By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As head coach Jeannette Waldo has said of her Tennessee Tech volleyball team in the past, 'when they're clicking, they can play with anybody in this league'.
Such was the case Friday night for TTU, as they went into Nashville, got outstanding offensive production from all over the court, and dispatched the homestanding Tennessee State Tigers, 3-0.
"By far the best offensive night we've had," said Waldo. "We had a lot of key pieces working well at the same time, which is something we've been waiting for."
The victory puts Tech (10-17, 4-9 OVC) in double digits in the win column for the first time since 2015, and provides a crucial boost in the conference standings, one that could be the beginning of a last-minute push to make the league tournament.
"They just know it's coming down to the end here, and we want to show everyone what we're really made of," said Waldo. "There are still accomplishments to be had, and we plan to do everything we can to achieve them."
Two trademarks of winning teams are balance and efficiency on the offensive end, and Tech had that in spades on Friday night. In addition to having four players record nine or more kills, three Golden Eagles (who attacked at least 14 times) turned in individual hitting percentages of .478 or better, the first time this season that feat has been accomplished.
Leading the way was outside hitter Erica Grant, who totaled 14 kills and posted a hitting percentage of .478 that was oh-so-close to her career-best .480. It was an excellent performance for the true freshman, who continues to improve on consistency with her immense talent.
"Erica came alive," said Waldo. "She's been practicing really well, so we were thrilled to see it come out in her performance tonight when it really mattered."
But it was their accuracy that was truly jaw-dropping, as Thomas committed the lone error between the two on a combined 32 attempts. The result was career-high attack rates for both centerpieces, as Thomas posted a .571 and Dorsey an eye-popping .611.
"They were definitely clicking on all cylinders," said Waldo. "They've showed up in a big way for us on many occasions this year, and tonight was no different."
On the backs of Grant, Thomas and Dorsey, TTU logged a .312 percentage as a team, its second-best mark this season.
Ali Verzani made the fourth Golden Eagle to crack double digits with 10 kills, and led the team with 10 digs as well for her 12th double-double, and fourth in the last seven matches.
Tech took its first lead at 3-2 in the opening set, and never fell behind again. TSU would fight back to tie it twice, but the Golden Eagles would break the second one with a pivotal 7-2 run to move ahead 20-15. One final push from the Tigers would get them back within two points late, but Tech would hold on for the victory that would set the tone for the rest of the match.
The second set would follow almost the same script, as Tennessee Tech battled TSU through the first few points before establishing a foothold near the midway point. Once their 18-12 advantage was built, Tech would not allow their Nashville adversary to get closer than four points the rest of the way, as it cruised to a 25-19 victory.
Things were different in the third, as the Tigers brought a sense of urgency to their game and held a lead of at two least points until the middle stages. Tech remained within striking distance until it knotted the score at 17, and then initialized the final assault – an 8-1 stretch – that put the cherry on top of a complete performance.
"We should feel very confident after tonight's match, especially now that we play a team in Belmont that we've already beaten this season." Waldo said. "Momentum can be extremely valuable, and we hope to keep it alive!"
First serve for the rematch with Belmont will be at 2 p.m. from BU's Curb Event Center.
Photo by Thomas Corhern