The University of Tennessee at Martin volleyball team turned away South Carolina State by a 3-1 margin (25-14, 21-25, 25-9, 29-27) in the first match of the Scenic City Showdown hosted by Chattanooga.
Senior outside hitter Emily Keaton came up big for the Skyhawks (6-6) this afternoon, piling up match-highs of 13 kills, 19 digs and four service aces. She committed only one hitting error in 31 chances for a .387 attack percentage, which also was the highest of any player in the match.
“Emily was great all-around today,” Skyhawk head coach Darrin McClure said. “She’s a difference-maker for us. We also had the opportunity to get a lot of people in the match today for some needed experience. I thought a big difference today was our serving and efficiency – our serving in the third set was the best it has been all year.”
Fellow senior Allie Whimpey also slammed down 13 kills for a balanced UT Martin offense that featured six players with at least six kills apiece. Madison Wessling (20 assists) and Amanda Crask (11 assists, .364 hitting percentage along with six kills) shared duties at setter while Chelsea Bowles shored up the Skyhawk defense with 16 digs.
UT Martin never trailed in the first set, jumping out to a 4-1 lead. The Bulldogs would get within a point at 5-4 but two straight kills by Crask came during a 5-1 Skyhawk run to make the score 10-5. The margin remained at five points late in the set until UT Martin closed out the set with six unanswered points to take the 25-14 win.
Crask was the star of the first set, leading the Skyhawks with three kills, four assists and seven digs.
Two early kills by Whimpey provided a 4-2 lead for UT Martin in the second set but South Carolina State would eventually take a 5-4 lead. Back-to-back Keaton kills tilted the score back in the Skyhawks’ favor at 9-7 but the Bulldogs recovered to tie the set at 12-all. Whimpey then slammed down two straight kills to help give UT Martin a three-point advantage (15-12) but South Carolina State responded with five unanswered points. The Skyhawks would take a brief 19-18 lead and would tie the score at 21-all but South Carolina State ended the set with four straight points.
Whimpey had four kills while Bowles scooped up seven digs in the second set to lead UT Martin.
The Skyhawks then came out determined in the third set, jumping out to a 7-2 lead behind two kills apiece by Whimpey and Julia Devinney. After a Bulldog kill, UT Martin reeled off six unanswered points – three of which came via Keaton kills. South Carolina State pieced together back-to-back points to make the score 13-5 but the Skyhawks claimed another lengthy run – this time scoring nine of the next 10 points to take a 22-6 advantage. Kills by Whimpey and Bergren put the finishing touches on a dominant set for UT Martin.
Keaton had four kills on six swings while Bergren divvied out nine assists in the second set, as the Skyhawks posted a .394 hitting percentage (17 kills, four errors in 33 attempts).
UT Martin led early in the fourth set but South Carolina State took an 8-7 lead. A Bulldog attack error followed by back-to-back service aces by Keaton gave UT Martin a 10-8 advantage but South Carolina State would later use a 5-1 run to go ahead by a 20-17 margin. Whimpey was responsible for back-to-back kills coming out of a Skyhawk timeout to ignite a 5-1 run. UT Martin staved off set point three times thanks to a Keaton kill each time. A pair of Bulldog attack errors sandwiched around a kill by Alisha Erves gave the Skyhawks the hard-fought win.
Keaton had five kills in the decisive fourth set while Bergren was responsible for 11 assists.
UT Martin rounds out its participation in the Scenic City Showdown on Saturday, Sept. 20. The Skyhawks will take on Stetson at 10 a.m. followed by a matchup against host Chattanooga at 7 p.m.