By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. – For the first time since 2008, the Tennessee Tech volleyball team saw not one, not two, but three Golden Eagles recognized by the Ohio Valley Conference with postseason honors, as announced by the league Wednesday evening.
Middle blocker Taylor Dorsey and setter Ashley Hand each collected spots on the All-OVC First Team while outside hitter Madolyn Isringhausen was named to the All-OVC Second Team. The three stars helped lead the purple and gold to its best regular-season and OVC records since the 2008 squad won both the OVC's regular-season and tournament titles.
Earning Second Team accolades as a sophomore, First Team honors a year ago, and named a Preseason All-OVC selection earlier this year, Dorsey delivered an incredibly dominant campaign on both sides of the ball. Heading into the OVC Tournament on Thursday, the junior ranked fifth nationally in total blocks, rejecting 136 attacks on the year.
A three-time OVC Defensive Player of the Week during the season, she racked up a Tech rally-scoring-era-record 123 block assists and catapulted through the Golden Eagle career marks for both total blocks and block assists. Dorsey entered Wednesday tied for second all-time with 353 block assists and fifth with 405 total rejections.
The Birmingham native was nearly as effective on the attack, producing at a career rate with an OVC-leading .318 attack percentage. She accounted for 283 terminations to finish the regular season second on the club and posted new career-highs of 11 assists, 16 service aces, and 48 digs. Her 123 block assists and 136 total blocks also represented new career marks.
"This powerhouse on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball is always trying to better herself, which is why Taylor gets the results that she does," Tech head coach Jeannette Waldo explained. "She has very high standards for herself and she has very clear goals in each practice. She is her own worst critic, so if you see us just smile at her after a failed play, it's because she knows what she needs to do; the part she needs reminding of is to stay light and enjoy the moment. Off the court, she's a goofball and she really embraces that, but on the court, she goes to another level to ensure great results for her team."
Collecting her first career OVC honors, Hand produced an incredible season quarterbacking the Golden Eagle attack while becoming the first Tech setter named to the All-OVC First Team since Hall of Famer Kappy Lang in 2008. The senior ranked eighth in the nation in total assists, just 30 behind the national leader, accounting for a career-high 1,143.
Throughout the 2021 season, the Greenwood Village, Colo. native climbed the Golden Eagle program's all-time career rankings, moving into sixth in team history in total assists this past weekend. Her career rate of 9.63 assists per set ranks second in Tech history, behind only Lang.
Hand was named the OVC's setter of the week three times throughout her final run in the purple and gold, a year she averaged 10.30 assists per set. She set new career marks with 85 kills, a .285 hitting percentage, and 47 total blocks while also accounting for 16 aces and 263 digs.
"Ashley has been a constant for us all season in so many ways," Waldo said. "She is always going to show up ready to work hard and do it with a smile on her face. She is happy to make everyone else look good while doing her job at such a high level. She could easily grab our passers by the collar at times and demand a better product, but instead, she smiles, tells them that it's ok and it'll all work out. A true teammate takes pressure off of others, and she continues to do that day-in and day-out for us."
Isringhausen burst onto the scene for the Golden Eagles in 2021 after playing in just four matches as a true freshman in the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign. She made the offseason count and returned to the court to lead the purple and gold in both kills and points.
Ranked fifth in the league in both total points (423.5) and points per set (3.82), the Edwardsville, Ill. native also finished the regular season in the top-10 with 357 total kills (sixth) and 3.22 kills per set (eighth). More than just an attacker, the do-everything youngster also compiled 29 service aces to rank second on the team.
Her 218 digs were the third-most on the Golden Eagle squad while her 62 blocks ranked her fourth on the team. Isringhausen tied for the team-high in solo rejections with Dorsey, totaling 13 in 111 sets of action.
"What a breakout season this has been for Maddie," Waldo expressed. "She is so physical and the sky is the limit for her. It says a lot about her that we have grown to depend on her so much in such a short time when things get hairy. Any outside knows that they spend a lot of time taking care of the trash, but she has been challenged with that more this season than expected.
"She's another great team player of ours in the fact that she has developed the attitude of 'just put it up there and I'll go get it.' That is so valuable to us offensively, and if she can continue to be as aggressive with the garbage as she is in system, she will be unstoppable. She is a great presence for us in the backcourt as well. Doing what she does for six rotations is a tough job, but she is definitely up for the challenge."
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.
Photo by Jim Dillon