By Jonathan Caudle, TTU Sports Information
CHARLESTON, Ill. – Tech's rally came slightly short on Friday evening as the Golden Eagles fell in a five-set battle against Eastern Illinois at Lantz Arena, 3-2.
As a team, Tech led the Panthers offensively in kills, 71-64, and outhitting EIU .195, while the Panthers hit for .172, which was led by the Golden Eagles 68-60 assist advantage. Defensively, the Golden Eagles out-blocked the Panthers 11-7, while also outplaying them in the back row with six more digs, 88-82.
Three Golden Eagles recorded double-digit kills in the contest with Rachel Thomas leading the way. Thomas recorded a season-high 18 kills, while hitting for a team-high .424. She also dominated the net earning a season-high seven blocks as well. Ali Verzani and Taylor Dorsey joined Thomas notching 17 and 16 kills, respectively. Sophomore Ashley Hand matched her career-best as she tallied 58 assists. Freshman Carly Skrabak led the back row as she picked up 30 digs in the contest.
Tech opened the match on a dominant 10-3 run to lead early in the contest, highlighted by a trio of kills from Verzani. Following a Panther kill, the Golden Eagles scored four-straight on three EIU errors and a Thomas kill to take a double-digit lead, 14-4. However, the Panthers battled back as they produced an 11-2 run to cut the deficit down to one, 16-15. The later part of the set was an absolute battle between the Golden Eagles and the Panthers until the EIU tied the match up at 23. Tech and Eastern Illinois continued to battle back-and-forth through 10 Panther set-points and five Tech set-points before Eastern Illinois claimed the 39-37 victory.
Eastern Illinois took a 4-1 lead to open the second, but Tech would eventually even things at seven following a kill from Morgan Gish. Tech eventually took its first lead of the set following an 11-10 EIU lead and a pair of Panther attack errors, 12-11. The Golden Eagles would extend their lead to six on two kills from Thomas and Julia Wheeler, 20-14. The Panthers rallied to score five-straight points to bring the deficit back to one, 20-19. Tech would hold on to outscore the Panthers 5-3 to close out the set and even the match at one, 25-22.
Much like the prior set, Eastern Illinois opened with a 4-1 lead. The Panthers extended their lead to five, 9-4, and maintained the advantage through a 17-12 lead. The Golden Eagles outscored the Panthers 8-5 to bring the set back within two, 22-20, but the rally fell slightly short as Eastern Illinois would close out the set on a 3-2 run to take the 2-1 advantage, 25-22.
The Golden Eagles came out red hot in the fourth set as they outscored Eastern Illinois 15-7 to try and send things to a fifth set. The Panthers rallied on an 8-4 run to cut the deficit to four, but a dominant 6-1 Tech run capped off by a Verzani kill evened the match once again, 2-2, and brought things to a decisive final set, 25-16.
After a 1-1 tie, Eastern Illinois scored six-straight points to take a 7-1 lead. The Golden Eagles earn a Verzani kill and a Panther attack error, before another Panther point has the squads change sides with EIU leading 8-3. Eastern Illinois extended their lead to six, 11-5, before a three Golden Eagle kills and a Panther attack error cut the deficit to two, 11-9. Tech's rally was just not enough, however, as the Panthers would outscore Tech 4-2 to close out the match and claim the victory, 15-11.
The opening set of the contest marked the longest set for Tech since the NCAA changed rally scoring from first to 30 to first of 25 in 2008, surpassing the previous best of a 33-31 Tech win during a 3-0 sweep over Wright State on August 30, 2008.
The Golden Eagles head to Edwardsville, Illinois as they take on SIUE tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the First Community Arena at the Vadalabene Center.
Photo by Jim Dillon