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Tech hits the road to take on SIUE, EIU in conference matches


By Jocelyn VerVelde, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Tech volleyball team hits the road this weekend to take on Ohio Valley Conference west division foes SIU Edwardsville and Eastern Illinois. The Golden Eagles will take on SIUE on Friday at 7 p.m. and EIU on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Coming off back-to-back losses last weekend, the Golden Eagles are focusing on their own performance rather than that of their opponents.

"Mentally, as usual, we are focusing mostly on our play and how we want to do things," said first-year head coach Dave Zelenock. "The players will see film on the opponents just so they can see some things like arm speed and approach angles, but not much beyond that. SIUE and EIU don't do anything crazy that we need to prepare for, just solid play that keeps coming at you."

What's In Store This Weekend

"SIUE is a very young team, five of their seven starters are underclassmen," Zelenock said. "That being said, they are very good young players who are learning on the fly how to win in the OVC, and with young players you're going to have good and bad days. Their overall record is surprising because I think they are much better than 9-16 (5-7 OVC). I know every starter on that team from recruiting in that region and know these kids can play ball."

Versus SIU Edwardsville (6-19, OVC 5-7)
The Cougars are currently sitting in fourth place in the west division with two weekends left to play. Led by Cori Harris (2.78 kills per set) and Kelsey Augustine (2.53 K/S), SIUE sit in the top half in kills per set at 13.48 in conference play. Setter Mallory Mangun is orchestrating the offense by dishing out 11.04 assists per set, good for third in conference play. SIUE also leads the conference in digs per set at 18.62.

Versus Eastern Illinois (15-10, 9-3)
The Panthers, the west division leaders, have not lost since October 11-12 weekend where they lost to back-to-back games to Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky. They are led offensively by Reynae Hutchinson (3.33 kills per set) and Chelsea Lee (3.27 K/S). Hutchinson is current second in conference play at 3.70 kills per set. Dishing them the ball is setter Marah Bradbury who leads the conference at 12.47 assists per set.  As a whole, EIU's offense is tops in conference play, holding down first in both kills (14.98 K/S) and assists (14.40 A/S).

Things You Should Know

In The Rankings
Seniors Natalie Penrod and Ashleigh Hancock and junior Courtney Smith all hold spots in the conference rankings for stats achieved during conference play. Penrod is currently ranked sixth in kills per set at 3.35 and 10th in points scored at 3.62. Hancock is eighth in assists per set with 9.21, and Smith is fifth in digs by tallying 4.67 per set.

Last Weekend Recap
Tech fell to Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky last week. Sophomore Cody Dodd led the team points with 20. She recorded 14 kills, 7 blocks, two aces and a .312 hitting percentage. Hancock dished out 60 assists to go with three kills, seven digs and two blocks. 

Quotes from Coach
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With four matches left, we are placing a real premium on keeping things loose in the gym and getting better at one thing each time we take the floor. The last two weeks we have done a great job as a group attacking one aspect of the game each day to work on and carrying it forward into live play. We played really well last weekend despite the 3-0 losses. This weekend we want to keep improving in a few areas while holding onto the growth we had the last few."