One disappointing streak came to an end this weekend for the Skyhawk volleyball team while another continued with losses to Tennessee State and Austin Peay. After being swept by TSU on Friday, the team entered Saturday’s match having lost 12 consecutive games, spanning four matches.
They came up short in the first two games to extend the streak to 14 games before pulling out a 30-28 win over the Lady Govs in game three. The Lady Govs then clinched the match with a win in the fourth game.
The Skyhawks showed a lot of energy in their play during the opening game against TSU. They played aggressively around the net and were also helped by several TSU mistakes. Behind the strong play of sophomore outside hitter Jamie Hollins, who had four kills in the game, and a service ace from junior libero Tammy Konitzer, the Skyhawks built a six-point advantage at 16-10 to force a TSU timeout. After a Lady Tiger run trimmed the Skyhawk lead to two points, the Skyhawks answered to push it back to five, 22-17. TSU responded with ten unanswered points to claim the lead and pulled away for a 30-26 win. The Lady Tigers out hit the Skyhawks in the game, .200 to .028.
Game two was a see-saw affair that saw neither team lead by more than three points. UTM claimed the first clear momentum when they built a two-point lead on a Rebecca Palmer service ace. TSU scored the next three points to go on top before a service error ended that run, tying the score at 10. When TSU went up by three points to force a Skyhawk timeout, UTM responded by scoring three quick points once play resumed to even the score once again. With the Skyhawks trailing late, Hollins recorded two key kills to tie the game and then give the Skyhawks a 28-27 lead. The final three points of the game went to the Lady Tigers as they won, 30-28.
The Skyhawks came out flat in game three, falling behind 4-1 at the start. The lead quickly ballooned to 11-2 for the Lady Tigers, forcing a UTM timeout. The Skyhawks put together a couple of good stretches late in the game to pull as close as five points back of the Lady Tigers, 26-21. TSU went on to win the game, 30-22, to complete the sweep.
“What stands out to me from watching tonight’s performance is our youth and inexperience,” said UTM head coach Amy Draper. “But part of what we’re going through is the steps of rebuilding a program and I don’t want to skip any steps.”
The Skyhawks were led by Jamie Hollins with nine kills and Rebecca Palmer, who hit .286 with seven kills. Shelby Knose collected 25 assists and eight digs, while Tammy Konitzer led the Skyhawks on defense with 11 digs.
Next on the schedule was a match against the Lady Govs of Austin Peay. The match was a fierce battle each and every game as the Skyhawks fell to their rivals, 3-1. In the first game, the Skyhawks jumped ahead early as a result of APSU errors. The Lady Govs came back to take a one-point lead, but it was short-lived. Consecutive kills by sophomore Kathryn Sprague put the Skyhawks back on top, 14-13. Those plays were just a sample of the power displayed by Sprague, who slammed home 13 kills in the match to lead the Skyhawks. Jamie Hollins also put on a great show with 12 kills of her own. However, the Lady Govs forced Coach Draper to call a timeout when they pulled ahead, 20-17. After the break, they pulled away, leading by as many as ten points on their way to a 30-21 win.
The Lady Govs used the momentum of their game one win to build a 5-1 lead early in game two. The lead stretched to 8-3 before the Skyhawks began their run. A service ace by Jamie Hollins cut the lead to 8-5, and kills by Hollins and Sprague got the Skyhawks within a point, 10-9. Errors then prevented a serious UTM run from developing as the Lady Govs pushed their lead to six. The Skyhawks threatened again thanks to sloppy play by the Lady Govs, scoring five straight points to cut the lead to 20-18, but couldn’t pull even. The game remained close down the stretch, but the Lady Govs held on for a 30-27 win.
The Skyhawks’ hard work and determination paid off in game three as the breaks finally seemed to go their way. Although they twice fell behind by three points, they were able to come up with the big plays they needed to tie the game. The Lady Govs appeared to be pulling away, leading 23-19, before a Jamie Hollins kill sparked a UTM run.
The Skyhawks cut the lead to 25-23 with their offense, then forced two APSU errors to tie the score at 25. Sophomore Dimphy Sasse provided a huge ace to give the Skyhawks a late lead as they went on to a 30-28 win, snapping a skid that dated back to the September 23 match against SEMO.
The final game of the match was another close battle, featuring scoring runs by both teams. The Lady Govs opened the scoring with the first three points of the game. The Skyhawks responded with scrappy play to stay close, and were aided by APSU errors. A Randi Woolridge kill brought UTM to within a point, 14-13. APSU then went on a run to push the lead to five, only to see the Skyhawks put together a brief flurry of points to cut it down to three points. In the end, the Lady Govs proved to be too much as they won the game, 30-25. “If the games stopped at 28, we’d be 17-2,” said Coach Draper of her team’s recurring inability to finish close games. “Unfortunately, you have to get to 30, and I think that goes back to confidence and believing and knowing that you can finish games.
With a year of experience, this team can definitely get things turned around. The future looks bright,” she said.
The Skyhawks, now 2-19 overall and 0-4 in the OVC, will tour the state of Kentucky this weekend with road matches against Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State before returning home for a non-conference match against Arkansas State on October 11.