After multiple runs, strong kills and record-high aces, Murray State Volleyball dominated Tennessee Tech in their first home game in front of 310 fans.
Since the Golden Eagles are statistically similar to the Racers, the match was expected to be point-for-point. In the first set, Murray State pushed for extra points, winning the frame 29-27.
“I think the first set was the jitters and the crowd,” Head Coach David Schwepker said. “I think it was just excitement, I don’t think we played badly. I think if we hadn’t gotten that set, we wouldn’t have had the confidence to go back into the next one so strongly.”
The Racers impressed the crowd at the start of the second set with a 12-0 run. Finally, Tennessee Tech called a time out to regroup. Halfway through the set, Katlyn Hudson, junior libero from Columbus, Ind., achieved a career-high number of aces with four for the first two frames.
Murray State ended the set with a 25-15 win.
“I loved the 12-0 run, but I knew that no team is going to just die,” Schwepker said. “They’re going to come back. You want the team just to keep playing hard.”
According to Schwepker, the goal of the final set was to play even harder to win. Offensively, the Racers came out stronger than in any other set.
Taylor Olden and Emily Schmahl, both freshmen, were key hitters for the night.
“Olden and Schmahl have been working on getting more comfortable with the team,” Schwepker said. “Of course it will take time since they’re freshmen. What people don’t get about this sport is how much everyone relies on each other. The connection between the passer, setter and hitter is extremely important and it takes time to get that rhythm.”
Alyssa Lelm, freshman middle blocker from Mackinaw, Ill., finished with a team-high four blocks. Beth Mahurin, sophomore outside hitter from Rockville, Ind., ended the game with a strategically placed push. The Racers took over the third frame with a score of 25-13.
For the match, the Racers had a .271 attack percentage, which is measured by subtracting attack errors from kills and dividing by total attempts. Olden had a .333 percentage with 16 kills out of 36 attempts, with only four errors. Schmahl achieved a high .423 percentage with 15 kills out of 24 attempts, also with only four errors.
Murray State had over ten aces for the first time since 2010. Lia Havili, senior setter from Haltom City, Texas, had 38 total assists. Hudson, along with her high number of aces, also had 21 digs.
Olden said the win helped boost the confidence of the Racers.
“I was pretty pumped, I’m glad we beat them,” Olden said. “The team did really well, we never let up.”
After two losses at the Blue & Gold Classic in West Virginia at the beginning of September, Schwepker talked to the women about making some critical changes in how they approached the game.
“We saw that the girls were being passive, so we told them to be much more aggressive, win or lose,” Schwepker said. “We definitively saw aggressiveness (against Tennessee State).”
Throughout the season, Olden and the other players have been waiting to see how well the team gets along.
“We have been gelling way more as a team,” Olden said. “Our chemistry is working. We haven’t had any attitude problems on the court. We just need to keep our confidence up.”
The Racers hope to keep their first impression this season strong after winning their first home and Ohio Valley Conference game.
Lexy Gross, Staff writer