By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It was a thrilling victory for the Tennessee Tech volleyball team Friday evening, as the Golden Eagles (10-7, 5-1) outlasted in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay (11-7, 4-1) in the Hooper Eblen Center 3-2 (25-27, 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 15-13).
With the win, the purple and gold took down the league's last unbeaten squad and moved into a tie atop the conference standings at 5-1 with UT Martin. It also marked just the third time since 2009 Tech earned a win over its rival, with Austin Peay having claimed 15 of the last 17 match-ups prior to Friday.
The Govs came out firing on all cylinders to open the match, hitting .273 with 17 kills to push the Golden Eagles to the limit. Both sides earned leads as large as three points, with the visitors up 23-20 before a small Tech rally forced ties at 24-24 and 25-25. Austin Peay closed the set with a kill and block, winning 27-25 for a 1-0 lead.
Tech retorted in style, erupting out of the gate for a quick 5-1 lead in set two. The Govs managed to tie things up at 15 and even take a one-point lead, but the Golden Eagle attack proved too strong down the stretch, working its way to a 25-21 victory. The purple and gold poured in 18 kills to even the match at 1-1, holding Austin Peay to just 10 and a .139 hitting percentage.
Set three turned out to be one of the most offensively dominant by a Golden Eagle squad in recent memory. Breaking a 9-9 tie, the Cookeville crew rolled off five straight points and never looked back in a dominant 25-17 victory.
The home squad hit a whopping .533 in the set, compiling 17 kills to just one error on 30 attempts, the team's highest single-game attack percentage since hitting .600 in the fifth set of a 3-2 win at Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 18, 2014. It represented just the sixth time since that match that the Golden Eagles hit .500 or better in a set as well.
Austin Peay racked up a match-high 19 kills in the fourth set and looked well on its way to victory with a 20-16 lead, but the Golden Eagles refused to give up. Tech delivered five of the next six points to square things at 21 apiece. The Govs held off the purple and gold in the end, however, taking set four 25-23 to force a fifth and decisive game.
The two in-state foes waged war over the final set, with the visitors producing an early 5-3 lead that prompted a timeout by Tech head coach Jeannette Waldo. The break worked, as the Golden Eagles posted the next three points for a 6-5 lead.
The Govs responded with their own 3-0 run to go back out in front 8-6, but the seesaw lifted back up in favor of the home squad with the purple and gold answering right back with three consecutive markers. Tied at 9-9, Tech received a savvy kill from middle blocker Dallas Oatis, a huge energy boost off the bench in the fourth set. A Madolyn Isringhausen ace prompted a Gov timeout with Tech on top 11-9.
Tech provided an answer for every point from Austin Peay the rest of the way, with Taylor Dorsey delivering two kills down the stretch, including the match-winner for a 15-13 victory.
In the match, Tech unleashed a whopping 72 kills, the most by a Golden Eagle squad since piling on 73 on Nov. 13, 2015 in a five-set win at UT Martin. The team's 81 digs proved the most by the purple and gold since recording 88 in a five-set loss at Eastern Illinois back on Oct. 18, 2019.
Individually, several Golden Eagles enjoyed huge days at the office, led by outside hitter Madolyn Isringhausen. The returning freshman was a beast offensively, ripping off a career-high 23 kills while hitting robust .302. She also produced her fourth double-double of the year, racking up 11 digs to go with three total blocks.
Dorsey showed off as well, crushing 15 kills on a .462 hitting percentage. The junior added four blocks to the mix as part of another strong defensive showing from the purple and gold. Sophomore Morgan Gish led the charge at the net with a career-high six total blocks. The right side also popped off eight kills.
Also contributing to the immense Tech attack was outside hitter Madeline Furtado, smashing .324 with 14 kills on the night. On the defensive side, libero McKenna Young made it back-to-back matches with 20-plus digs for the second time in her career, registering a match-high 24. She also turned in a career-high seven assists and tied her best collegiate mark of four service aces.
For the sixth time in as many matches, setter Ashley Hand averaged at least 10 assists per set, racking up 52 to go along with a season-high 16 digs. It represented her seventh double-double of the season. On the night, the senior moved into seventh place on the program's all-time career assists list as well, passing both Melanie Culp and Nancy Meyer.
Senior defensive specialist Lauren Toledo made it three straight matches with at least 12 digs, compiling 13 with a pair of aces and assists. She now has double-figure digs in five of the team's six OVC contests.
The Golden Eagles will take on the Govs one more time Saturday afternoon in a 2:00 p.m. CT tilt in the Eblen Center.
Photo by Jim Dillon