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Volleyball earns first win of the season, Penrod nets all-tournament honors


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech volleyball team rebounded from a Friday night loss and stormed the court Saturday morning to post its first victory of the season, topping Alcorn State 3-0 at the Country Inns & Suites Invitational. 

The Golden Eagles downed Braves by set scores of 25-5, 25-20, and 25-7. 

Later on Saturday evening, Tech completed play at the invitational falling to host UT Chattanooga in three, 25-16, 25-15, and  27-25.

Junior outside hitter Natalie Penrod was named to the all-tournament team, the first of her career. 

In dominating fashion, Tech out-hit, out-blocked, and out-dug Alcorn State. Penrod led the charge with 12 kills, while Ellen Conti recorded nine kills hitting at a .571 mark and middle hitter Kelsey Gray tallied seven kills.

Serving was the name of Tech's game as the Golden Eagles recorded 14 service aces. Gray led the team with five aces from behind the service line with Conti, and Ashleigh Hancock each chipped in with three. 

Hancock joined Madi Comperry in leading a balanced attack, each dishing out 16 assists. 

Defensively, the Golden Eagles made a strong stand, popping up 36 team digs. Libero Courtney Smith sprawled for 17 digs. 

The first set was the Golden Eagles strongest offensive showing. Tech hit an unprecedented .500 as a team, but the points were controlled by consistent serves. Tech was able to control the tempo of the game, and become aggresseive with their serves. 

Hancock opened the first set with a three-point run, before a few point exchanges between the teams. Gray was next in line and served for five points before Conti went on a 10-point run. Despite taking a timeout, the Braves couldn't recover from the deficit, folding at 25-5. 

Set two proved to be a bit more of a challenge, but the Golden Eagles never trailed. Attack errors crept into the Golden Eagle game. Three attack errors in a row brought the score to 10-6, but that would be the closest the Braves would rally to. Tech continued to stay aggressive at the net, and closed out a 25-20 victory. 

Tech came out in the third set and made quick work of the Braves. The score was 4-2 before Gray went behind the service line and rattled off four aces. Serving continued to highlight Tech's crusade, with Conti registering two aces of her own. Tech went on to win, 25-7. 

Later in the day, Tech faced host UT Chattanooga. Tech dropped the first two sets, and ran out of time in the third. 

The Golden Eagles were led by Penrod with her second 12-kill performance of the day. Gray followed with nine kills and had a hand in five blocks. Freshman Cody Dodd assisted in two blocks and had a solo block in her first college tournament weekend. Keyes chipped in with nine kills. Conti had six terminations and picked up 11 digs. Smith went to the floor for 16 digs. 

The first set was a nail-biter, as the two teams went point-for-point. The Golden Eagles used a spread offense, but just couldn't convert in serve receive. Tech fell, 25-16.

In the second set, the Mocs went on an early run to put a gap between them and the Golden Eagles. Despite a rallying effort by Tech, the Mocs were able to fend off a last minute effort and win the set, 25-15.

The third set was a thriller. The Golden Eagles led for most of the set. The Mocs tied the contest at 15-15 and points coninued to go back and forth until a block by UTC's Bridget tied the score at 24-all. A kill by Conti held off a match point for the Mocs, but it wasn't enough as UT Chattanooga went on to win the set, 27-25. 

The Golden Eagles (1-2) return to the court next weekend at the Xavier Tournament in Cincinnati. The Golden Eagles will face head coach John Blair's previous team, Ole Miss, along with Marquette and host Xavier. Tech opens the tournament against Xavier at 11 a.m. CT on Friday. Later Friday night, Tech faces Marquette at 4 p.m. CT. Saturday, Tech closes out the tournament with a match against Ole Miss at 1 p.m. CT.