By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Golden Eagle volleyball secured a five-set victory on Friday over Western Illinois in their home-opener on Friday at the Golden Eagle Invitational presented by Quality Inn.
"We came out a little overly confident after winning the opening set and it took us a little bit to find our rhythm again," said head coach Jeannette Waldo. "We had to fight, and it was a boxing match for sure, but to their credit, because I think they had our number for a long time. But we played a really clean fifth set with only one hitting error, so that was huge for us."
Junior Ali Verzani was an offensive weapon for the Golden Eagles, tallying a career-high 22 kills. Verzani added 10 digs during the contest to notch her fourth double-double of the season. Sophomore Taylor Dorsey dominated at the net for Tech as she also tallied a career-high nine blocks. Freshman Emma Osterbur had a career night as well, recording a career-high and Golden Eagle season-high 23 digs. Sophomore Ashley Hand rounded out the Golden Eagle performances, dishing out a phenomenal 51 assists in the win.
"What a day for Ali, Taylor, and Emma," expressed coach Waldo. "I think everyone is going to key in on Ali from an offensive standpoint. She struggled a little bit on trying to get into a scoring rhythm, but we just told her to not be afraid of the block and the defense, and if she plays her game, the ball will fall. Taylor is a just a beast and we tried to incorporate her into the defense as much as we could. Emma also came up huge for our back row and we were very excited to see that."
The Golden Eagles (3-8) opened the match with four-straight points to take an early 4-0 lead. However, the Leathernecks (3-8) responded with a 4-1 run of their own to tie the set up at five. Things would remain even through 12-12 until Tech notched four unanswered again to take the 16-12 advantage. Western Illinois would once again bring things even at 19, but the Golden Eagles would close out the set on a 6-3 run to take the opening set, 25-22.
Following a Tech point to open the second, the Leathernecks tallied five-straight points to lead 5-1 early. The Golden Eagles would slowly come back as they would eventually knot things up at 14. A 5-1 Western Illinois run would make it 20-15 and the Golden Eagles just couldn't catch up with a 7-5 run as the Leathernecks would even the match 25-22.
The third set was an absolute battle as the match would remain knotted even through 17 ties until the Golden Eagles would spoil a Leatherneck set-point to make it 24-24. However, Western Illinois capitalized on a pair of Golden Eagle errors to take the set and the 2-1 lead, 26-24.
Tech came out on fire in the fourth as they produced a 9-2 lead to open the set. The Leathernecks would respond with a 12-5 run of their own to bring things back even at 14. Tech went on a 5-1 run to extend their lead back to four before Western Illinois would cut it to three, 19-16, but that was as close as it would get before Tech sent the match to a fifth-set with the 25-19 victory.
The fifth set opened to a 5-1 Golden Eagle run. Western Illinois would cut the lead down to three at 8-5, but the Golden Eagles battled back to outscore the Leathernecks 7-3 to seal the five-set comeback, 15-10.
The Golden Eagles return to the court tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. against Southern Illinois, followed by the final match of the Golden Eagle Invitational at 7:30 p.m. against Middle Tennessee.
Photo by Jim Dillon