UTM VOLLEYBALL CONTROLS OVC TOURNAMENT DESTINY IN FINAL WEEK OF REGULAR SEASON
November 6, 2016
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team will make its last Ohio Valley Conference Tournament push this week when the regular season concludes with a road match at Southeast Missouri (Nov. 8) and a home bout against Jacksonville State (Nov. 11).
Friday’s season finale will serve as Senior Night for UT Martin, as festivities will start shortly before the 7:30 p.m. start time. Alisha Erves, Colleen Larson, Madison Wessling and student assistant Michelle McLaughlin will be recognized for their career contributions during a pregame ceremony.
The Skyhawks come into the week with a 4-10 OVC record, which is one game behind Friday’s opponent Jacksonville State in the standings for the final OVC Tournament spot. Southeast Missouri – Tuesday’s opponent – also sports a 4-10 league mark and is tied with UT Martin.
Simply stated, the Skyhawks can clinch their 13th all-time appearance in the OVC Tournament with a pair of victories this week. UT Martin has won its last three matches against Southeast Missouri while each of the last three home matches against Jacksonville State has gone into five sets.
UT Martin kept its OVC Tournament aspirations alive and well with a road split this past weekend, turning away Eastern Illinois in five sets (25-21, 23-25, 25-22, 26-28, 17-15) before dropping a four-set decision to SIUE (16-25, 27-25, 17-25, 18-25). The Skyhawks’ 83 kills at Eastern Illinois are the most by any OVC team in a single match this season and are also the ninth-best performance in program history.
Jemima Idemudia averaged 4.00 kills per set in those two matches, hitting .315 to go along with 1.33 blocks per set. She accounted for a career-best 22 kills in the win over Eastern Illinois and committed just one attack error the next day against SIUE. Also over the weekend, Kelly Lean became just the seventh player in school history to hand out 1,000 assists in a single season after she registered 11.22 assists per set in the two matches. She also stepped up with her fourth double-double of the season after piling up a career-best 17 digs in the big win over Eastern Illinois. Heading the defense was Larson, who remarkably averaged 6.67 digs per set and had the best outing of her career (35 digs, 11 assists for her first career double-double) at Eastern Illinois.
Idemudia ranks fifth in the OVC in blocks (1.13 per set) and eighth in points (3.56 per set). Lean’s 9.87 assists per set average is the fourth-best mark in the OVC while Larson (3.90) ranks ninth in the league in digs per set for UT Martin, who has an 8-21 overall record.
The Skyhawks will go for a season sweep of Southeast Missouri on Tuesday, as UT Marin defeated the Redhawks in five sets (25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 24-26, 15-11) at home on Oct. 4. Wessling (12 kills, 10 digs) and Lean (47 assists, 10 digs) each had double-doubles for the Skyhawks while Larson (team-high 14 digs), Macy Reigelsperger (11 kills) and Macy Catlett (13 digs) each guided the Skyhawks to the victory.
Southeast Missouri (5-23) also split against the same opponents that the Skyhawk faced last weekend, falling in four sets to SIUE (25-21, 20-25, 26-28, 17-25) before sweeping Eastern Illinois (25-15, 27-25, 25-15). Krissa Gearring ranks second in the OVC in kills (4.28 per set) and points (4.64 per set) while Jade Mortimer’s 4.65 digs per set average is the second-highest total in the league. In the first matchup against UT Martin this season, Gearring (17 kills, 13 digs) and Katarina Rotta (51 assists, 12 digs) both produced double-doubles while Nzingha Clarke (16 kills) and Mortimer (match-high 18 digs) also led Southeast Missouri.
Jacksonville State sports a 17-17 overall record and will visit 11th place Tennessee Tech before making the trip to Skyhawk Fieldhouse on Friday. The Gamecocks have struggled as of late, losing six straight matches heading into this week – including a 3-2 home loss to Belmont (23-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-17, 7-15) and a 3-1 home loss to Tennessee State (23-25, 18-25, 25-21, 21-25) over the weekend. Jacksonville State leads the OVC in blocks (2.73 per set) and also ranks second in the OVC in hitting percentage (.208). Mackenzie Rombach turns away an OVC-best 1.26 blocks per set while Allyson Zuhlke ranks in the top-10 in the league in hitting percentage (.285, sixth), kills (3.09 per set, seventh) and points (3.68 per set, seventh).
Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. match at Southeast Missouri can be viewed live, free of charge, on the OVC Digital Network. That link, as well as links for live stats for both matches this week, can be found at the top of the webpage.