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Lions end Golden Eagle run at OVC Championships in 3-2 thriller

Lions end Golden Eagle run at OVC Championships in 3-2 thriller

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

MOREHEAD, Ky. – The 2024 beach volleyball campaign officially came to a close in heart-wrenching fashion for Tennessee Tech Friday afternoon, falling to Lindenwood in an elimination dual at the Ohio Valley Conference Championships at Giovanni's Breadstick Beach in Morehead, Ky.

The No. 5-seeded Golden Eagles (7-15) fell to the No. 3 Lions (14-9) in a 3-2 decision that saw an incredible comeback by Lindenwood. After Tech jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Lions won the last three duals to advance to another round of action.

"[This was an] absolutely heartbreaking way to end our season," Tech head coach Zach Weinberg said. "I'm proud of how we battled, but we just didn't have enough in the big moments to truly put our foot down and take the dual."

Tech's No. 4 and No. 5 pairings truly set the tone for the purple and gold early, earning the Cookeville crew a 2-0 advantage right out of the gates. The two points marked a season-high for the Golden Eagles against Lindenwood on the season.

At the No. 5 position, Ava Schubert and McKenna Young made relatively quick work of Amber Schade and Elise Llorens, delivering a straight-sets win. The Tech duo cruised to a 21-10 triumph in the opening set before finishing the job in the second with a 21-16 final.

Jazmine Yamilkoski and Katie DiRaimondo doubled the advantage for the purple and gold, scrapping for a two-set victory of their own. After handing business in the first set with a 21-15 score, the two outlasted Abby Van Buskirk and Aleeya Jones in the second, 23-21.

"Major props to the 4s and 5s for being the aggressors right out of the gate and giving us a 2-0 lead," Weinberg expressed. "I thought it was the most complete and efficient match that McKenna and Ava played all season and it was great to see Katie and Jaz fight through a really tough second set to win their match in two."

Next to finish in the match was the No. 1 slot, with Bella Powell and Madolyn Isringhausen dropping a hard-fought pair of sets. Nyah Wilson and Maider Soto earned a 21-18 decision in the first set before eking out a 22-20 meeting in set two, pulling the Lions within a point.

It was a similar recipe for Lindenwood at the 2s, as MK Roberts and Skylar Boom fell to Abby Jacobs and Katie Malzahn in straight sets. The Lion tandem topped Tech's two-step in a 21-14 first game and then barely edged Roberts and Boom the second time around with a score of 23-21.

The battle at the No. 3 position was arguably the best of the tournament, with the Golden Eagle dance partners of Brooke Amann and Aleeya Jones working a 21-17 win to open the dual. Jessie Seidel and Annalie McWhorter answered back with a 21-17 of their own to force a third and decisive set.

Amann and Jones controlled the tempo for most of the final set of the year, looking to end the contest with a 14-13 lead. The Lion pair had other ideas, however, registering three straight points for a 16-14 victory and 3-2 win for their squad.

"Even though the first flight set the tone for us, we win as a team and lose as a team," Weinberg explained," and we just needed to be a little better in the second flight to get the team dual win and move on in the tournament."

The Golden Eagles ended their second campaign as a program with a 7-15 overall record and 3-7 mark in OVC action. During the season, Tech earned its first-ever 5-0 win over a Division I opponent and picked up its first points in program history against co-OVC champions UT Martin and Chattanooga.

"I know on paper our record would say that we regressed from a season ago, but that couldn't be further from the truth," Weinberg expressed. "We got so much better as beach volleyball players this year and both [assistant coach] Fran [Bolletino] and myself are really happy with the level of training the team was able to absorb and execute. The wins didn't always come, but this season was a step in the right direction for where this program needed to go in year two. Thank you to Liv, Katie, and Skylar for all that they have given to the TTU volleyball programs. They will be missed and we wish them nothing but the very best in the future. Wings Up!"

Photo by Brad Laux, Morehead State

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