September 15, 2013

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team narrowly fell to Nicholls State 3-2 (26-28, 25-21, 25-10, 23-25, 10-15) in the morning before falling to host Alabama 3-0 (26-28, 10-25, 15-25) in the Hampton Inn Bama Bash.

UT Martin (6-6) boasted three players with double-digit kills against Nicholls State, led by Emily Keaton’s 13 kills. Allie Whimpey (10 kills, 14 digs) and Lynsey Hazelwood (10 kills, 10 digs) also racked up double-doubles while Amanda Crask hit .368 with eight kills and 39 assists. Defensively, Chelsea Bowles was responsible for a match-high 25 digs to go along with six blocks by Alisha Erves.

Against Alabama, Keaton led the way with 12 kills while Crask (18 assists) and Bowles (eight digs) also guided the Skyhawks.

UT Martin got going early in the first set, racing out to a 5-2 lead thanks to an assisted block by Hazelwood and Julia Devinney. The Skyhawks led 10-6 but Nicholls State would soon come back to take a 13-12 lead. However, a quick 4-0 run gave UT Martin a 16-13 lead. The Skyhawks would hold leads of 21-17 and 24-23 but Nicholls State would score six of the last eight points to claim a comeback win.

The Skyhawks outhit Nicholls State .250 to .222 in the first set, led by Hazelwood’s four kills and Crask’s 13 assists. Bowles led the way defensively with nine digs.

UT Martin charged out of the gate to take a 4-2 lead in the second set. After Nicholls State took an 8-7 lead, the Skyhawks went on an 8-3 run, capped off by a Hazelwood service ace that made the score 15-11. Nicholls State closed within two points at 22-20 before a Crask kill and Nicholls State attack error put UT Martin in prime position to even the match. Two points later, a Keaton kill gave the Skyhawks a split in the first two sets.

Keaton had five kills to pace UT Martin while Bowles compiled eight digs in the second set. The Skyhawks hit .257 as a team.

The third set was close (6-5) until the Skyhawks went on a huge run, outscoring Nicholls State by a 16-3 margin, beginning with a 9-0 run. After two straight Nicholls State points made the score 15-7, two kills by Keaton provided UT Martin with a 20-7 advantage. An assisted block by Keaton and Devinney made the score 22-8 on the way to the Skyhawks gaining a 2-1 lead.

Keaton’s offense (five kills) and Whimpey’s defense (seven digs) lifted UT Martin in the third set.

The Skyhawks led 3-1 in the fourth set but Nicholls State responded with six unanswered points. UT Martin got within 8-5 until Nicholls State came up with another 6-0 run to go ahead 14-5. The Skyhawks then accounted for nine of the next 11 points to pull within two points at 16-14. Nicholls State would take a 21-17 lead but UT Martin made it close, getting within 24-23 after back-to-back kills by Erves and Whimpey. However, Nicholls State would survive the Skyhawk comeback.

Whimpey’s four kills paced UT Martin in the fourth set.

In the decisive fifth set, Nicholls State used an early 7-0 run to go on top by an 8-1 margin. The Skyhawks would battle back to make the score 12-9 but they could not dig themselves out of the early hole, as Nicholls State scored three of the last four points.

In the tournament finale against Alabama, the Skyhawks would trail 5-2 but eventually clawed back to get within a single point at 12-11. Alabama pushed its lead out to 20-16 but three straight points from UT Martin made the score 20-19 and forced Alabama to take a timeout. The Skyhawks broke through to take a 22-21 lead courtesy of a Whimpey kill. UT Martin would earn set point honors twice (24-22 and 26-25) before Alabama answered with a 3-0 run to close out the set.

Keaton’s four kills in the first set led the Skyhawks.

Alabama jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second set but UT Martin quickly closed the gap to three points at 8-5 and 10-7. However, Alabama then used a 6-0 run to go ahead 16-7 and then concluded the set with seven unanswered points to go on top by a 2-0 margin.

The Skyhawks came out with a purpose in the third set, turning a 5-4 deficit into a 10-5 lead thanks to a 6-0 run. UT Martin’s lead remained at five (12-7) until Alabama got within two at 13-11. After a Keaton kill, Alabama went on a 14-1 run, scoring eight consecutive points to start the run. Keaton had another kill but then Alabama rounded out the set with another lengthy run, scoring the final six points.

Keaton had five kills to lead UT Martin in the third and final set.

The Skyhawks will take part in the fourth and final nonconference tournament next weekend when they travel to Indianapolis, Ind. for the Butler Classic on Sept. 20-21.

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