The MTSU volleyball team began its run through the Sun Belt Conference Thursday night against South Alabama inside the Alumni Memorial Gym.
Coming into the match, the Blue Raiders were 3-12, but the start of conference play was looked upon as a fresh start for MTSU. It was a matchup between teacher and student, and it went all five sets. However, the Jaguars came out on top (18-25, 25-19, 25-18, 18-25, 13-15), when a shot by Blue Raider senior Ashley Adams went past the backline to end the marathon match.
Currently, Blue Raider head coach Matt Peck is in his ninth season at the helm of the program. During that time, MTSU has played in six consecutive NCAA tournaments. His trusted assistant throughout the success had been assistant Amy Hendrichovsky. On this night, Hendrichovsky was back in Murfreesboro, this time as the head coach of the visiting Jaguars. The Blue Raiders had never lost to its conference foe in 18 meetings, which included only losing two sets during the streak. Until tonight, as the Blue Raiders lost its 10th match in a row and first ever against the team from Mobile, Ala.
The history between the schools did not matter early on as USA won the first set in convicting fashion 25-18. The Jaguars continued the momentum during the following set, which included a 10-3 advantage. The Blue Raiders went on a couple of runs to get back in the match, including an 11-0 run to take the lead at 19-13. It included back-to-back aces by freshman Chelsea Ross. The Blue Raiders held on for the 25-19 set two win.
After the 10-minute break, the Blue Raider also controlled the third set winning 25-18, but the Jaguars answered in the fourth set with another 25-18 game four victory. It took a deciding fifth set to find a winner, unlike the first four sets; the fifth set only goes to 15.
USA jumped out to an 8-4 lead, but the Blue Raiders found a way to get back in the set by cutting the lead to one. After a Jaguar timeout, MTSU made a couple of hitting errors and fell behind 10-7, and Peck decided to call a timeout of its own. The Blue Raiders closed it down to one, 10-9 after another Ross ace. She finished with a career-best four aces in the loss. USA answered with another three-run rally to make the score 13-9. MTSU, however, closed it once again to one, 13-12, but Adams had two service errors to end the match.
Peck had no comment after the match.
Adams led all Blue Raider scorers with 19 kills, while Ross added 12. Fellow freshman Tyler Richardson and Katie Bange both chipped in with 11 and 10 kills respectively, both career highs. Freshman Bri McCombs had 14 digs, and another freshman Shelby Anderton chipped in with 51 assists.
USA was led by Melissa Waelter, who finished with 19 kills in the win.
USA improves to 8-7, while MTSU falls to 3-13 on the season. The Blue Raiders will look to end the streak Saturday night against Troy with first serve at 7 p.m. inside the AMG.