MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team started Ohio Valley Conference play off on the right foot as the Skyhawks downed Southeast Missouri by a 3-1 margin (22-25, 27-25, 25-19, 25-20) in the 2017 home opener this evening.
UT Martin (7-7, 1-0 OVC) once again saw an uptick in offense tonight, as the team hit .287 with 60 kills. Reigning OVC Newcomer of the Week Megan Fair earned her fourth double-double of the season with team-highs of 11 kills (on a .286 attack percentage) and 13 digs. Jemima Idemudia hit .375 with 11 kills while Hayley Gray chipped in 10 kills on a .333 attack percentage to go along with a career-best six blocks.
Kenzie Hinshaw (29 assists) and Kelly Lean (20 assists) helped the Skyhawk offensive machine run at full speed all evening. Jamie Rys (eight), Justine Walker (seven) and Hannah Phillips (seven) also contributed efficient performances offensively while reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Week Brooke Gyori scooped up 12 digs in three sets for UT Martin, who won its fifth consecutive home decision over Southeast Missouri.
“We are happy to get the win,” Skyhawk head coach Jaclynn Yocum-Wilson said. “We had a slow start but really picked it up offensively, almost hitting .300 for the match. Hayley Gray had a big game both offensively and defensively – her blocking was really big for us tonight at the net.”
Both teams combined for 12 tie scores and four lead changes in the first set. Fair provided two early kills to give UT Martin an early lead but the Redhawks went on a 6-2 run to go ahead 10-7. Gray slammed down back-to-back kills to tilt the score back in favor of the Skyhawks at 13-12 but Southeast Missouri recovered to open up a three-point lead (21-18). Rachel Noffsinger answered with a kill and Gray was responsible for a solo block and kill to even the set at 22-all but the Redhawks accounted for the final three points of the set.
The Skyhawks hit .312 in the first set at Hinshaw handed out 10 assists and Fair provided six digs.
A service ace by Lean gave UT Martin a 6-4 lead in the second set but Southeast Missouri charged back for a 10-3 surge to maintain a 14-9 lead. The Skyhawks reeled off the next four points and eventually tied the score at 17-17 but the Redhawks were able to score the next three points. UT Martin clawed back to go on top 22-21 but had to fight off set point as Southeast Missouri took a late 24-23 advantage. Following a Skyhawk timeout, UT Martin scored four of the final five points – two of which came via kills by Gray.
Fair’s four kills paced a balanced offensive attack in the second set, as the Skyhawks boasted four players with at least three kills. Gyori (seven) nearly registered half of UT Martin’s 15 digs in the set.
The Skyhawks jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the third set, thanks in large part to five Southeast Missouri attack errors. UT Martin’s advantage was trimmed to one point at 9-8 but an assisted block by Idemudia and Gray capped off a 5-1 Skyhawk run that resulted in a 15-10 lead. The Redhawks would not get any closer than three points for the remainder of the set as Idemudia helped close out Southeast Missouri with a pair of kills and an assisted block to account for UT Martin’s final three points of the set.
The third set featured only three attack errors by the Skyhawks, as UT Martin hit .256 for the second consecutive stanza.
UT Martin accounted for seven of the first 11 points of the fourth set but the Redhawks went on a 5-0 run and soon led by a 13-10 margin. Four different Skyhawks then chipped in with points during a stretch where UT Martin scored five unanswered points and claimed a 15-13 advantage. Southeast Missouri bounced back to take a pair of one-point leads but the Skyhawks turned a 19-18 deficit into a three-point lead thanks to back-to-back kills by Phillips. The Redhawks ended their mini-drought with a kill to make the score 22-20 but UT Martin was able to score the final three points of the set to earn the victory.
Phillips came up huge for the Skyhawks in the fourth set, tallying four kills while Walker had a hand in four blocks for UT Martin.
The Skyhawks continue their four-match homestand with another OVC test on Friday, Sept. 22 against Tennessee Tech. First serve from Skyhawk Fieldhouse is set for 7 p.m.