David Chamberlain // Contributing Writer
Homecoming is a week that’s mostly focused on football, but the volleyball team received a huge turnout for their weekend contests against Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky. Over 500 people squeezed into Alumni Memorial Gym to witness the two conference match ups that drew the largest attendance this season.
Middle Tennessee 3-1 Louisiana Tech
The Blue Raiders (4-15, 2-3 C-USA) had a tough time getting into rhythm for their first set but eventually got it clicking. The Raiders hit their stride and over took the lead by thanks to a quick 4-1 run and excellent play from Rachel Shaughnessy. As a whole this season, the Middle Tennessee team has had issues maintaining leads and winning sets, but Friday night was a different story. The team capitalized, keeping the Bulldogs at bay, taking the first set 25-22.
Louisiana Tech’s (6-11, 0-4 C-USA) comeback effort late in the first set was fruitless, but as a unit kept up the momentum in the second, evening the match with ease, and the Blue Raiders we’ve seen all season crept back in. The Bulldogs took the second set by a slim margin, but held momentum, evening the score at a set a-piece with the 25-21 win.
After intermission it was all Middle Tennessee, who dominated from that point on. Malike York and Miri Shade were pivotal in the third set, leading a fast and aggressive Blue Raider team to a lead they haven’t seen much of this season.
The fourth set was crucial for the Blue Raiders, seeking just their fourth win of the season. Consistent play from Chelsea Ross, Rachel Shaughnessy and Miri Shade paved a final 5-1 run that sealed the victory for the Raiders.
Middle Tennessee 1-3 Western Kentucky
The Blue Raiders finished up another conference weekend Sunday as they hosted rival Western Kentucky (17-2, 4-0 C-USA). Both teams came out a bit sluggish to begin the first set, but Western Kentucky were the first to find their footing, taking an early lead. The Hilltoppers continued to mount onto their lead by playing conservative defense and forcing the Raiders to make mistakes. WKU cruised to a victory in the first set, despite a slight bump in the road, 25-21.
The second set was much like the first, with the Hilltoppers finding space wherever they could. Western Kentucky was the more consistent team from the start, and took a commanding two-set lead. The Hilltoppers have been dominant all season, earning their 17th win Sunday afternoon.
After intermission, the Blue Raiders turned the tide and they worked hard for an early nine point lead. That ignited the home crowd and the team showed signs of life. WKU slowly crept back into contention for the lead, but the Blue Raiders continued to grind down the stretch and came out with a win after a final strike from Chelsea Ross.
In the fourth set the Raiders were scrappy, battling for every point, but so were the Hilltoppers. WKU went back to the formula that worked in the first set. Conservative defense and efficient offense, and it worked to their advantage as they lead halfway through the fourth. Jessica Lucas, put the work load on her shoulders and carried the Hilltoppers to victory and took the match 3-1.
In spite of their loss against the Hilltoppers, Chelsea Ross moved into second all-time for kills (1,690) in school history during the second set of Sunday night’s match up. Ross passed former Blue Raider Izabela Kozon for second all-time.
Middle Tennessee heads on the road this week as they take on Southern Miss on Friday, and then travel to take on Rice on Sunday. Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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