Photo by Devin P. Grimes / MTSU Sidelines
After eight tough losses to open the season, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider volleyball team (2-8) got over the hump in two games on Friday afternoon against Troy and South Carolina State at the Comfort Inn-vitational in Morehead, Kentucky.
The wins today not only mark the first wins of the season for the Blue Raiders, but it also marks the first wins for first-year head coach Chuck Crawford.
In the first game of the doubleheader, the Blue Raiders took on Troy and won the matchup three sets to one. With the effort his team put forward in their first win, coach Crawford was proud of his squad after the game. While it may have only been one game at the time, it was the first step in what he hopes is a changing of the culture at Middle Tennessee.
“The girls have started to understand what it is to work as a division one team should work,” Crawford said. “It’s been a process that started back in the spring about changing the culture and changing the mentality … this isn’t about anything other then them not only buying into the culture, but also living our culture.”
The culture change has certainly paid off for the Blue Raiders throughout the season and has finally gotten them into the win column.
“It felt great,” said freshman Josie Maxim after recording a season-high 11 blocks in the victory against Troy. “I knew we could do it all along, and I’m so proud we were able to do it together as a team.”
Along with the standout game from Maxim, Regan Coughlin continued her stellar season by recording a team-high 16 kills, just two away from her career-high. Taylor Hamill recorded a season-high 38 assists and Brienna Tankesley recorded a team-high 14 digs.
In the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, the Blue Raiders extended their winning streak to two games as they took down South Carolina State. The Blue Raiders dominated SCSU early on, as they outscored them 25-8 in the first set and went on to outscore them 50-40 in the final two sets.
Sophomore Dora Peonia stepped up in a big way against SCSU, as she showed out to have an all-around game with 10 kills (second on the team), eight digs (tied for second on the team) and a team high of four service aces. Even with the great game, Peonia gave credit for her breakout game to the support of her teammates.
“I just feel as my teammates have my back, I feel like I’m confident to do anything,” Peonia said. “They keep me accountable to stay focused, so I feel like I can read the game because my teammates have my back.”
Peonia’s teammates not only had her back, but everyone else’s as well. Five players had at least five kills in the game, while three players recorded at least eight digs throughout the contest. Coughlin led the way again with 11 kills, while Tankesley had another solid game with a team-high 16 digs.
The Blue Raiders finish the Comfort Inn-vitational tomorrow with an early 11 a.m. start against host school, Morehead State. The Morehead State Eagles are 6-3 on the season and also had a great day today, as they beat both Troy and South Carolina State in straight sets.
The Blue Raiders will face a tough challenge with the quick turnaround and early start against a quality team, but with a newly found confidence and groove and most importantly, a two in the wins column, they look to perform at another high level.
Follow MTSU Sports Reporter Elijah Campbell on Twitter at @E_Campbell3
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