Volleyball Escapes Middle Tennessee With 12-Match Winning Streak
Sept. 23, 2003
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (7-8) overcame a 2-0 deficit to tie the match at 2-2 in a non-conference match-up with Memphis, Tuesday, but Memphis hit .471 with just one attack error in a crucial game five to take the match, 3-2. This is the second time in two meetings that this match-up has gone to five games, with each team winning on the other's home floor. Memphis extends its winning streak to 12-straight matches heading into its Conference USA opener at Saint Louis, Oct. 3rd.
"The team we just played is a really great team," Tiger Head Coach Carrie Yerty said. "Their three foreign girls and their returning players are unbelievable. It was a great match and I'm glad to escape alive. I'm really proud and excited. Nancy's (Nellans) three kills in game five were huge, and we had people step up when it mattered. Tiara (Gilkey) and Brittany (Barnett) were both really consistent for us right from the start."
Memphis trailed early in game one, going down 4-1 before a 7-0 Tiger run on sophomore Nancy Nellans' (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph) serve put Memphis up 8-4. The Blue Raiders answered back, pulling within three at 14-11, but a Blue Raider service error put Memphis back up by four and allowed the Tigers' enough momentum to close out game one, 30-19.
Game two was closer, but Memphis again got out to an insurmountable lead, going up 8-2 before MTSU reeled them back in at 11-10, before another Blue Raider service error put the Tigers back up 12-10. The Blue Raiders knotted the game at 17 apiece on a Tiger attack error and went up 19-18 on one of KeKe Deckard's team-leading 16 kills, but Memphis answered back with a Shella Neba (Aurora, Colo./St. Mary's) kill for 19 all. The game knotted against at 20, 21, and 22 before a Brittany Barnett (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands) kill put Memphis up 23-22, a lead they would hang on to until closing out the game, 30-24.
"We started off really well," Yerty said. "Brittany and Tiara were consistent the entire match for us and we needed it, MTSU had pretty much their entire football team at the game and this was a really intimidating environment."
The Blue Raiders regrouped and came out more determined to get defensive in game three, breaking a three-all tie on the strength of three Tiger attack errors and a Dana McLauren kill to go up 7-3. The Blue Raiders then turned up the offense and the blocking, posting four team blocks to keep a cushion that Memphis could never overcome, despite Memphis pulling within 28-26.The Tigers hit .146 while the Blue Raiders hit .317 in a 30-26 Blue Raider game three win.
With the match 2-1 in the Tigers' favor, the Blue Raiders continued to go after the Tiger hitters, holding Memphis to a .152 hitting percentage in game four. Averaging over 2.5 blocks per game heading into Tuesday night's match, Middle Tennessee again out-blocked Memphis 4-2 in game four, withstanding a Tiger rally from 29-22 down to finally knot the match at two games apiece with a 30-26 game four win.
But the momentum that allowed Memphis to pull back from 29-22 down to a 30-26 loss in game four stayed on the Tigers' side of the net in game five, as Memphis hit .417, getting blocked just one time, en route a 15-11 game five win.
" This was just a blood bath, " Yerty said. "We came out in game five fired up and not giving in. The girls did a good job following the game plan. Even when we were behind, I felt like we were a step ahead because we knew what they were going to do. I'm just really pleased and excited to be 15-1, this team definitely deserves that. We're going to give the girls a couple of days off and then start preparing for our conference opener at Saint Louis."
Tiara Gilkey (Creve Coeur, Mo./Pattonsville) led the Tigers with 24 kills and 18 digs, while Barnett added 20 kills and got her 1,000th career dig with 16 digs. Melissa Nance (Frankfort, Ind./Clinton Prairie) and Neba each added eight kills in the win. Nellans added six kills, with three of them coming in the crucial fifth game, and 12 digs, while Christen Clayton (Houston, Texas/Clear Lake) added 11 digs.
Kari Baker added 14 kills for MTSU, with five of them coming in the Blue Raiders' game four win. Andressa Lyra added 11 kills in the loss. Middle Tennessee opens its Sun Belt schedule at North Texas, Friday.
Memphis will be idle for over a week to prepare for their Conference USA opener at Saint Louis, Oct. 3rd, at 7 p.m. Memphis will return to the Elma Roane Fieldhouse for their first home match since their own four-team tournament, for an Oct. 14th match against cross-town rival Christian Brothers.