By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech volleyball team dropped its first contest since October 8th Friday evening, falling to in-state foe UT Martin, 3-1, in a match that would ultimately decide the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champion.
The Skyhawks (21-9, 15-2) clinched the title with the win, securing the No. 1 seed for the OVC Tournament next weekend. The Golden Eagles (16-13, 13-4) will represent the No. 2 seed.
It was a close battle early in the evening, with the league's top two teams going toe-to-toe from the outset. Tech took as large as a four-point lead on a pair of occasions, including at 20-16 following a UT Martin timeout.
The visitors responded down the stretch cutting the deficit to 22-20 to force the purple and gold to use its own timeout. Tech called time again with the score squared at 23-23. Coming out of the break, it seemed that the Golden Eagles had taken a pivotal lead, but UT Martin successfully challenged the call and had the score reversed for its own 24-23 lead. UTM took the opening set 25-23 with a block.
Set two was very similar in a back-and-forth affair, with Tech opening a five-point lead at 17-12 after overcoming a 6-1 deficit. After a timeout by the Skyhawks, the visitors started to fight back, picking up back-to-back points thanks to another successful challenge.
UT Martin continued the run, cutting the deficit to 17-16 after the Golden Eagles lost their own challenge. After the Skyhawks tied things at 17-17, the two sides traded points twice to make it 19-19.
Once again, UTM found itself on the successful end of a challenge, winning its third of the match to go up 20-19. Tech continued to fight, answering right back and trading points again until a 22-22 tie. The Golden Eagles ended the set on a 3-1 run, earning a huge 25-23 win to even the match. TTU piled up a whopping six blocks in the set.
From that point on, the Skyhawks caught fire on the attack, totaling 11 kills with only one error in the third set while forcing 11 attack errors by the Golden Eagles. UTM went on to win the set 25-14.
In the fourth and final set, UT Martin kept Tech at bay most of the way, but the Golden Eagles made one last push. Trailing 21-16, the home squad trimmed the deficit to a pair, closing things to 23-21. The Skyhawks responded, winning the set 25-21 to take the match.
Highlighting the night for the purple and gold was senior Taylor Dorsey, passing Stephanie Busch to become the program's all-time career leader in block assists, sitting at 452. The middle blocker finished the evening with eight kills and seven total rejections.
Outside hitter Madolyn Isringhausen led the Golden Eagles with 15 kills on the evening, posting a double-double with 10 of the team's season-high 105 digs. It marked the program's highest dig total since recording 119 on Oct. 22, 2016 in a 3-2 win against Eastern Illinois.
Adding to the monster total, outside Brooke Amann delivered a pair of career-highs, recording her first-ever double-double with 13 kills and 23 kills. She added an ace and two blocks to the mix as well. Freshman setter Jordan Karlen registered a career-high 20 digs, picking up her ninth double-double of the year with 39 assists.
Libero McKenna Young tallied 21 digs and tied her career-high mark of seven assists on the night while fellow defensive specialist Aleeya Jones chipped in a career-best 20 digs. Middle blocker Skylar Boom totaled eight kills and four blocks while right side Morgan Gish turned in eight kills and two rejections.
Tech will look to flip the script against the Skyhawks Saturday afternoon in a 2:00 p.m. match in the Eblen Center. The contest will mark both the regular-season finale and Senior Day, with Tech seniors Dorsey, Dallas Oatis, and Madeline Furtado being honored.
Photo by Jim Dillon