MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team fed off an electric crowd this evening as the Skyhawks wrapped up the season with a convincing 3-0 sweep over Ohio Valley Conference rival Jacksonville State (25-18, 25-20, 25-23).
It was an emotional night from the start, as four members of the UT Martin program (student assistant Michelle McLaughlin, Alisha Erves, Colleen Larson and Madison Wessling) were honored as part of Senior Night festivities. Once the match started, the Skyhawks fed off the vibe delivered by 817 fans – the third-largest crowd in program history – to score the first four points of the match and never look back.
“It meant a lot to everyone in our locker room to see the big crowd turnout tonight,” UT Martin second-year head coach Jaclynn Yocum said. “They truly played a huge role in tonight’s outcome. While we certainly wish our season was continuing, it was good to see our team come together and send our seniors out on a high note.”
Wessling and Jemima Idemudia led the way with nine kills apiece for a balanced UT Martin offensive attack. Hayley Gray pitched in with eight kills while Erves had seven kills with no errors in 15 swings. Kelly Lean capped off her successful debut season with 33 assists while Macy Reigelsperger (match-high 10 digs), Larson (eight digs) also performed well for the Skyhawks. The trio of Erves, Reigelsperger and Idemudia each turned away five blocks for UT Martin, who had 10 blocks as a team.
As mentioned earlier, the Skyhawks secured the first four points on their way to grabbing a 6-1 lead in the opening set. Jacksonville State (18-18, 6-10 OVC) evened the score at 8-all but two straight service aces by Lean helped UT Martin take a three-point advantage. The Gamecocks closed to within one point but a 5-0 Skyhawk run gave UT Martin a 16-10 edge. An assisted block by Idemudia and Lean resulted in the Skyhawks’ biggest lead of the set (22-14) before UT Martin polished off the first set by chalking up three of the final four points.
Idemudia had four kills while Lean (eight assists), Reigelsperger (four blocks) and Larson (four digs) also played a prominent role in the early Skyhawk success.
An Idemudia kill made the score 3-2 and gave UT Martin its first advantage of the second set. Jacksonville State came back to retake the lead at 8-6 but a Wessling rally killer elevated the Skyhawks to a 9-8 lead. Six ties followed until UT Martin opened up an 18-15 advantage via three consecutive Gamecock miscues. Jacksonville State would eventually pull back within one point (20-19) but the Skyhawks wrapped up the set on a 5-1 spurt.
The UT Martin offense hit .303 in the second set, led by Wessling (four kills with no errors in five attempts) and Lean (10 assists).
The Skyhawks stared down a four-point deficit midway through the third set but battled back to cap off the sweep. Four different UT Martin players were responsible for kills to help the Skyhawks claim a 7-4 lead but Jacksonville State would soon use a 5-0 run to go on top by a 12-9 margin. The Gamecocks took leads of 15-11 and 18-14 but Gray came up big down the stretch, piecing together two kills and two assisted blocks to ignite a 4-0 UT Martin run that resulted in a 20-19 Skyhawk advantage. Three more ties followed but Gray had two more kills before Reigelsperger and Lean finished things with kills on two straight possessions to break a 23-23 deadlock.
Gray had six kills (with just one error) while Wessling amassed five kills in the final set. Lean piled up 15 assists while Reigelsperger scooped up seven digs in the third set alone.
UT Martin concludes its 2016 season with a 9-22 overall record with a 5-11 OVC mark.