October 14, 2016

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MARTIN, Tenn. – The duo of Jemima Idemudia and Hayley Gray combined for over half of the University of Tennessee at Martin kills while committing just four total errors, helping lead the Skyhawks to a clutch 3-2 home victory over Ohio Valley Conference rival Tennessee State (25-18, 21-25, 25-20, 22-25, 16-14) tonight.

Idemudia (21) and Gray (18) each established new career-highs in the kill column tonight, as the tandem combined to hit .479 for UT Martin (6-16, 2-5 OVC). Kelly Lean fed the hot hands all night, handing out a career-high 65 assists for an offense that hit .267 this evening. Gray’s 18 kills more than doubled her previous career-high while Lean’s 65 assists are tied for the seventh-most in a single match in program history.

Macy Reigelsperger and Madison Wessling added 13 kills apiece while Colleen Larson (career-best 24 digs) and Jamie Scherb (11 digs) helped carry the Skyhawk defense in a match that featured 37 tie scores and 14 lead changes.

“It was an awesome win for us tonight,” UT Martin head coach Jaclynn Yocum said. “We pulled it out in five sets after they had it on match point and we made a three-point push there late to close it out. It was a big, big win for us – the girls showed a lot of heart.”

Tennessee State (12-11, 3-4 OVC) scored the first three points of opening set but three consecutive Reigelsperger kills soon gave the Skyhawks a 6-5 lead. A service ace by Lean extended UT Martin’s advantage out to 12-7 before the Tigers used four straight points to get within one possession at 13-12. Idemudia provided a pair of kills during an ensuing 4-0 Skyhawk run and Tennessee State would not get any closer than four points the rest of the way. UT Martin concluded the set with four unanswered points – the last two came via kills by Gray.

Idemudia had six kills and zero errors on nine swings in the first set, as Lean compiled 13 assists for an offense that hit .378. Larson and Scherb each had six digs to set the tone for the Skyhawk defense.

Once again, the Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set but UT Martin quickly closed the gap to 6-4. The Skyhawks committed three consecutive attack errors during a 4-0 Tennessee State run but an Idemudia kill and a Scherb service ace pulled UT Martin back within striking distance at 16-11. Moments later, Gray slammed down a kill that made the score 22-19 and despite back-to-back Reigelsperger kills, the Tigers claimed the set and evened the match 1-1.

Lean (10 assists) and Larson (five digs) led the Skyhawks in the second stanza.

UT Martin emerged victorious in the third set thanks to a blazing offense that hit .618 with 23 kills (against just two errors) in 34 attempts. Reigelsperger and Gray combined for the Skyhawks’ first four kills but Tennessee State took its first lead of the set at 13-12. UT Martin later trailed 17-15 before Wessling and Alisha Erves had back-to-back kills to help tilt the score back in the Skyhawks’ favor at 18-17. The set was tied at 19-all but UT Martin wrapped up the set on a 6-1 run, thanks to two kills apiece by Idemudia and Wessling after Tennessee State made the score 21-20.

Lean put forth a remarkable effort in the third set, gifting 22 assists. Wessling had seven kills on 10 swings to lead UT Martin.

The Skyhawks held a lead for a large portion of the fourth set but couldn’t close out Tennessee State. Reigelsperger was responsible for two early kills to help UT Martin take a 5-2 lead. A kill by Wessling made the score 10-7 but the Tigers soon clawed back to take a 12-11 advantage. That lead was short-lived as Idemudia went off for four kills in a span of five possessions to give the Skyhawks a three-point lead (16-13). A kill by Erves kept UT Martin ahead (21-20) but Tennessee State went on a 5-1 run from that point forward to force a decisive fifth set.

Idemudia (six kills), Lean (11 assists) and Larson (seven digs) secured team-highs in their respective statistical categories in the fourth set for the Skyhawks.

A total of 14 ties occurred in the final set, as both sides struggled to side-out and put back-to-back points on the scoreboard. UT Martin took advantage of consecutive Tiger attack errors to lead 3-2 but then the two teams alternated points on 15 straight possessions. Tennessee State took an 11-10 lead and eventually had match-point at 14-13 before the Skyhawks battled back to wrap up the match with a 3-0 surge. A pair of Gray kills sandwiched around an Erves service ace put the finishing touches on UT Martin’s second straight five-set home win.

Gray had four kills while Lean amassed nine assists in the final set.

The Skyhawks will go for their third straight home victory on Saturday, Oct. 15 when they take on the defending OVC Tournament champion Belmont at 2 p.m.

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