Volleyball Extends C-USA's Longest Winning Streak to Nine
Oct. 1, 2002
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - - The University of Memphis volleyball team (13-4, 0-0 C-USA) extended their own winning streak to nine matches and snapped University of Tennessee-Martin's eight-match win streak with a 3-2 win over the Skyhawks in the Elma Roane Fieldhouse, needing career nights from three Tigers to do it.
"I thought our team just did a good job of stepping up and continually applying pressure, even after we lost the second game," Tiger Head Coach Carrie Yerty said. "It's important for us to learn to continue to be aggressive. UTM is a good team. They're 5-0 in their conference (Ohio Valley Conference), they are the defending conference champions; I knew it would be a blood bath and I'm just thankful we came out on top."
Those in attendance realized they were in for a barnburner when the first game went 34-32 in the Tigers' favor.
Sophomore Tiara Gilkey (St. Louis, Mo./Pattonsville) got the Tigers rolling early, downing 10 kills in game one alone, as the Tigers hit .333 in the opening game. UTMs struggle early, hitting just .133 in the opening game. Gilkey would finish the night with a career-high 26 kills.
But the senior-laden Skyhawks rebounded in game two, sprinting out to a 10-5 lead when a Tiger attack error sailed wide. The two teams knotted the game up and alternated leads until the Skyhawks finally closed out game two, 30-25.
Memphis stormed back after the break, hitting .438 while turning up the defensive and blocking pressure. Memphis, which had no blocks through the first two games, stopped three attacks and watched the Skyhawk offense start to sputter, hitting .000 for the third game with just nine kills compared to 19 for Memphis.
Freshman outside Nancy Nellans (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph's) dominated games three and four, finally finishing the night with a career-high 26 kills. Memphis held on to win game three, 30-20, but UTM, led by OVC Co-Player of the Week Natalie Klevan (Germantown, Tenn./Germantown) held on to win game four 31-29 to force game five.
Junior Shella Neba (Aurora, Colo./St. Mary's) picked up her game in game four, downing five of her 10 kills in the fourth game.
"Shella absolutely dominated, both offensively and in our blocking scheme, in the fourth and fifth games," Yerty said. "That's what we talked about needing out of our middles after our last tournament (Boston College)."
Memphis jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the deciding game, a lead that proved insurmountable as the Tigers rolled with a .421 hitting percentage and three more total blocks to win the game 15-9.
The Tigers had four player in double-digit kills for the first time this season, led by the 26 from Glkey and Nellans. Junior Brittany Barnett (Dallas, Texas/Lake Highlands) added 20 kills in the win, while Neba added 10 kills and a game-high five blocks in the win. Setter Heather Watts (Salt Lake City, Utah/Skyline) had a career-high 75 assists in the win and led the Tigers with 16 digs.
"Heather did an outstanding job of distributing the ball to our hitters and putting it in a good spot for them," Yerty said. "She got 75 assists, I hadn't even realized that."
Klevan led a contingent of four UTM players in double-digit kills. Rachel Ahlers added 13 kills, while Leigh Reiniche and Lindsey Stock each added 11 in the Skyhawks' first loss in nine matches. Senior Stefanie Dubach led all players with 19 digs on the evening.
Memphis remains at home to face Saint Louis in its C-USA opener, Saturday, at 2 p.m., while UTM stays on the road, but returns to Ohio Valley Conference play with a match at Austin Peay, Friday, at 7 p.m.