COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Golden Eagle volleyball team will get a second chance at the Belmont Bruins and the Tennessee State Tigers this season. Both teams travel to Cookeville Friday and Saturday in Ohio Valley Conference action.
The Golden Eagles will face Belmont on Friday night at 7 p.m. and Tennessee State Saturday at 2 p.m. Tech has reached the half-way mark in conference action, and has only eight matches remaining.
GOLDEN EAGLE PREVIEW
Captain Kelsey Gray continues to be the most consistent player for the Golden Eagles. She is currently ranked first in the OVC with a .313 hitting percentage. Gray also averages 1.41 blocks per set which leads the OVC pack and places her 23rd in the country.
"When you look at the numbers she's posted match-in and match-out, they've been very consistent and very high," said head coach John Blair. "Those numbers aren't just happening on their own, she's creating those numbers. Any success that we have she's going to be a large part of it."
The Golden Eagles have been plagued by injury. Tech started the season with Allison May and Elise Roberson benched due to injury. Roberson has returned to the court, but May has been forced to redshirt for the season. Tech lost another player last weekend in warm-ups. Senior Katrina Devorken dislocated her finger, and ends her Tech volleyball career earlier than planned.
The Golden Eagles are still searching for the OVC victory that has eluded them. Tech's defense is one of the toughest in the conference, they just need an offense that produces the same kind of numbers. Outside hitter Natalie Penrod falls behind Gray as the largest contributer. Penrod averages 2.30 kills per set, and 2.11 digs per set.
Freshman Cody Dodd gave a glimpse of the dynamic player she could be against Morehead State. Dodd turned in 12 kills on 27 swings for her second best attack percentage of the season, .333.
"Dodd bought into taking ownership and responsibility for what you do on the court. That's part of a freshman turning into a veteran," said Blair. "It could change the outcome of this team if she played like that for the remainder of the season."
Madison Comperry and Ashleigh Hancock continue to split time at setter in a 6:2 Golden Eagle offense. Comperrry is averaging 4.55 assists per set in conference play, while Hancock averages 4.47 assists per set on the season.
Courtney Smith continues to lead the back court with a .979 serve reception percentage, and a 5.50 digs per set. Smiths digs/set average is the third best in the OVC.
As a team, Tech averages 9.48 kills, 14.06 digs, 2.44 blocks and 0.55 aces per set.
TECH (2-18, 0-8 OVC) vs. Belmont (8-14, 4-4 OVC)
EKU leads the series 46-20.
This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season. Belmont defeated the Golden Eagles in three sets in Nashville Oct. 6. Set scores for Belmont were 25-14, 25-17 and 25-23.
Scouting the Bruins
The Bruins are looking to end a two-match losing streak after two five-set loses to SEMO and UT Martin last weekend.
As a team, Belmont averages 12.1 kills, 16.4 digs, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 aces per set.
The Bruins are lead by Alex Martin, Jen Myer and Scarlet Gable The trio all average over two kills per set, with Myer leading the squad with 2.45 kills per set.
Last week Belmont went 0-2 falling to SEMO and UT Martin on the road. SEMO defeated Belmont 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-13). UT Martin also defeated the Bruins in five sets (19-25, 22-25, 29-27, 25-19, 16-14).
TECH vs. Tennessee State (11-10, 5-3 OVC)
The Tigers lead the series 35-9.
This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season. The Tigers defeated the Golden Eagles in three sets in Nashville Oct. 5. Set scores for Tennessee State were 25-23, 25-16 and 25-21.
Scouting the Tigers
The Tigers finished last week 1-1, and defeated Memphis in a comeback five-set win on Tuesday.
As a team, Tennessee State averages 12.51 kills, 13.08 digs, 1.30 blocks and 1.53 aces per set.
The Tigers are led offensively by Naomi Wells who averages 3.59 kills per set. Defensively, the Tigers look to Britani Hathorn who averages 3.82 digs per set.
Last week the Tigers went 1-1, defeating UT Martin 3-1 (32-30, 22-25, 25-18, 25-23) and falling to SEMO 2-3. (16-25, 25-23, 25-21, 20-25, 15-9). The Tigers played Tuesday and pulled off a 3-2 comeback win against Memphis 911-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-20, 15-9).
LOOKING AHEAD: Tech hits the road next weekend, going up against Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky for another OVC roadtrip. Friday, the Golden Eagles will face the Eagles at 6 CDT and get another shot at the Colonels Saturday at 4 pm.
