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NCAA Tournament Notebook: Fighting off the 2007 comparisons

The Blue Raiders begin preparations for 2010 postseason

November 30, 2010 · Athletic Communications

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - As the NCAA First Round draws near for the Middle Tennessee volleyball team, the comparisons to their impressive 2007 run have become more and more pronounced.

The reasons are obvious. This season, Middle Tennessee has won both the Sun Belt regular season and tournament titles, tied a school record with 14 consecutive wins earlier in the season, and saw an athlete take home both the Player of the Year and Tournament Most Outstanding Player awards. The only other MT squad to accomplish those feats? 2007.

So are the comparisons fitting?

"I don't think so," head coach Matt Peck said. "This is a different team. We're a much deeper and more experienced this year. Even though we have young group here, everyone has played in a lot of sets. Everyone kind of knew what we were going to do that year, and with this current team, when one or two things aren't working, we can switch it up without losing a beat."

Peck also went on to stress that this year's team deserves to write their own future. 

"Earlier this season, some of the players wrote on the board in the locker room that they were kind of sick of hearing about the 2007 team. They want to make their own legacy and become the group that future teams will compare themselves to. As a coach, that's something that I like to see."

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Q&A with Kendall Howard

What are your thoughts on making the NCAA Tournament as a freshman?

"I'm more excited than anything. In high school, you dream about this and now it's becoming a reality. I would really like to go as far as we can and keep it going."

Both Halie Vannoy and Brynne Henderson were in similar situations as freshmen as you're in right now. Have they helped you over the course of the season?

"They have both been a big help to me this year. They've been really supportive and positive about everything this year. I think I could be playing a bit better, but they're always there for me. It's a competition between the three of us, but we always support each other."

Even though this is your first season, you came into the season hearing about the previous four years, have you used that as a measuring stick for this year?

"Yeah, definitely. I want to keep making it after this year, and continue the legacy." 

After starting the season 3-4, how have you seen this team change over the past 27 matches?

"I think that we've really picked up a lot of confidence with the wins. I feel that we've really come together as a team. We had a bit of drama earlier on with the slow start, but we've gotten past it and it shows."

What are your expectations this weekend?

"We're going to go all out, give 110%, and I really want to make it into the Sweet 16 because that would be really cool. We have to take it one game at a time though."

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Q&A with Angela Peyton

What are your thoughts on making the NCAA Tournament as a freshman?

"Really, I kind of expected it after the past few years. It was expected of us, and I'm glad that we've reached that goal."

Have you used those years as a gauge for where you are this season?

"Yes, but I'm a little tired of hearing about it. It's getting a little old. I want to surpass them and do better than they have. That way, people can hear about us in the future."

It's been a little different this year with you and fellow freshman Morgan Peterson splitting time at setter. How has that been?

"It's not really that different for me. I played the same type of role in both high school and club, and I like it. As long as we're doing what we can, it's better that we can show two different things with Morgan on the front row and me on the back. It also helps if one of us is a bit off, the other can pick it up."

What are your expectations this weekend?

"I think we can win, but it will definitely be a challenge for sure."

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Middle Tennessee will begin their 2010 NCAA Tournament campaign on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. The Blue Raiders will be squaring off with the Louisville Cardinals at Holloway Gymnasium on the campus of Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.

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