By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech volleyball returns home this weekend as they open their 2019 home slate and host the Golden Eagle Invitational on Friday, Sept. 20 and Saturday, Sept. 21.
The Golden Eagles get things started on Friday at noon as they take on the Western Illinois Leathernecks. Tech will then return to the court on Saturday at 10 a.m. as they matchup against the Southern Illinois Salukis, before closing out the tournament with a nightcap against Middle Tennessee at 7:30 p.m.
Tech had a short turnaround this week as they traveled to Evansville, Indiana for a Tuesday matchup against the Evansville Purple Aces.
- Sophomore Ashley Hand had a career night on Tuesday as she surpassed her previous career-high of 36 assists in a five-set 58 assist performance against Evansville.
- Junior Ali Verzani leads the Golden Eagles with 92 kills so far this season.
- Verzani has also recorded a team-high three double-doubles on the season.
- Freshman Dallas Oatis and Morgan Gish have also made significant impacts this season for the Golden Eagles, tallying 35 and 29 kills, in addition to 14 and nine blocks, respectively.
- Sophomore Taylor Dorsey has dominated the net for the Golden Eagles this season, collecting a team-high 23 blocks, which is 39 percent of the team's total blocks on the season.
- Freshman Carly Skrabak has dug out at least 10 balls in all but two contests so far this season, with the two being against Oakland and Western Kentucky.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
Western Illinois (2019 Record: 3-7 | Series Record: 1-0)
The Leathernecks are coming off a 0-3 weekend at the Wright State Invitational and have collected a 3-7 overall record. Western Illinois picked up their three victories against Mississippi Valley State, Evansville, and Jackson State.
Western Illinois is led offensively by JoJo Kruize, who has recorded 104 kills (3.15 k/s) so far this season, while also placing third on the team in total blocks with 14. A pair of setters have broken the 100-assist mark so far this season in Jessie Connell and Cassie Hunt with 182 and 103, respectively. The Leathernecks are led defensively by Gabby DePersio on the back row with 118 digs and at the net by Mackenzie Steckler with a team-leading 48 blocks on the season.
The Golden Eagles and the Leathernecks share Evansville as a mutual opponent so far this season, with the Leathernecks getting the upper-hand in their five-set victory over the Aces, whereas the Golden Eagles fell in their five-set battle.
Tech leads the series all-time against the Leathernecks, earning the sole victory last season, 3-1.
Southern Illinois (2019 Record: 6-5 | Series Record: 0-2)
The Salukis are 6-5 so far this season. SIU hosted UT Martin this past Tuesday in which the Salukis narrowly pulled out a five-set victory over the Skyhawks.
Rachel Maguire and Alex Washington leads Southern Illinois in offense with 118 and 100 kills, respectively. Maguire is also second on the team in total assists with 223 on the season, while Alayna Martin leads the Salukis with 256. Laura Rojas is the team's dig-lead with 182 on the season. At the net, Hannah Becker and Lindsey Paulsen have collected the most blocks on the team with 24 and 23, respectively.
Southern Illinois holds the all-time series advantage, having defeated the Golden Eagles in both contests and with the most recent matchup being a 3-0 loss in 2008.
The Golden Eagle Invitational will mark the second time this season that the Salukis will take on fellow tournament participant Middle Tennessee, having defeated them 3-1 earlier this season.
Middle Tennessee (2019 Record: 3-7 | Series Record: 30-7)
The Blue Raiders enter the Golden Eagle Invitational with a 3-7 record this season. Middle Tennessee is also in a shorter week as they swept Alabama A&M in a Tuesday road matchup.
Urte Neimantaite and Dora Peonia lead the offense for the Blue Raiders, notching 118 and 116 kills on the season. Taylor Hammill has a team-leading 9.67 assists per set, collecting 319 on the season. The back row is conducted by Bri Tankesley for Middle Tennessee as she has tallied 146 digs through 10 contests. Amalie Jorgensen and Mikaela Weidmann control the net for Middle Tennessee as they have tallied 25 and 23 blocks each, respectively.
Tech also shares the Evansville Purple Aces as a mutual opponent with Middle Tennessee. Both teams took a loss during their respective contests, but the Golden Eagles stretched the game to five sets, while the Blue Raiders fell in four.
The Golden Eagles lead the series 30-7 with the last matchup coming in 2016 and ending in a 3-2 Blue Raider victory.
Following Saturday's competition, the Golden Eagles will kick off conference play as they travel to Jacksonville, Alabama to take on the Jacksonville State Gamecocks in a midweek matchup on Sept. 25.
Photo by Thomas Corhern