By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech volleyball team will host Eastern Illinois in its final two home matches of the 2021 regular season this weekend, welcoming in the Panthers for a pair of Ohio Valley Conference tilts.
Friday's contest is slated for a 6:00 p.m. CT start while Saturday's affair will kick off at 2:00 p.m. Both matches are scheduled to appear on ESPN+. Saturday's tilt will also represent Senior Day for the Golden Eagles, with setter Ashley Hand, middle blocker Aynsley Stier, and libero Lauren Toledo set to be honored following the match.
After setting a new program record for team blocks in Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Morehead State, the Golden Eagles fought to a hard-earned split with UT Martin over the weekend. The Skyhawks swept the first meeting 3-0, but Tech showed tenacity with a remarkable comeback on Saturday.
Trailing 2-0, the purple and gold turned in its first comeback from down two sets in a match since Nov. 20, 2014 when the team rallied for a 3-2 win over Jacksonville State in the first round of the OVC Tournament. The Golden Eagles claimed wins of 25-20 and 25-22 to force a fifth and decisive set, edging the Skyhawks 15-13.
In addition to the Golden Eagles, who rank 14th nationally in total blocks, rejecting 22.0 attempts by Morehead State last week for a new program record, three Tech players set their own career standards in rejections as well.
Middle blocker Skylar Boom tied the program's four-set match records for both block assists (11 - set by Maggie Stern against Saint Francis (PA) on Sept. 14, 2002) and total blocks (12 - set by Annette Kupka against Morehead State on Nov. 15, 2003). Boom and fellow middle Taylor Dorsey became the first Tech teammates each with 10 or more total blocks in the same match since Annette Kupka and Maggie Stern each had 10 against SEMO on Oct. 12, 2001.
Setter Ashley Hand set a new career standard for blocks on the night as well, posting six. In the comeback win over the Skyhawks, right side Morgan Gish delivered her own career-high of eight block assists.
Against the Skyhawks on Saturday, Dorsey tied Bonnie Zoss for fourth on the Golden Eagle career list for block assists with 330. She also currently ranks fifth on Tech's all-time career total blocks list with a total of 379.
Currently ranked seventh in program history in career assists with a mark of 2,672, Hand needs just 198 more to pass Jenny (Pruett) Turner for sixth all-time. Her current career rate of 9.54 assists per set ranks second in program history while her season rate of 10.15 assists per set ranks fifth in the rally-scoring era.
SCOUTING THE PANTHERS
(2021 record: 10-14, 3-11 OVC | Series Record: 20-26 | H: 11-11 | A: 7-13 | N: 2-2)
The Panthers enter the weekend red hot, winning each of their past three matches, which include all three of their OVC wins this season. EIU bested rival SIUE in a four-set match last Tuesday and followed it with 3-2 and 3-1 victories against Tennessee State over the weekend.
Emily Wilcox currently ranks fourth in the OVC in hitting percentage with a .274 and Kameryn Sillmon sits in sixth with a .270 percentage. Danielle Allen is in eighth place in kills per set with 3.16, and has 256 kills on the season after collecting 17 against Tennessee State.
Summerlyn Smith sits at sixth in assists per set with 7.16. Kylie Michael is currently leading the conference in aces per set with 0.35. Christina Martinez Mundo ranks fifth in the OVC in digs per set with an average of 4.33.
The Panthers had multiple players earn career highs this past week of action. Smith achieved her career-high in assists after she posted 53 during the first match against TSU. Ireland Hieb set a new career-high twice last week when she recorded six block assists in the win over SIUE and Tennessee State on Oct. 30.
Elisavet Papageorgiou set a new career-high in kills, attacks, and service aces all against Tennessee State. She recorded six kills, 26 attacks, and five service aces in those matches. Ashley Sharkus also posted 24 digs on Oct. 30 in the win over TSU, which was her new career-high.
Tech wraps up the regular season with a pair of road matches at in-state rival Belmont. The final match-ups feature start times of 6:00 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 12 and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13.
Photo by Jim Dillon