By: Caleb Luketic and David Chamberlain // Contributing Writers
MURFREESBORO- The Blue Raider volleyball team began their season Friday morning facing Cleveland State in game one of the Blue Raider Bash. Middle Tennessee started strong, winning two of the first three points in the first set, but the Vikings capitalized taking an 8-3 lead. Cleveland State stayed consistent throughout the first set, holding off the Blue Raiders attempts at a rally and taking the first set handily 25-17.
Momentum swings were the downfall of the Blue Raiders in this match, falling behind in the second set and never finding an answer to the Vikings offense. Cleveland State held a two set advantage, and showed no signs of wear heading into the third.
A quick 4-0 run by the Vikings set up a picture perfect third set, answering every run the Blue Raiders had in them. State would take the third set, and the match, 25-16, 25-23, 25-14.
The Blue Raiders headed into their second game of the day looking for answers on both offense and defense.
Middle Tennessee came out fast in the first set, taking a 14-8 lead. They would not surrender the lead as they took the first set 25-20.
The Falcons battled back and forth with the Blue Raiders in the second set, with neither team gaining a big advantage, but Middle Tennessee once again finished strong, and sat just one set from their first win of the season.
The Blue Raiders came out of the break focused on the sweep. Much like the second set, the they found themselves in a tough battle with the Falcons. A timely run, late in the third set, was the difference as the Blue Raiders sealed the win and the sweep 25-20, 25-23, 25-20.
Chelsea Ross once again proved why she earned First-Team All-Conference honors in her junior season. Ross finished Game Two with 12 kills to go with her eight digs.
In just her second game, Freshman Delaney Taylor racked up 20 assists for the Blue Raiders.
On day two, the Blue Raiders opened up against Indiana, getting out to a less than stellar start, falling behind early in the first set. Indiana carried their momentum throughout, taking the first set.
Middle Tennessee showed resilience in the second, starting strong. The Blue Raiders picked up points at all opportunities. The new communication and chemistry between young and veteran players was on display something the team had been working hard on.
“I think one of the defining factors this year is that we don’t have any drama on the team,” Peck regarded about the difference in this year to years past. “Everybody gets along and the chemistry on this team is outstanding. They can push one another and it’s not all about individual play but the team as a whole.”
With a comfortable lead, up 24-19, an excellent block by Rachel Shaughnessy and the final kill by Chelsea Ross sealed the second set for Middle Tennessee, tying the match at a set-a-piece.
After two sets, both teams looked loose and at the peak of their play. The Raiders were able to somewhat hold off the Hoosiers and develop a cushion, leading 20-16. Chelsea Ross continued to dominate, helping secure the third set 26-24 .
Sitting just one set away from a second straight victory in the Classic, the Blue Raiders faltered early in the fourth set, and trailed by seven in a matter of minutes. The Hoosiers continued to capitalize, easily taking the set 25-16.
In the final set, Middle Tennessee summoned a last-ditch effort to pull out the win against Indiana. The Hoosiers and Blue Raiders went back and forth in the fifth, but Middle Tennessee lost by a small margin, 15-13.
The Hoosiers moved to 2-1 on the year with the win. The Blue Raiders fell to 1-2, but looked to get back to .500 with a win against Notre Dame.
In their last match of the Blue Raider Bash, the Blue Raiders found the consistency in the first set that they lacked in the first three games. The two teams went back and forth, but the Blue Raiders capitalized late with a 12-5 run.
It was all Notre Dame from then on. In the second set, the Irish found themselves ahead after multiple runs. Notre Dame continued to find ways to keep those streaks alive in the third and fourth sets, putting the Blue Raiders on their heels and cruised to an easy 18-25 25-21 25-21 25-20 win. The win was highlighted by the consistency that the Irish showed without letting Middle Tennessee find their groove throughout the last three sets of the match.
This loss puts the Blue Raiders at 1-3 on the year, not the start they’d hope for, but with the competition that they played, the showing was not as clear cut as wins/losses.
“Considering as many young players that we have, I think we did great,” Coach Matt Peck spoke in an interview with Sidelines after the game. “The intensity was good, the execution was good, and we just got out-experienced by some of the teams this weekend. I was really happy, and I told the team that this is one of my favorite teams in 32 years, and we’ve just started.”
The Blue Raiders will spend the next couple days preparing for their first road trip of the season, as they head to Logan, Utah to take place in the Utah State Invitational next weekend. The invitational consists of Middle Tennessee, Utah State, Southern Utah and San Francisco. The tournament begins Friday, September 4.
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