Racers split weekend matches with SEMO and UT Martin

Katirah Johnson spikes the ball. (Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics)

Jon Dunning

Staff Writer

jdunning1@murraystate.edu

Following a 2-0 weekend at home, the Murray State volleyball team hit the road for two games, beating SEMO 3-1 and losing to UT Martin 3-2.

Southeast Missouri University

After falling to SEMO 3-0 on Oct. 5, 2019, the Murray State volleyball team travelled to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to deliver a stunning 3-1 upset in a rematch against the Redhawks on Friday, Nov. 8.

Senior outside hitter Rachel Giustino led Murray State in kills with 20, and senior right-side hitter Rachel Holthaus scored 16. Junior setter and outside hitter Ashley McBee led the team in assists with 52, and junior libero Becca Fernandez led in digs with 21.

SEMO opened the first set 1-0 but kills by sophomore outside hitter Emily Matson and Giustino brought the Racers in front 2-1. The Redhawks came back to take the lead 7-3 before Giustino made two kills to make the game 7-5. Two kills by McBee, a kill by Giustino and a kill by Holthaus helped tie the game 9-9, but SEMO broke away once more to lead 16-11. Late in the set, kills by Matson and Giustino closed the gap to 22-20, but SEMO held the lead to take the set 25-21.

Murray State started the first set with a kill by Matson to lead 1-0. Another kill by Matson and a kill by Giustino put the Racers ahead 4-3. Murray State extended its lead over SEMO to 10-6 with three kills by Holthaus and a kill by Matson. The Redhawks made a comeback in the middle of the set to tie 12-12, but a kill by junior middle blocker Katirah Johnson put the Racers back out in front 13-12. They continued to lead with two kills by Holthaus and two kills by sophomore middle blocker Kolby McClelland, pushing the Racers to 21-16. Matson and Giustino each scored kills to give Murray State the set 25-22.

Matson made the first kill of the third set, giving the Racers a 1-0 lead. SEMO tied the game 3-3 but kills by Holthaus and McClelland allowed Murray State to extend to 6-4. However, the Redhawks jumped ahead 8-7, giving them their first lead of the set. They stayed in front until Murray State mounted a comeback with kills by Johnson and Giustino to take the lead 13-12. SEMO pushed ahead again to 15-13 briefly but kills by Giustino and McClelland put Murray State up 17-15. The Racers continued to lead throughout the set, taking it 25-19.

The Redhawks took the lead 1-0 to open the fourth set, but a kill by Johnson, two kills by Giustino and a kill by Holthaus allowed the Racers to keep up and tie the game 5-5. SEMO pushed ahead 8-5 but kills by McClelland and Giustino closed the gap 10-8. Despite Murray State’s efforts, however, SEMO ran their lead up to 15-9. It was here, though, that the Racers began a slow comeback. A kill by Giustino, a kill by McClelland and two kills by Holthaus to put Murray State behind 19-16. Kills by Johnson and Giustino helped the Racers tie the game 23-23 late in the set. Holthaus and McClelland scored a kill each to give Murray State the set 25-23, allowing the Racers to defeat the Redhawks 3-1.

Murray State Head Coach David Schwepker commented on his team’s victory in the rematch.

“We knew it was a huge match, and probably somewhat of a grudge match,” Schwepker said. “I think the girls really just pulled together and just made a lot of things happen. We just kept our composure and just kept going, kept going, kept going.”

Schwepker also discussed how the team worked on their blocking for this game.

“We’ve been working on being solid with our blocking,” Schwepker said. “We’re never going to get a lot of blocks, but we haven’t been solid, so practices this week and the week before were all about learning how to just be solid.”

UT Martin

After winning their past four games, the Murray State volleyball team suffered a 3-2 upset to UT Martin on Saturday, Nov. 9 in Martin, Tennessee.

Murray State last played UT Martin on Oct. 4, beating the Skyhawks with a 3-0 sweep in Murray.

Giustino led the Racers in kills with 25, while McBee led in assists with 41. Fernandez led in digs with 29.

UT Martin opened the first set with a 2-0 lead, but a kill by Giustino helped the Racers tie the game 2-2. Two more kills by Giustino, a kill by freshman setter and outside hitter Alysha Smith and a kill by McBee put Murray State at 7-6, giving the Racers their first lead of the set. Smith made two more kills and senior right-side hitter Rachel Holthaus scored two kills to extend the lead 12-7. Matson scored twice to make the game 14-9 before UT Martin closed the gap to 15-13. Giustino answered with four kills to help push Murray State to 23-16. Smith scored two kills to give the Racers the set 25-19.

The Skyhawks jumped to a 3-1 lead at the beginning of the second set, but two kills by Giustino helped the Racers jump ahead 5-4. UT Martin fought back to retake the lead 8-5. Kills by Holthaus and Matson allowed Murray State to tie the game 10-10 before taking the lead once more 13-12. Giustino scored a kill to make the game 14-13. From there, the teams played neck-and-neck as UT Martin took the lead 17-15 and Murray State tied the game 17-17 with kills by Holthaus and Matson. UT Martin took the lead once more and went on to win the set 25-22.

UT Martin opened the third set 2-1, but a kill by Giustino tied the game 2-2. A kill by senior outside hitter Megan Lindsay and two kills by Holthaus pushed Murray State to an 8-3 lead. Another kill by Holthaus and two attack errors by UT Martin helped widen the lead to 13-5. Matson scored three kills in a row, making the score 16-9. Late in the set, UT Martin fought to lessen Murray State’s lead to 23-22, but a kill by Giustino helped the Racers take the set 25-23.

UT Martin jumped to a quick 4-0 at the start of the fourth set, but four attack errors and a kill by Giustino put the Racers back in the game 5-5. UT Martin gained the lead again, going up to 9-6. A kill by Holthaus and a kill by McBee weakened UT Martin’s lead to 12-10, but the Skyhawks held tight to the lead. Kills by Giustino, Holthaus and McClelland put the Racers behind 18-17. Murray State did not find a way to get in front of UT Martin, however, and the Skyhawks won the set 25-22.

In the fifth set, UT Martin jumped to a 2-0 lead, but kills by junior setter Callie Anderton and Giustino put the Racers behind 3-2. Two kills by Giustino tied the game 4-4, but UT Martin pushed ahead to 6-4. Holthaus scored two kills to tie the game again at 7-7, and two kills by Matson helped put the Racers in front 11-7. The Skyhawks mounted a comeback, making the score 12-12. Giustino scored another kill to allow Murray State to retake the lead 13-12, but UT Martin pushed ahead to win the set 15-13, allowing them to defeat the Racers 3-2.

Murray State will play Austin Peay Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. at Racer Arena.