By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Coming down to the final two matches of the regular season, the Ohio Valley Conference volleyball champion will be determined at the Hooper Eblen Center this weekend, as Tennessee Tech plays host to UT Martin in a battle for not just a regular-season crown, but the right to host the league tournament next weekend.
Simply put, should the Golden Eagles triumph twice over the Skyhawks, the purple and gold will welcome seven other OVC teams back to Cookeville next week as the host of the OVC Tournament. Two wins would also give Tech its first regular season championship since 2008. One victory for UT Martin would provide the Skyhawks their first OVC title in two decades and the hosting duties of the league's postseason tournament.
Match times in Cookeville are slated for 6:00 p.m. CT Friday evening and 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon. Saturday will also represent Senior Day for the Golden Eagles, with middle blockers Dallas Oatis and Taylor Dorsey and outside hitter Madeline Furtado being honored prior to the tilt. Both matches are slated to appear on ESPN+ with Dylan Vazzano and Mandy Thatcher on the call.
Tech continued its winning ways again last weekend, besting Eastern Illinois on the road twice to extend its winning streak to 10 straight matches. The second-longest streak in program history, the Golden Eagles kept it alive with a 3-1 win on Friday and a thrilling, comeback win in five sets on Saturday. The purple and gold rallied from a 14-11 deficit in the fifth set with the Panthers, scoring five points in a row for a 16-14 win.
Middle blocker Taylor Dorsey made history in the first match, becoming just the third member of Tech's 500-block club. She also became the first Golden Eagle ever to post 1,000 kills and 500 blocks for a career. On the year, Dorsey ranks third in the OVC with a .341 attack percentage and 10th with 0.94 blocks per set.
Freshman setter Jordan Karlen ranks second in the league in total assists so far this season, racking up 974 in her rookie campaign. She also ranks second in assists per set with a mark of 9.84. Karlen needs just 62 more assists to break Kappy Lang's freshman program record of 1,035 set in 2005.
Junior middle blocker Skylar Boom has been a key cog in the Golden Eagle mix this season, ranking fifth in the league with a .286 attack percentage. She also ranks seventh with 0.95 blocks per set. Libero McKenna Young ranks eighth in the OVC with 3.66 digs per set and sixth with a total of 388.
Outside hitter Madolyn Isringhausen ranks fifth in the league with 0.36 service aces per set, compiling 38 so far on the year to rank fifth in overall aces. Her 3.16 kills per set rank seventh in the conference while her 335 total terminations rank her fifth. She also boasts 3.76 points per set, the fifth-best mark in the OVC.
SCOUTING THE SKYHAWKS
(2022 record: 20-9, 14-2 OVC | Series Record: 42-25 | H: 20-8 | A: 16-13 | N: 4-3 | U: 2-1)
The Skyhawks stayed atop the OVC rankings with their fourth and fifth straight sweeps, posting back-to-back 3-0 wins over Morehead State last weekend. UT Martin has won seven consecutive matches, with its last loss coming in a 3-2 decision at Eastern Illinois on Oct. 14. The team's only other conference defeat occurred on Oct. 1 to defending league champion Southeast Missouri, 3-0.
Graduate outside Logan Wallick leads the Skyhawk effort, hitting .293 to rank fourth in the OVC. Her 3.27 kills per set rank fifth in the league while her 3.51 points per set rank eighth. Last Saturday, she recorded her 1,000th career kill.
Middle blockers Angel Baylark and Karen Scanlon both join Wallick in the top-10 in the league in attack percentage, with Baylark ranked ninth at .269 and Scanlon 10th at .265. Scanlon also finds herself among the best in the league in kills, averaging 3.04 per set to rank eighth overall.
Setter Haeleigh Paulino is sixth in the OVC in assists per set, averaging 6.07. Her 0.39 service aces per set are good for fourth in league. Middle blocker Mia Saenz boasts 0.32 aces per set, ranking seventh. Saenz is the lead blocker for the Skyhawks as well, averaging 1.01 per set to rank sixth in the conference.
Libero Dylan Mott ranks fifth in the league, averaging 4.30 digs per set.
The Golden Eagles will compete in the OVC Tournament next weekend, with dates and a location to be determined following this weekend's match-up with UT Martin.
Photo by Jim Dillon