2 seed Austin Peay at 3:30 p.m. CT. Fans can hear the live broadcast on the Golden Eagle Sports Network via the telephone or Internet.

"This was a hard-fought win," head coach John Blair said. "Jacksonville State is the kind of team where no lead is ever safe. It was really a battle of wills and we ended up winning that battle."

"We played really clean in the fourth and fifth sets and forced Jacksonville State into some uncharacteristic errors," Blair said. "We didn't do anything overly spectacular."

Blair pointed to two of his seniors for their work at the net. Meffert hit .373 percent and posted a season-high 30 kills despite battling the flu the past three days. She took 67 swings and made just five hitting errors. Marie Pedicord had 11 kills while hitting .286.

"We got a really good match out of both Leah and Marie," Blair said. "Those are two seniors playing the way they would like to go out."

Meffert was out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday with the flu, and was weak earlier in the day Thursday before finding the strength to shine against the Gamecocks.

"Leah was weak today but when it was time to play, she was just ready to play," Blair said.

The veteran coach, who has his team in the OVC Tournament for the fourth consecutive year, gave credit to senior setter Melanie Culp and the team's overall balance Thursday. Culp had 47 assists while adding five digs and two blocks.

"We got a nice, consistent setting performance from Melanie Culp," Blair said. "She played within her abilities and that's what we need. Just solid, consistent play from her and we got that.

"You don't win these kind of matches at these kind of events without every single person who played doing something," he added. "It just doesn't work. That's a really positive thing today. Everybody who was in there did something for us to be successful. It will take that same kind of effort plus tomorrow to advance to the finals."

Freshman Natalie Penrod provided eight kills and seven digs while Kelsey Gray had seven kills and five total blocks. Freshman Allison May led in the back row with 17 digs while Madison Comperry added 10 digs.

JSU had three players reach double figures in digs, topped by Caitlin Vorbeck wth 20. Kara Slater added 16 kills and Jen Meyer had 14. Lauren Harkins had 21 digs for the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks hit .400 in the first set on the way to a 25-19 victory, but that mark dropped to .057 in the second set as Tech tied things with a 25-20 victory. A very close third set went to JSU, 25-20. The Gamecocks hit .471 while Tech managed a .382 hitting mark in the middle set.

The Golden Eagle outlasted JSU 25-21, in the fourth set then took control in the fifth with a commanding 13-8 lead. The Gamecocks rallied to make it 14-10 before Meffert's 30th kill of the night put it in the books. Tech stayed nearly error-free, hitting .350 in the fifth set with eight kills and just one error in 20 attempts.