MARTIN, Tenn. – Junior outside hitter Emily Keaton piled up 15 kills against just two errors to go along with a season-high 17 digs to help guide the University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team to a 3-1 win over SIU Edwardsville (25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19) in the Ohio Valley Conference opener at Skyhawk Fieldhouse.
The victory snapped an eight-game skid for UT Martin (7-10, 1-0 OVC) and gave head coach Darrin McClure his fifth win in six tries in OVC home openers. A total of 453 fans watched the Skyhawks get back in the win column, the biggest crowd in Skyhawk Fieldhouse since a 3-2 win over Tennessee State on Nov. 8, 2011.
“This was a good win for us starting the conference season,” McClure said. “The crowd tonight was unbelievable. In that second set when we were down and went on a really long run and caused SIU Edwardsville to burn both of their timeouts, I think that was a big momentum shift for us.”
In addition to her team-highs of 15 kills and 17 digs, Keaton also added a .433 attack percentage this evening. Allie Whimpey slammed down 13 kills while Shelby Hoskins tied a season-high with 11 kills while hitting .348 for the Skyhawks. Amanda Crask tallied 49 assists while Chelsea Bowles added 15 digs for UT Martin.
“I thought our upperclassmen did a great job of carrying us,” McClure said. “I was proud of how they took care of business for us. Amanda probably had one of her better offensive decision-making games of the year. I thought she distributed the offense really well tonight.”
Back-to-back service aces by Lynsey Hazelwood helped UT Martin go on a 5-0 run early on in the first set. An assisted block by Whimpey and Alisha Erves provided a 13-9 advantage for the Skyhawks but SIU Edwardsville would later get within one point at 17-16. UT Martin then scored six of the next nine points to go on top 23-19. Although SIU Edwardsville would come back to make the score 24-23, a Whimpey kill gave UT Martin a 1-0 advantage.
Whimpey (five kills) and Crask (12 assists) helped the Skyhawk offense hit .237 with 13 kills in the first set.
UT Martin would get off to a slow start in the second set, trailing 12-4 at one point. However, the Skyhawks kept fighting, going on an 8-1 run capped off by a Whimpey kill that made the score 13-12. The Cougars would cling to a one-point lead at 17-16 until an 8-0 Skyhawk run – with three kills by Keaton – gave the Skyhawks a 24-17 lead. Moments later, it was Keaton who once again provided the spark for UT Martin, spiking down the final point of the second set to provide the Skyhawks a 2-0 lead.
Keaton’s four kills against zero errors in six attempts led UT Martin in the second set while Crask contributed 14 assists for an offense that hit .281 (16 kills, six errors in 32 attempts).
SIU Edwardsville opened the third set with a 4-1 lead but the Skyhawks bounced back to take an 8-7 lead courtesy of a Crask kill. The Cougars would retake the lead at 14-10 before four straight UT Martin points evened the score. SIU Edwardsville then scored four straight points of its own but the Skyhawks bounced back to take a 21-20 lead courtesy of a Bowles service ace. However, SIU Edwardsville concluded the set on a 5-2 run.
Bowles (nine digs) and Keaton (seven) each led UT Martin defensively in the third set.
The Skyhawks jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set and never looked back. UT Martin would soon take a 9-2 advantage and would extend its lead out to 14-6 courtesy of a block by Erves and Keaton. SIU Edwardsville would get as close as 20-18 until a Keaton kill ignited a 4-0 run and a Hazelwood kill put the finishing touches on the victory.
Keaton and Hoskins each had four kills while Crask’s 12 assists helped guide the offense to a .200 attack percentage in 30 attempts.
UT Martin returns to the court on Saturday, Sept. 28 against OVC foe Eastern Illinois. First serve at Skyhawk Fieldhouse is scheduled for 2 p.m.