The Tennessee Tech volleyball team returns to the Hooper Eblen Center to host the Golden Eagle Invitational this weekend, the team's first home tournament action since the 2019 campaign.
Tech will host South Alabama, Valparaiso, and UNC Asheville in a round-robin-style tournament, with four matches slated for Friday, Sept. 3 and two more for Saturday, Sept. 4. All six matches will be streamed live on ESPN+ with Mandy Thatcher and Dylan Vazzano providing the calls all weekend.
The following COVID protocols will be in effect for the 2021 Golden Eagle Invitational:
Friday, Sept. 3 – Tech vs. South Alabama, 10:30 a.m. | Live Video | Live Stats
Friday, Sept. 3 – UNC Asheville vs. Valparaiso, 1:00 p.m. | Live Video | Live Stats
Friday, Sept. 3 – South Alabama vs. UNC Asheville, 5:00 p.m. | Live Video | Live Stats
Friday, Sept. 3 – Tech vs. Valparaiso, 7:30 p.m. | Live Video | Live Stats
Saturday, Sept. 4 – Valparaiso vs. South Alabama, 10:30 a.m. | Live Video | Live Stats
Saturday, Sept. 4 – vs. UNC Asheville, 2:00 p.m. | Live Video | Live Stats
Tech saw its originally scheduled season-opener lost to COVID, with The Citadel withdrawing from the War Eagle Invitational due to COVID protocols. The Golden Eagles split its opening tournament, falling to host Auburn 3-0 and taking down the defending Southwestern Conference champions 3-1.
Returning freshman Madolyn Isringhausen made an instant impact on offense in her first match of the season, turning in a career-high and match-high 15 kills against and followed it up with another match-high 14 kills in Tech's win over Jackson State. She averaged an impressive 4.14 kills per set and 4.71 points per set while earning War Eagle Invitational All-Tournament honors.
Senior setter Ashley Hand was a huge strength for the Golden Eagles in their opening weekend tournament, totaling 65 sets for 9.29 assists per set while garnering War Eagle Invitational All-Tournament honors. In the Tech win over Jackson State, she doled out 39 assists for a 9.75 per set average, helping the purple and gold hit .210 with 51 kills. Against Auburn, she tallied 26 assists while posting a double-double with 12 digs.
Libero McKenna Young was a defensive wizard for the Golden Eagles, particularly in the team's 3-1 victory over Jackson State. In the victory, the returning freshman registered a four-set, career-high 25 digs and added in a pair of service aces and four assists. For the week, she averaged 4.71 digs per set while posting 33 overall with four aces and seven assists.
She also registered 141 kills and 181.5 points on the year, extending her value far beyond just the defensive side of the net. Her .306 hitting percentage ranked seventh in the league.
In the 3-1 win over Jackson State, the Tech middle blockers were a force. Preseason All-OVC selection Taylor Dorsey was a solid presence, collecting nine kills and four block assists. Sophomore Dallas Oatis was a big addition to the rotation in the final three sets, chipping in five kills and three total blocks. Fellow sophomore Skylar Boom slid over to the right side after the opening set and turned up the heat with 10 kills and a career-high .556 hitting percentage. She also added a pair of blocks.
True freshman Payton Lombardi was an effective addition to the Tech defense in her first collegiate action, posting 2.71 digs per set and 19 total. She logged a match-high three service aces in the Tech win over Jackson State while adding eight digs. In her collegiate debut against Auburn, she ranked second on the Golden Eagle squad with 11 digs.
SCOUTING SOUTH ALABAMA
(2021 record: 3-0, 0-0 Sun Belt | Series Record: 1-2 | H: 0-0 | A: 0-0 | N: 1-2)
The Jaguars opened the season by winning their home invitational, sweeping Florida A&M, Charleston Southern, and Jacksonville, all in straight sets. South Alabama played its 2020-21 schedule last fall, posting an 8-14 mark, and was picked to finish in fifth place in the East division of the Sun Belt this season.
Redshirt junior Maddie Soboleski led the opening weekend for the Jaguars, tallying 26 kills while averaging a team-high 2.89 per set. She chipped in three block assists and 16 digs for good measure.
Right behind was freshman outside hitter Ezgi Karabulut, who contributed 23 kills on a .176 hitting percentage. She also added 22 digs and five service aces to the mix. Junior setter Kailey Keeble was an able distributor, averaging 9.33 assists per set while totaling 84 with 20 digs, four blocks, and seven kills.
Junior middle blocker Niki Capizzi averaged 1.11 blocks per set, totaling a whopping 10 while also posting 21 kills on a solid .283 attack percentage. She also tied for the team lead with six service aces to pace the Jags with 33.0 overall points.
(2021 record: 2-1, 0-0 MVC | Series Record: 1-2 | H: 0-0 | A: 0-0 | N: 1-2)
Valpo posted a 2-1 record in its opening weekend against a strong tournament field at the Panther Invitational, placing second. The Beacons bookended the weekend with thrilling five-set wins over UC Santa Barbara and Milwaukee, falling in between to Illinois.
Fifth-year middle Peyton McCarthy led Valpo offensively on opening weekend, hitting .357 with a team-best 2.54 kills/set on her way to earning All-Tournament Team honors. After posting nine kills on .389 hitting in the win over UC Santa Barbara and seven kills on .294 hitting versus Illinois, McCarthy unleashed a team-high 17 kills on .371 hitting in the five-set win over Milwaukee to close the weekend.
Senior middle Haley Hart received the first All-Tournament Team award of her career at the Panther Invitational. She closed the weekend by tying her career-best with a match-high eight blocks in the win over Milwaukee. For the weekend, Hart averaged a team-best 1.31 blocks/set.
A preseason All-MVC selection and two-time MVC Libero of the Year, fifth-year Rylee Cookerly got her fall 2021 season off to another stellar start last weekend. Cookerly averaged 4.92 digs/set on the weekend, highlighted by a 33-dig performance in the win over UC Santa Barbara.
Valpo entered this season with a pair of award-winning setters on its roster in 2018 First Team All-MVC honoree Brittany Anderson and spring 2021 MVC Freshman of the Year Victoria Bulmahn. The first weekend saw Carin Avery rotate the pair in a 6-2, with Anderson notching 57 assists and Bulmahn 50.
SCOUTING UNC ASHEVILLE
(2021 record: 1-1, 0-0 Big South | Series Record: 3-1 | H: 1-0 | A: 1-0 | N: 1-1)
The Bulldogs split two matches on opening weekend, winning over Western Carolina and falling to Davidson. After going 8-8 in the spring season, they were picked to finish fifth in the Big South this fall.
Senior outside hitter Peyton McClinton turned in a huge opening weekend for the Bulldogs, averaging a robust 4.11 kills per set with 37 total on a .253 hitting percentage. She also accounted for four blocks and 29 digs.
Fellow senior outside Molly Hackett also boasted a monster weekend, hitting .274 with 28 kills for 3.11 kills per set mark. She also chipped in four blocks and added 16 digs. Another UNC Asheville senior distributed the attack, with setter Grace Volk paving the way with 78 total assists in nine sets.
Veteran libero Anna Skryd averaged 4.44 digs per set, compiling 40 with a team-high three service aces over the weekend.
Tech will continue along the tournament road, traveling south for the Chattanooga Classic hosted by the Mocs on Friday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 11. The Golden Eagles square off on Friday with host Chattanooga in a 5:00 p.m. CT tilt. The purple and gold then take on Troy at 9:00 a.m. and Virginia Tech at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.