By BEN CRAVEN
The Tennessee Tech volleyball team clinched a birth in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament over the weekend as the Golden Eagles shut out Tennessee State 3-0 Friday and beat Belmont 3-1 Saturday inside the Hooper Eblen Center.
The wins bump Tech’s overall record to 13-16 and its OVC record to 9-7. The Golden Eagles are in a 4-way tie for fifth place in the OVC and have drawn the seventh seed in the OVC Tournament. They will begin the tournament Thursday at Jacksonville State University against Southeast Missouri.
“(The TSU game) was a huge game for us just because we want to go to the (OVC) Tournament so badly,” TTU head coach Jeannette Waldo said. “Nobody on our team has been to the OVC Tournament before, and TSU was a road block standing in our way. Knowing that and still being able to perform without getting too tight was a big step for our team.
“Last season we were in the same situation. We went into the last weekend of play, we had to win to give ourselves a shot at being in the tournament, and we got so tight that we kind of crumbled. (Friday night) was a very proud moment for me as a coach.”
The Golden Eagles were dominant in their shutout win of TSU, taking the first set 25-13, the second 25-21, and the third 25-11.
In the first set, the score was close until a 7-7 tie. From there, Tech went on a 15-2 run with the help of three kills from both Rachel Thomas and Ali Verzani to make it 22-9. After a few TSU points, Verzani ended it with a kill and an ace.
The second set was the most competitive as the deficit hovered around two points almost the entire time. After a 16-16 tie, the Golden Eagles finally scored three points in a row to go up 19-16. They followed it up with another 3-point stretch moments later to make their lead 23-18, and two TSU errors ended it.
Tech got back to its dominant ways quickly in the third set by starting on a 13-3 run with the help of nine kills. TSU picked up its offense toward the end but was still outscored 12-8 the rest of the way. The match ended on a kill from Skylar Boom.
“I think we served really well, so that was nice,” Waldo said. “We work on serving all the time because your first attack comes from the service line. We took advantage of some broken situations when (TSU) gave us free balls. We just made the easy things easy tonight. TSU got points here and there when they made great plays, but fortunately, we had more of those moments.”
Tech was dominant on the stat sheet as well with 44 kills, only six attack errors, and a hit percentage of .355. Adversely, TSU had 30 kills, 18 attack errors, and a hit percentage of .114. Verzani led Tech’s attack with 15 kills and a .406 hit percentage. She was followed by Thomas with eight kills and Dallas Oatis with six, while Ashley Hand helped out with 30 assists.
“We just need to keep playing with earned confidence,” Waldo said. “We’ve put ourselves in this position, we’ve earned this, and we need to make sure that we play like it. When we play with fire, we can’t be stopped, but we have to make sure we do that all the time.”
Golden Eagles beat Belmont 3-1 Saturday
The TTU volleyball team also beat Belmont 3-1 Saturday to further cement its spot in the OVC Tournament.
The Golden Eagles claimed the win by taking the first set 25-19, the second set 25-20, and the fourth set 25-16. Belmont made things interesting in the third set by winning 28-26.
Tech’s attack was led by Thomas with 14 kills, but Dorsey and Verzani weren’t far behind with 13 and 11 kills respectively. Abigail Duncan and Carly Skrabak led the back-line defense with 13 and 12 digs respectively, while Hand assisted on 38 points.