By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was another thrilling finish for the Tennessee Tech volleyball team Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Eagle completed their 2021 regular season campaign with a fifth-set rally to down in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival Belmont, 3-2 (23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-27, 15-13) in Nashville.
With the victory, Tech (16-13, 11-7) clinched its most wins in a single season since the 2008 OVC championships campaign, a season that resulted in a 19-13 mark and the program's most recent berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Golden Eagles tallied a whopping 72 kills on the strength of a .304 attack percentage, as well as 66 digs and 11 service aces.
The Bruins led for nearly the entire opening set, never letting the purple and gold move out in front while leading by as many as five. The Golden Eagles fought back down the stretch, rolling off four straight points to force a 23-23 tie, but the home squad finished thing off to take the set 25-23.
Set two started in favor of Belmont (9-19, 7-11) as well, with the home team taking an early 5-2 advantage. Tech responded with a 5-0 run, forcing a battle the remainder of the game. The two sides traded blows back-and-forth, but it was the Golden Eagles coming out on top, delivering a 25-22 win to even the match.
The third set was all purple and gold, allowing a single tie at 2-2 before exploding out in front and maintaining a healthy lead the rest of the way. Tech hit .333 in the set with 15 kills, four aces, and three blocks, cruising to a 25-18 victory and 2-1 lead.
Belmont looked well on its way to tying the match in set four, boasting as large of an advantage as 13-7 and keeping the Golden Eagles at least two points back the majority of the game. Falling behind, 23-20, Tech called a timeout and responded with a pair of points to pull within one.
The Bruins answered with their own timeout and a kill, moving out in front 24-22, but Tech fired one last salvo in response. Down two, the Golden Eagles produced a pair of kills and a solo block to jump on top for the first time in the set at 25-24. Belmont followed with its own 3-0 run, however, taking the game 27-25 to force a decisive fifth set.
The two in-state foes took turns with the lead in the final set, with Belmont seemingly taking control with a 10-7 lead. Another timely break called by Tech head coach Jeannette Waldo allowed the Golden Eagles to breath, regroup, and calmly tie the match with three straight points.
Belmont returned to the lead at 12-10, but Tech clawed and fought, producing another 3-0 run to take a 13-12 lead. After the Bruins tied things once again at 13-13, the Golden Eagles delivered the final blow, using a Madolyn Isringhausen kill and block from Ashley Hand and Skylar Boom to triumph, 15-13.
Boom was the hero for the purple and gold on the day, easily shattering her previous career-high total of 14 kills with an astronomical 24 with just four errors as a middle blocker. Hitting .625 in the match, she produced the highest kill total of any Golden Eagle this season, adding three blocks to the mix.
Hand quarterbacked the red-hot offense, doling out an impressive 55 kills while collecting her 13th double-double of the year with 11 digs. On the night, she also passed Jenny (Pruett) Turner sixth on the program's all-time career assists list.
Isringhausen chipped in 14 kills while hitting .211 and powered in three service aces. She also tallied a pair of rejections and eight digs. Madeline Furtado hit .333 with 13 kills and just three errors, adding a pair of blocks as well.
Right side Morgan Gish represented the fourth Golden Eagle in double-figures, tallying 10 kills. Junior Taylor Dorsey delivered nine kills and a pair of blocks, moving into a tie for second on Tech's all-time career block assists chart with Kelsey Gray.
Libero McKenna Young turned in her 21st consecutive match with double-digit digs, compiling 12 with a pair of aces. Emma Osterbur chimed in with a season-high 15 digs of her own, as well as three aces and four assists.
With the conclusion of the regular season, the Golden Eagles will shift their focus to the OVC Tournament, which will take place at No. 1 seed Southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Tech, the No. 6 seed, will square off with No. 3 Austin Peay in the first round on Thursday, Nov. 18 in a 10:00 a.m. CT tilt.
File photo by Jim Dillon