Story by Keenan Hall, Staff writer
Murray State volleyball lost in five electrifying sets to Austin Peay 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, 20-25 and 10-15 to cut its NCAA tournament hopes short.
The Racers were in the midst of a six-game winning streak before losing in heartbreaking fashion. While riding the momentum from a strong end to the regular season, the Racers opened the match by winning the first set. However, the Governors fought back to win sets two and four that set up a dramatic ending in the final tie breaking set.
Freshman middle blocker Katirah Johnson and sophomore right-side hitter Rachel Holthaus led the Racers in kills with 14 apiece. Holthaus also finished with four blocks and 11 digs.
Murray State’s sophomore outside hitter Rachel Giustino was third on the squad in kills with 13. Giustino also nabbed a team-high 22 digs.
Racers’ sophomore setter Callie Anderton served up 50 assists. Meanwhile, one of only two juniors on Murray State’s club, outside hitter Dacia Brown finished with 10 kills.
Austin Peay continued to trade set wins after the Racers looked poised to finish the match after the third set. But the Governors out-hit Murray State down the stretch. Austin Peay stole momentum from the Racers and the home-court advantage facilitated the Govs in their comeback efforts.
With the season hanging in the balance, the Governors never trailed in the fifth set. They stormed out to a 9-4 lead before Murray State could answer with a kill to stop the run. Then, Austin Peay ended the Racers hope for a repeat after finishing on a 6-4 run to win the fifth set 15-10.
Murray State ended the season at 22-9 (12-4) and claimed a fourth-straight title game appearance. Holthaus and Anderton concluded the season being voted on the 2017 OVC All-tournament team. The Racers will return next season with all but one player from this year’s roster.
In the latter part of the season, Murray State found a groove that they will build on moving forward. Next year, the Racers will look to return to the OVC title game for the fifth year in a row.