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UT Martin volleyball comeback try falls short vs. Austin Peay

UT Martin volleyball comeback try falls short vs. Austin Peay
UT Martin volleyball comeback try falls short vs. Austin Peay | UT Martin volleyball, Darrin McClure, Ohio Valley Conference, OVC, UTM Skyhawks

Darrin McClure
MARTIN, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team fell behind 2-0 before taking its first set of the season from Austin Peay. The Skyhawks had a comeback in the works during the fourth set as well, but fell just short as Austin Peay captured the match 3-1 (25-15, 26-24, 23-25, 26-24). With the loss UT Martin falls to 8-20 on the year and 6-8 in Ohio Valley Conference play, but still holds onto sixth place in the conference standings with the help of a Tennessee State loss Friday night at Murray State. Britany Wilburn led the effort for UT Martin with 14 kills, along with 11 apiece from Ashley Doherty and Taylor Noland.
The Lady Govs and Skyhawks traded points to open the match, with Austin Peay taking the first advantage but a kill down the line from Megan Hitt gave UT Martin its first lead at 4-3. The Skyhawks took the lead again at 5-4 on another Hitt kill, but it was the last lead of the set. Austin Peay moved back in front, pushing its lead to 8-5, before Doherty connected on her first kill of the match for the Skyhawks, slowing the Lady Govs. Austin Peay was not slowed for long though, as they put together a 10-0 run in response. Noland connected on a kill down the middle to end the Lady Govs’ run, and UT Martin then went on a 6-0 run of its own to cut the lead to only seven at 20-13. The spark came just a little too late though for the Skyhawks to claw back into the set as the Lady Govs went on the take the opening frame 25-15. UTM’s Hitt, Noland and Wilburn all tallied three kills in the set.
After falling behind 8-3 early in the second, UT Martin battled back to cut the lead to only one at 9-8 after two kills from Carey during a 5-1 run. The Skyhawks tied the set at 11-11 on a kill down the middle from Wilburn, but the Lady Govs moved back ahead by three at 15-12. A kill from Hitt started a 3-0 run to tie the set once again at 15 apiece, but the Skyhawks were still not able to move ahead. Austin Peay pushed its lead out to three at 20-17 and UT Martin again rallied to tie the score again at 20 and 21, before taking its first lead of the set at 22-21 on a Noland kill. After Austin Peay moved back in front 23-22, Noland again connected on a kill to knot the set at 23-all. After trading points to again tie the set at 24-24, Austin Peay was able earn the next two points and capture the second set 26-24. Wilburn led the way on offense for the Skyhawks in the second with six kills.
In the third set, a kill down the line from Hitt gave UT Martin an early 3-2 lead. The Skyhawks were able to push their advantage to three at 6-3 on another Hitt kill, before Austin Peay rallied to tie the set at 6 apiece. UT Martin regained the lead at 8-7 on a kill from Noland and then pushed it to four at 14-10 on another kill from Hitt. Austin Peay came back to tie the score at 14 apiece, but a service error gave the lead back to UT Martin. The Skyhawks continued to take advantage of Lady Govs errors, moving back in front by three at 17-14. After the Lady Govs tied the set once again at 17-17, UT Martin worked its way back in front by three at 20-17 on a kill from Doherty.
Austin Peay forced a Skyhawks timeout after pulling within one at 23-22. Coming out of the timeout, Austin Peay tied the score but a Wilburn kill gave UT Martin a set point opportunity. A hitting error from the Lady Govs gave UT Martin the deciding point, allowing them to win 25-23. Including the two previous matches earlier in the season, this was the fifth set out of eight to be decided by only two points but the first to fall in favor of the Skyhawks. In the third Wilburn and Hitt again led the way with three kills each, along with Doherty.
In the fourth set, Austin Peay opened a two-point lead at 3-1, but neither team could gain another lead larger than one until UT Martin moved ahead 15-13. A second touch kill from Steinbeck, followed by a service ace from Hitt, gave the Skyhawks their lead but Austin Peay was able to again battle back and knot the set at 15-15. After again trading points back-and-forth, the Lady Govs moved back in front at 21-20. After an Austin Peay hitting error tied the set once again, Doherty found a hole in the defense with a kill to put the Skyhawks back on top. The Lady Govs again battled back, moving back in front, and earning match point at 24-23. UT Martin responded though with another kill from Doherty to fight off the match point and tie the set at 24-24. Austin Peay continued to push though and eventually captured the next two points to take the set 26-24 and the match.
“I’m really proud of the effort and pride we showed after getting down 2-0,” said UTM interim head coach Darrin McClure. “We just have to keep plugging away though because we can still control our own destiny to make the tournament. Austin Peay was a very good team and we still have some touch matchups ahead, but we will keep working each day.”
Jennifer Roberts tallied 13 digs on the night for UT Martin, followed by 11 from Carey, Steinbeck and Randie Wooldridge. Steinbeck also added 44 assists on the night.
UT Martin will return to action this weekend when they travel for the last road trip of the regular season to face conference foes Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State. The final road weekend will open Friday night at 7 p.m. against Eastern Kentucky before an 11 a.m. match against OVC leading Morehead State.

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