Photo by Ambre Rogue / Staff Photographer
Story by Cody Strickler / Staff Writer
Middle Tennessee (5-24, 2-12 C-USA) was looking to close out the season with a victory against the North Texas Mean Green (13-16, 7-7 C-USA). The young group of Blue Raiders were outmatched in the season finale, falling 3-0. While the team didn’t have a senior on its roster, the Raiders honored junior Jacqueline Lux as this was her final game as a Middle Tennessee Blue Raider, due to graduating early in the spring.
“Last night felt like Christmas because it was the eve of my last game,” Lux said “It was very emotional and sad, but at the same time it was exciting because I have a whole new life after today.”
Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, Lux, who ended her illustrious career with 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, will go down as one of the all-time greats in MTSU volleyball.
“We’re really excited to see her future because we know she’s going to be a difference maker. Whether she does it in the law field, or if she becomes a politician, or the first female president,” said head coach Jeff Heubner with a grin. “But she’s the real deal and we’re excited about her”
As for the game, set one started with a rally by the Mean Green. The Blue Raiders produced three straight kills by Dora Peonia, Delaney Gallagher, and Regan Coughlin to get their confidence back. Gallagher and Coughlin also had blocks in the first set. The Raiders pulled close to the Mean Green after the break. The Raiders had a rally of their own with kills by Makila York, Lux, and Coughlin. North Texas would hold onto their lead and win the set 25-20.
Set two started similarly as the first, as NT started with another small rally. The Raiders powered through with kills by Bailey Mason, Gallagher, York, Coughlin, and Peonia. Gallagher also had an ace in the second set. The Raiders came within two points towards the end, but the Mean Green held on and won the set 25-20.
Sloan Sullivan left the game in the second set with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return to play. The team put their “next man up” mentality to the test, and didn’t allow for a drop off.
Without her, we had to rally around her and think ‘hey, we have to pick it up since Sloan’s not here to back us up,'” said Gallagher. “We had to play well for her since she was hurt.”
Set three started with a North Texas rally. Then the Raiders made a rally to take their first lead of the match. The lead was help with key plays by Gallagher, Coughlin, and York. Then the Mean Green came back and tied the set, and the Raiders answered back with five straight points. The Raiders held the lead for half of the set, but North Texas came back with six straight points to come back to win the set 25-23 and the match 3-0.
MT was led by Coughlin with 11 kills and two blocks, followed by Gallagher with her 2nd career high 10 kills, one ace and three blocks. Then York with seven kills and two blocks.
With a young team that has grown closer a group and have all seen significant playing time this year, Blue Raider volleyball will look make some noise next season.
“Hard work, dedication, and a lot of heart,” said Coughlin about what she sees in next year’s team. “I think if we have a lot of that, we’re going to be set.”
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