COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tech volleyball team hosts UT Martin Saturday afternoon in a battle for the sky. The match is slated for 2:00. The Golden Eagles are looking for their first conference win this season.
The key to Saturday's match is offense. The Golden Eagle defense is one of the best defenses in the conferece, allowing the team to compete with everyone, now they just need to place themselves in the drivers seat and outscore the Skyhawks.
Defensively, Tech is putting up some of the best numbers in the OVC. Libero Courtney Smith is second in the OVC, averaging 5.19 digs per set thanks to two personal best 24 and 30 dig performances in the past week. Blocking has also been a highlight of Tech's recent matches, ranking second in the OVC, with an average of 2.32 blocks per set. Tech is just one of three teams in the conference averaging more than two blocks per set.
Senior Kelsey Gray leads Tech's blocking effort leading the OVC with 1.30 blocks per set. Gray's consistent play has also shot her up the hitting leader board, logging a .313 attack percentage in her senior campaign, the second best attack percentage in the OVC.
Outside hitters Natalie Penrrod and Ellen Conti provide the bulk of the Tech offense. Penrod averages 2.46 kills per set and Conti averages 1.98. Against Jasckonville State, freshman pinhitters Audrey Lewis and Cody Dodd made quite an impact. Lewis had her first seven kill performance in her career on 30 attacks while recording 13 digs. Dodd logged four terminations on 14 swings and added one block assist.
Madi Comperry dished out 16 assists against JSU, a season high for the 2012 season. Ashleigh Hancock has totaled 225 assists this season, logging 14 assists against the Gamecocks. The duo is running an offense that continues to improve and is currently hitting at a .122 attack percentage.
As a team, Tech is averaging 8.89 kills, 13.66 digs, 2.32 blocks and 1.15 service aces per set.
TECH (2-13, 0-3 OVC) vs. UT Martin(5-11, 1-2 OVC)
The battle for the Tennessee sky has been a long tradition and Tech 36-20 advantage.
In the 2011 season, Tech lost to UT Martin in both meetings 3-1.
Scouting the Skyhawks The Skyhawks are looking to bounce back from a loss in Saturday's match. UT Martin also had a mid-week match, traveling on Southeast Missouri Tuesday night. The Skyhawks were defeated 3-1 (25-19, 19-25, 12-25, 13-25).
As a team, UT Martin averages 11.03 kills, 16.28 digs, 1.57 blocks and 1.62 aces per set.
The Gamecocks are lead by Lynsey Hazelwood with 133 kills, averaging 2.66 kills per set. Emily Keaton adds 2.33 k/s. Setter Amanda Crask leads a UT Martin offense that hits .151, averaging 8.40 assists in the 2012 season. Crask leads the Skyhawks with a .182 attack percentage, avering 1.34 kills per set as well.
Last weekend UT Martin went 1-1, losing to SIUE 0-3 (23-25, 20-25, 10-25) and defeating Eastern Illinois 3-1(20-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-21).
LOOKING AHEAD: Tech continues OVC action on the road next weekend in Nashville. Friday, the Golden Eagles play at Tennessee State for a 7:00 match before taking on the newest addition to the OVC, Belmont, Saturday at 2:00.
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 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 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.