OUTBLOCKING THE OVC: Tennessee Tech sits atop the conference in blocks per set with 2.44 The majority of the team's blocks come from 6-2 senior Kelsey Gray, whose average of 1.41 blocks per set ranks first in the OVC and 23rd in the NCAA.
100 MILESTONES: Two Golden Eagles have reached the 100 kill mark this season, outside hitter Natalie Penrod and middle hitter Kelsey Gray have each reached the season milestone. Gray has accumulated 152 kills so far this season, and Penrod has 122 kills.
CAN YOU DIG IT? Courtney Smith currently ranks third in the conference with 5.17 digs per set. She has continued to top her career high's all season going from 17 digs in a match to 31 digs in a match. The greatest accomplishment was 30 digs in three sets against Jacksonville State on Sept. 25.
CONFERENCE ACTION: This season, with the addition of Belmont University to the conference, the OVC will break down into two regions, expanding tournament play to the top eight teams (from six in previous years). The winners of each division get automatic berths into the conference championship, while the seeding will be determined by winning percentage.
Tech will play in the East Division along with Belmont, Eastern Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Morehead State and Tennessee State. The West Division includes Austin Peay, Eastern Illinois, Murray State, Southeast Missouri, SIUE and UT Martin.
ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Kelsey Gray received her second All-Tournament selection this season at the Samford Bulldog Invitational. Gray had two double-digit performances in kills, 11 against Gardner-Webb and 14 against Alcorn State. She hit a whopping .462 attack percentage against Alcorn State. Gray put up a wall at the net, blocking just about every ball that went toward her. Gray had seven solo blocks and 10 block assists over the weekend. Against Gardner-Webb, Gray had five solo blocks and four assists forcing GW's top player to have three straight errors, and to be pulled from the match. Gray's blocking effort held opponents to a .161 attack percentage, the lowest of any tournament this season.
Natalie Penrod was selected to the Western Kentucky all-tournament team, marking her second all-tournament honor this season. Returning to her home state of Kentucky, Penrod earned all-tournament honors in a five-team tournament with opponents like #10 Dayton and Ohio State. Penrod led Tech with 22 kills despite facing a triple block most of the weekend. Penrod was responsible for 25 of Tech's 99 points, and a third of Tech's total offense.
Gray earned a spot on her first all-tournament team at the Xavier Invitational. Gray hit an outstanding .667 against Xavier. She recorded nine kills, leading the team. Against the second best team in the Big East, Marquette, Gray had eight terminations, again leading the team and hit .500. As a middle, Gray hit above and beyond against three top-tier teams.
Penrod netted all-tournament honors at the Country Inns & Suites Invitational hosted by UT Chattanooga. Penrod recorded 35 kills (3.89 k/s), hitting at a .260 clip.
Prior to the 2012 season, 56 Golden Eagles have earned all-tournament honors, dating back to 1994.
RECORD BREAKING SEASON: Tech opened the 2012 season at the Country Inns & Suites Invitational and set the first record of the season. The Golden Eagles didn't allow a single block against Alcorn State, tying the Golden Eagle team record for fewest total blocks allowed.
SENIORS: There are three seniors leading the 2012 squad. Madi Comperry, Katrina Dvorken and Kelsey Gray lead the Golden Eagles and are looking to get back to the OVC tournament. The trio has a career record 26-63. They have accumulated four tournament wins and appeared in two OVC tournaments.
HEAD COACH: John Blair continues his reign as head coach by reaching the decade mark, becoming only the second coach in Tech history to do so.
During the 2011 season, Blair reached another milestone, earning his 100th victory at UT Chattanooga in a five-set thriller. Blair has had continued success since he lead the Golden Eagles to a conference championship in 2008, making it to the OVC tournament four out of the past five seasons.
Blair earned his 69th OVC victory last season when the Golden Eagles defeated Eastern Kentucky on November 11. Blair now has 373 wins after 27 years as a head coach, including 104 career wins at Tennessee Tech, making him the third winningest coach in program history.
CATCH THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Fans can catch Live stats via PrestoSports Prime Time via Tennessee Tech here. For conference play, games will be broadcasted on the Ohio Valley Conference Digital Network here.
OVC DIGITAL NETWORK: The Ohio Valley Conference has launched the OVC Digital Network the new and improved home for live streaming of athletic contests involving OVC member institutions, including Tennessee Tech.
The Conference is entering its seventh year of web streaming athletic contests, and this investment in improved quality, rebranding and launch of the Digital Network coincides with the OVC's partnership with SIDEARM Sports (SAS), which debuted as the new OVCSports.com in July and is the host of the OVC Digital Network.