Blue Raiders end spring with a pair of wins

Waller collects 46 kills over three matches

April 14, 2012 · Athletic Communications
Blue Raiders end spring with a pair of wins Waller collects 46 kills over three matches MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee volleyball team was a bit short-handed on Saturday, but it managed to perform well in the annual spring tournament, defeating both ETSU and Tennessee State after falling to Austin Peay in the opener.

"I give the team a B today," head coach Matt Peck said. "I think we got off to a bit of a slow start against Austin Peay, but after that, I think we really got into a bit of a groove. Overall, I'm pretty pleased in our performance today. I'm very much looking forward to August and getting our whole team here."

Brandi Waller was the focal part of the MT attack for much of the day, and the junior didn't disappoint, tallying 46 kills and eight blocks over the three matches to lead the Blue and White.

"We really asked a lot of Brandi today," Peck said. "She had to play on the outside all day without getting a break. She did a pretty good job, and we used her a lot. I'm anxious to see how it translates to the fall because I think she can have the kind of big matches that our outsides have had in the past."

"I just went out there and played hard," Waller said. "I tried to go for smart shots and not just the hard hits. I had some shoulder pain, but I wasn't really getting too tired. I just wanted to help out the team."

Peck also turned to a pair of reserves in the middle with Tyler Richardson, who sat out last season with a redshirt, and Monét Marshall, who played in just 17 sets in the fall.

"I'm really pleased with our freshman middles today," Peck said. "Tyler and Monét are the only two middles we've had in practice this spring, so they've had a lot of reps, but games can be so much different. This was their game test, and they both got A's from me. I was very impressed with both of them, but they still have a ways to go in the fall."

"It's been a year since I've played, and I was really excited for today," Richardson said. "I had a lot of fun out there, and I felt great. I think I need to still work on my blocking and movement, and I'm looking forward to next season."

Richardson led all Blue Raiders with nine blocks to go along with 14 kills. Marshall added 17 kills and five stoppers.

In the first match, the Blue Raiders actually out-scored APSU, but the Lady Govs were able to hold on for a pair of 26-24 victories in the opening two frames. The two sides decided to play a third set, with MT routing APSU 15-4.

The opening stanza was tight in the early goings, but with the game tied at 13-13, Richardson reeled off three kills and Waller added two more a few moments later to go up 19-16. The Lady Govs ran off three points to tie it up, seeming to have an answer for every MT point, eventually taking a 22-21 lead. Marshall and Waller racked up back-to-back kills to go up 23-22, but APSU ran off four of the final five points to grab the 1-0 advantage.

The Lady Govs kept that momentum rolling early in the second set, grabbing a 6-1 advantage, but the Blue Raiders slowly worked their way back into it, tying it at 10-10 on a pair of Marshall kills. After three ties, APSU started to pull away, taking a 22-18 lead.

However, Waller would not be stopped, picking up two kills and a block to cut the deficit back to one. It appeared to be too little, too late for the Blue and White as the Lady Govs responded with two quick scores to set up three consecutive match points. Waller and Richardson racked up a kill and the duo combined with Angela Peyton on a block to force extra points. Unfortunately for MT, APSU was able to close it out with back-to-back scores.

MT grabbed an early lead in the third frame coasted to the finish. Richardson and Waller combining for seven kills in the frame, and and Maria Szivos tacked on a pair of aces to help the Blue Raiders to the 15-4 victory.

Waller registered 17 kills and four blocks and Szivos added nine kills to help MT to a 2-1 (25-22, 25-17, 13-15) victory over ETSU.

MT picked up right where they left off in the first set as Szivos posted a pair of kills and Waller put up two blocks to give MT the early 6-0 lead. It all appeared to be going right for the Blue and White, but the Buccaneers slowly started to get rolling, eventually tying things up at 19-19. Waller answered with two kills over the ensuing three points and service aces by Peyton and Halie Vannoy put the frame on ice.

The Buccaneers flipped the script on the Blue Raiders in the early goings, running off five straight points to begin the second set. MT got back into it as Waller tallied three kills and Vannoy recorded a service ace to cap a 7-2 swing to go up 8-6. The scoreline held over the next several minutes, but three Szivos kills and another Vannoy ace highlighted a 7-1 run to push the lead out to nine at 23-14 and secure the match victory.

MT took an early 8-4 lead in the third set, but the Buccaneers were able to fight back, taking their first lead at 10-9. A service error and Marshall kill gave the lead back to MT, but ETSU would not be denied, coming back to tie it and then following up a Waller kill with a 4-1 run to close out the frame.

The Blue Raiders utilized 13 more Waller kills in the third match, taking down TSU in 2-0 (25-18, 25-20) fashion.

The Tigers grabbed an early 3-6 lead in the first frame, but Richardson and Szivos each registered a kill and combined for a block over the course of a 4-0 run to take the lead at 7-6. TSU regained the advantage a few moments later, but gave it right back with a pair of attack errors to bring the score to 10-9 in favor of the Blue and White. After TSU tied it back up, Waller racked up four kills over the next five points to take control at 14-11, and MT would not seriously challenged down the stretch.

It was close in the early part of the second set, but Szivos totaled three kills and a block over the course of a 5-0 run to take an 11-7 lead. TSU cut the deficit back to one at at 13-12. However, Szivos responded once more with a kill and a pair of TSU attack errors pushed the lead back out to four at 16-12. Waller had three kills down the stretch to hold on for the win.

The tournament brings the MT spring season to an end. The Blue Raiders will now head into the offseason looking to get to work on a seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament berth.

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