Volleyball upsets OVC powerhouse Belmont on senior night

GOLDEN BRICK WALL – Senior Cody Dodd and freshman Shaneice James attempt to block a Belmont attack during Tech’s final home game Nov. 7. Photo by: Shea Haile

The Tennessee Tech volleyball team ended its 2015 home schedule in style by defeating Belmont University, the second ranked team in the Ohio Valley Conference.

The 3-2 victory was the Golden Eagles’ first win over Belmont since 2010 and the first time third-year head coach Dave Zelenock has defeated the Bruins.

The win was also the last home game for senior outside hitter Cody Dodd. The fans in attendance were solidly behind Dodd and the Golden Eagles, the excitement evident in the Hooper Eblen Center.

The two squads went back and forth early in the first set until the Golden Eagles gained an 11-6 advantage. Tech managed to hold on to its lead until the Bruins embarked on a 6-0 run to end the set. Belmont won the set 25-21.

Tech built another comfortable lead in the second set, going ahead of the Bruins 10-4. The Golden Eagles did not relinquish its lead unlike in the first set. The team controlled the tempo of the period and eventually won the set 25-17.

Tech went into the locker room during the intermission with momentum after tying the game 1-1.

The third set belonged to the Bruins. The only lead Tech had in the third set was a 1-0 advantage at the beginning of the set. Belmont maintained a double-digit lead through most of the set. Tech lost the third set 25-13.

The Golden Eagles entered the fourth set with a 2-1 deficit. Belmont played with an advantage for most of the set, but Dodd helped keep Tech in contention by scoring seven kills. Two of those kills came in dramatic fashion near the end of the set. Dodd’s back-to-back kills gave Tech a 24-21 lead. The Bruins responded with two kills of their own, but Tech’s Shaneice James gave her team the set win with a kill of her own. The Golden Eagles won the set 25-23 after erasing a 17-13 deficit. The teams forced a fifth set after playing to a 2-2 tie in the first four.

Dodd scored the first two points for Tech in the fifth set. Belmont kept the last set close until Tech completed with a 4-0 run. The Golden Eagles were flying high and had all of the momentum in their its with an 8-4 lead. The game-changing run by Tech prompted the Bruins to call a timeout. Belmont called another timeout after the Golden Eagles took an 11-6 lead on a Kennedy Wade service ace.

The Bruins made things interesting down the stretch, scoring three consecutive points to close the gap to within three at 13-10, but a kill from Dodd and an attack error by Belmont gave Tech its last two points and the victory.

The Golden Eagles picked up biggest win of the season and had its only senior, Dodd, shine in her final performance in the Hoop. The Cookeville native ended the night with 26 kills and 21 digs.

“I am just really happy,” said Dodd. “I am so proud of teammates. I could not have asked for a better senior night.”

“It was my last night to show every one what I got, I guess. I am just really happy.”

Zelenock described how important it was to get a huge win in front of the home crowd after struggling to defend the home court this season.

“We did not protect our home as well as we did last year so it was a little disappointing as an overall home season, but to take down the No. 2 team at home on senior night, it is a good feeling for us,” said Zelenock. “It is good for confidence.”

Defeating the Bruins has not been an easy task for the Golden Eagles, but Zelenock has noticed the gap closing.

“Twice a year, they have kind of stumped on us,” said Zelenock. “We started the last couple of years getting a little better and making it more competitive, and to finally get that win is a big deal for us.”

Tech will finish its season this week, beginning at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Jacksonville State University. The Golden Eagles will travel to the University of Tennessee at Martin Nov. 13 for the last regular season game. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.