COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- It's been a tough season for the Golden Eagles, but their final test will come Saturday as they travel to Southeast Missouri State for the last match of the season. The match is set for a 2 p.m. start in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
GOLDEN EAGLE PREVIEW
The Golden Eagles are still the best blocking team in the Ohio Valley Conference, averaging 2.55 blocks per set. Much of the blocks come from senior captain Kelsey Gray. Gray currently ranks 12th in the NCAA with 1.53 blocks per set. Joining her at the net is freshman Cody Dodd, and fellow middle Madison Keyes, each averaging over half a block per set and both have collected over 40 blocks this season.
Offensively, Gray leads the team with 2.33 kills per set and the second best hitting percentage in conference with a .304 attack percentage. Ellen Conti joins Gray with 1.86 kills per set, with 151 kills on the season. Dodd and Audrey Lewis have had a strong showing in the second half the season with 1.64 and 1.52 kills per set in conference action.
Courtney Smith still controls Tech's backcourt averaging 5.20 digs per set and boasts a .943 serve reception percentage. Madison Comperry and Ashleigh Hancock continue to run Tech's 6:2 offense, dising out 3.95 and 4.56 assists per set respectively.
As a team, Tech averages 9.64 kills, 14.33 digs, 2.55 blocks and 0.93 aces per set.
TECH (3-24, 1-14 OVC) vs. Southeast Missouri State (19-12, 11-4 OVC)
Southeast Missouri State leads the series 35-9.
In their past six four meetings, the match score has been 3-1, with the Golden Eagles earning the 3-1 victory just once. Tech's last win was in 2010.
Scouting the Redhawks
It will be a defensive battle between the birds, as the Redhawks fall just behind the Golden Eagles as the second best blocking team in the OVC with 2.32 blocks per set. Along being a top blocking team, SEMO leads the OVC with 17.72 digs per set, proving that the Redhawks are the toughest defensive team in the conference.
The Redhawks are led by Emily Coon with 1.17 blocks per set, falling 2nd in the OVC behind Tech's Kelsey Gray. Offensively, SEMO will look to Colleen Yarber, who averages 3.30 kills per set, Brittney Kalinoski and Coon. Kalinoski averages 2.72 kps, with Coon adding 2.50 kps.
As a team, Southeast Missouri State averages 12.55 kills, 17.72 digs, 2.32 blocks and 1.14 aces per set.
Last weekend, SEMO went 1-1, defeating Murray State 3-1, (25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22), but falling to Austin Peay 3-2, (19-25, 20-25, 25-23, 27-25, 15-7). In their mid-week match, the Redhawks downed UT Martin 3-1, (24-26, 25-19, 25-18, 25-19).
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior Kelsey Gray caught the attention of the conference and revealed why she is the best blocker in the Ohio Valley Conference when she turned in a 2.54 block per set performance over the weekend. Gray's spectacular play at the net snagged the senior Defensive Player of the Week honors.
This marks the first time Gray, a 6-2 middle blocker, has earned adidas® OVC Defensive Player of the Week this season, but the second time she has been honored in her four-year career. Gray previously won the award her sophomore season after posting 10 blocks against Jacksonville State (10/15/2010).
For the weekend, the Golden Eagles registered 25 team blocks with Gray having a hand in 18 of them. Against undefeated Morehead State, Gray was a part of every Tech block. She had a career-high 10 block assists and a season-high 11 total blocks versus Eastern Kentucky. Gray averaged 2.54 blocks per set, and to put in perspective the greatness of her performance, the best blocker in Division I is currently averaging 1.74 blocks per set.
100 MILESTONES: Two Golden Eagles have reached the 100 kill mark this season, outside hitters Natalie Penrod and Ellen Conti and middle hitter Kelsey Gray have each reached the season milestone. Gray has accumulated 186 kills so far this season, Penrod has 131 kills and Conti has 118.
CAN YOU DIG IT? Courtney Smith currently ranks third in the conference with 5.15 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.