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UTM volleyball team’s upset bid in OVC tourney comes up short

UTM volleyball team’s upset bid in OVC tourney comes up short
UTM volleyball team's upset bid  in OVC tourney comes up short | UT Martin volleyball, UTM, Skyhawks volleyball, Ohio Valley Conference, volleyball, OVC,

Taylor Noland
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team had a preseason goal of making it to the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament. With that goal obtained, the new goal was to knock off the No. 3 seed, Murray State. In the opening, UT Martin held a six-point lead over the Racers, but ultimately Murray State came back to take the opening set and the match in straight sets 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-18). The Skyhawks finished the year with an overall record of 9-24 and 7-11 in the OVC.
“I am so very proud of this team and everything it accomplished this year,” said UTM interim head coach Darrin McClure. “In this match we were able to get up on Murray early but they are a really good team and when they made that early run to come back it deflated us a bit.”
In the opening set both squads traded the momentum in the beginning, as the set was tied seven times before UT Martin could make a run and take the advantage. The Skyhawks posted an 8-2 run to move ahead 20-14 and looked to be in control to take the opening set, like the first matchup with Murray State this year. The Racers responded though and showed why they are the No. 3 seed in the tournament. The Racers mounted a 9-3 run to tie the set at 23-23; then put away the final two points to win the opening set 25-23. Taylor Noland and Breanne Carey both tallied six kills in the set to lead the way for UT Martin.
The second set saw both teams again trade points back-and-forth with neither team taking the early edge. After being tied at 13-13, Murray State went on an 8-1 run to push its lead to six at 20-14. A Megan Hitt kill ended the Racer run, but it wasn’t enough to spark a Skyhawk comeback. The Racers went on to take the second set 25-18, giving them a 2-0 lead heading into the break. In the second set Noland led the way on offense with four kills, followed by three from Hitt.
In the final set, again neither team could take an early advantage. The score was tied nine times before Murray State moved ahead 14-13. The Racers then mounted a run to take the first real advantage of the set. The Racers moved ahead 20-14, before Hitt again quieted the run with back-to-back kills down the line. That brought UT Martin within four at 20-16, but that was as close as they could draw the set the rest of the way. Murray State went on to capture a 25-18 win in the final set and take the match, which advanced them into the semifinals against No. 2 Morehead State Friday night. Murray State upset Morehead State (19-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-21). In the championship game, Murray State fell to the conference’s top seed, Tennessee Tech (23-25, 25-15, 25-20, 24-26, 15-12) on Saturday.
“The seniors on this squad knew that tonight could be their last appearance so they came with everything they had and it showed on the stat sheet. Bre and Taylor both had a really good night and I’m happy for the both of them as they close out their careers.” McClure said.
Noland finished the night with 13 kills while Carey added 12. Fellow senior Randie Wooldridge led the way on defense with 15 digs, followed by 10 from Emily Steinbeck who also finished with 31 assists.
“The younger girls on the team now have a taste of the tournament in their mouth and want to be back on a regular basis, in the offseason we will hit it hard to get better and try to get back here again for another shot at it,” McClure noted.
The Skyhawks lose only four seniors and will have a core returning that logged a great deal of playing time this season.

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