Volleyball team finally returns to Cookeville for home opener Tuesday

Volleyball team finally returns to Cookeville for home opener Tuesday

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech volleyball team will make its home debut Tuesday night in the Eblen Center. The Golden Eagles, who have spent the entire first month of the season playing on the road, will host the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State at 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Tuesday nights match will be Tech's third OVC match this season, and the Golden Eagles are vying for their first conference victory.  

Tuesday, Sept. 25
6:00 p.m. CT - Tech vs. Jacksonville State
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Tech was defeated in its first two conference matches of the season. Friday night Tech fell to Murray State in three sets (27-29, 15-25, 13-25). Saturday the Golden Eagles fought a tough battle in Clarksville, but after four sets the Lady Govs downed Tech in four sets (19-25, 27-25, 18-25, 17-25). 

Kelsey Gray's consistent play led the Golden Eagle offensive attack. Gray turned in a flawless opening OVC weekend. Gray never committed an attack error, and only one blocking error. Offensively, Gray had two nine kill performances. Against Murray State Gray was responsible of seven of Tech's twelve blocks (2 solo, five block assists) and against Austin Peay she had four blocks (1 solo, three assists)  Gray was responsible for 30% of Tech's points scored. 

Ellen Conti is currently averaging 2.03 kills per set with 79 kills this season. Conti turned in her second 10 kills performance this past weekend against Murray State. Fellow outside hitter Natalie Penrod returned to the court after a weekend off due to injury and turned in a 14 kill performance at Austin Peay, a season high. 

Tech's offense hit a .161 this past weekend thanks to the hands of setters Madi Comperry and Ashleigh Hancock. Comperry is currently averaging  3.25 assists per set with Hancock averaging 4.80 respectively. 

Libero Courtney Smith is still leading Tech's defense. Smith had a career weekend, recording a match high 24 digs at Austin Peay (a career high) and a team high 15 digs against Murray State. She had a .953 reception conversion, taking 64 of Tech's serve reception. Smith averaged 5.57 digs per set over the weekend, well above her 4.86 season average. 

As a team, Tech is averaging 9.34 kills, 12.91 digs, 2.23 blocks and 1.16 service aces per set.

TECH (2-12, 0-2 OVC) vs. Jacksonville State (7-8, 2-0 OVC)
Tech has only faced JSU 20 times and JSU holds a 12-8 advantage. 

In the 2011 season, Tech lost on the road 3-0, but defeated the Racers 3-1 at home.

Scouting the Gamecocks
The Gamecocks, Tech's travel partner, also faced Austin Peay and Murray State and finished the OVC opening weekend with a 2-0 record. 

As a team, Jacksonville State averages 11.53 kills, 14.37 digs, 1.62 blocks and 1.32 aces per set.

The Gamecocks are lead by Hivya Leite with 102 kills, averaging 2.55 kills per set. Jen Meyer adds 2.47 k/s, averaging a .291 attack percentage. Setter Abbey Heredia leads a Jacksonville State offense that hits .187, averaging 7.84 assists in the 2012 season.

Last weekend Jacksonville State went 2-0, overcoming Austin Peay 3-1 (30-32, 35-22, 25-20, 25-23) and Murray State 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-14).

LOOKING AHEAD: Tech remains in Cookeville as UT Martin makes the trip to the Hooper-Eblen Center Saturday, Sept. 29 for a 2 p.m. start.

CAN YOU DIG IT? Courtney Smith had a career weekend, recording a match high 24 digs at Austin Peay (a career high) and a team high 15 digs against Murray State. She had a .953 reception conversion, taking 64 of Tech's serve reception. Smith averaged 5.57 digs per set over the weekend, well above her 4.86 season average. 

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-tounament 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 ComperryKatrina 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 braodcasted 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 the new OVCSports.com in July and is the host of the OVC Digital Network.

SOCIAL NETWORK: Like TTU Sports on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to get updates on the Golden Eagle volleyball team this season. Both sites will be updated live during matches this year.