The MTSU volleyball team is coming off a tough non-conference schedule playing against some of the top teams in the power conferences, while trying to blend in a mix of youth and experience to a squad looking for another trip to the NCAA tournament.
Coming into Sun Belt play, the Blue Raiders (3-12) are currently on a nine-match losing streak. Tonight, the MTSU opens up its conference portion of the schedule against South Alabama.
“We have been struggling, due in part to starting five freshman, having a very tough pre-conference schedule, and having three season-ending injuries,” MTSU head coach Matt Peck said. “We have played some Top 50 teams exceptionally well, however (we have) not been able to win the matches. As the team matures, we believe that the wins will start coming.”
Last weekend, the Blue Raiders traveled to Louisville for the Louisville Invitational, in which MTSU faced three quality opponents, No. 12 ranked Louisville, Miami (Fla.) and UNLV.
However, it lost all three matches by a combined nine sets to one.
In the meantime, the Blue Raiders have been lead by freshman and former Riverdale star Chelsea Ross and senior Ashley Adams. Both players are currently ranked second (3.93 per set) and third (3.64 per set) in the SBC in kills.
Fellow teammate Tyler Richardson has been leading the charge for the Blue Raiders defense with a total of 11 blocks during the tournament last week.
Her performance earned her a spot on the Louisville Invitational All-Tournament Team. Currently, Richardson is ranked fourth in the SBC in blocks (1.15 per set).
As for the Blue Raiders, it’s looking for its first victory since a 3-1 victory against Towson on Sept. 1. However, it wants to get back to its winning ways as league play begins tonight.
“Winning these two SBC matches will go a long way to helping us get back in the mix,” Peck said. “We have to start out on the right foot.”
Former Blue Raider assistant coach, Amy Hendrichosky, makes her return to Alumni Memorial Gym this time as the visiting head coach of the Jaguars.
So far, USA is currently sitting third (7-7) in the six-team SBC Eastern Division. Last weekend, the Jaguars played in Statesboro, Ga at the Springhill Suites Invitational. By the end, USA finished up with a 2-2 record with wins over Jacksonville and Savannah State. The losses came against Wisconsin and Georgia Southern.
On Sept. 10, USA’s Jenna Hassell was named Defensive Player of the Week. Hassell is currently ranked fourth in the SBC in digs with 4.65 per set.
Two nights later, the other Alabama based SBC team, Troy, makes a stop to Murfreesboro. Currently, Trojans (8-6) are second in the SBC East. The Trojans, last weekend, went 2-1 at the ASU Tournament in Montgomery, Ala with wins over Jackson State and the host Alabama State. Troy lost its final match of the event to Maryland-Eastern Shore.
Before Saturday night match against the Blue Raiders, the Trojans played against Florida A&M on Tuesday night. Two nights later, Troy opened up SBC play at Western Kentucky. Both results were unavailable before this issue went to press. The Trojans are also known for its defensive play, and it has one of the best in the SBC, Courtney Cohen. She was named SBC Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 10. Right now, Cohen is third in the league in digs with five per set.
The Blue Raiders know it will be two tough matches to begin the SBC portion of the schedule.
“South Alabama will present problems for us, especially since the new head coach is our former assistant of six years,” Peck said. “They have an experienced team, and although they have not competed well in the SBC to date, I totally expect them to dramatically improved and to continue improving. Troy has had some success in the past, but like USA, we have never lost to Troy. They also have some athletes, and have had a decent start so far. Both teams will definitely challenge us.”
Both matches start at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Alumni Memorial Gym.