The UTM volleyball team continued its winning ways today, defeating Charlotte 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 27-25) this morning and turning away UNC Asheville 3-1 (18-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-18) this afternoon in the Country Inn and Suites Invitational.
By picking up a pair of victories, the Skyhawks improved to 5-1 on the season. That ties the best six-match start to a season in the program’s Division-I history, equaling the 5-1 start in 2009 also under head coach Darrin McClure.
Against Charlotte, the UTM offense was led by Emily Keaton (.391 attack percentage) and Julia Devinney (.316), who each had a team-best 10 kills. Allie Whimpey added nine kills while Amanda Crask hit .438 with eight kills and 32 assists. Defensively, Chelsea Bowles recorded 16 digs while Devinney’s six blocks paced the Skyhawks at the net.
In the matinee, Keaton once again proved to be the difference offensively, slamming down a season-high 18 kills against only four errors in 40 attempts (.350). Devinney reached double-figures in the kill column (11) for the third time in the last four matches. Whimpey and Shelby Hoskins also added nine kills apiece for UTM. Bowles continued her hot start to the season with 27 digs, while Colleen Larson (20) and Lynsey Hazelwood (14) both set new career-highs in digs.
“Collectively, the team has played well,” McClure said. “Offensively, Amanda and Emily are doing a great job. We might have the best defensive combination in Colleen and Chelsea that I have ever had. They both played phenomenal today against UNC Asheville, who is a great team. I consider that a quality win for us.”
In the first set against Charlotte, the Skyhawks fell down 8-5 before a 10-2 run gave UTM the lead for the first time at 15-10. Devinney was a crucial part of the run, tallying two kills and a block during that span. An ace by Bowles pushed the Skyhawk lead out to 19-13 but Charlotte came back with five unanswered points to pull within one. The Skyhawks would hold on to take the early advantage thanks to a kill by Whimpey that concluded the set.
Devinney (four kills), Crask (12 assists) and Bowles (nine digs) led UTM in the first set.
Crask helped UTM jump out to a 6-2 lead in the second set, securing a pair of kills and a service ace during the Skyhawks’ early run. UTM held on to its lead until a 6-1 Charlotte run resulted in a 14-12 Skyhawk deficit. However, three straight UTM points – capped off by an assisted block by Michelle McLaughlin and Julia Devinney – tilted the score back in the advantage of the Skyhawks. Charlotte was able to take a two-point lead on three occasions before UTM ended the set on a 6-2 run, capped off by back-to-back kills by Keaton.
Keaton, Devinney and Whimpey each had four kills to account for three-fourths of UTM’s 16 kills in the second set.
After Charlotte jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the third set, the Skyhawks used a 5-0 run to double-up the score at 6-3. UT Martin held onto its lead until a 3-0 spurt by Charlotte saw the Skyhawks trail 12-11. However, UTM was responsible for six of the next seven points to go on top by a 17-13 margin. Charlotte then went on an 8-2 run to reclaim the lead at 21-19 and would lead 24-22 before UTM reeled off three straight points. After a Charlotte kill, Devinney and Keaton closed out the sweep with back-to-back kills.
UTM hit .289 in the third and final set (17 kills, six errors in 38 attempts), led by Hazelwood’s five kills and Crask’s 12 assists.
In the second match of the day, UNC Asheville led 6-3 in the first set and never looked back. A solo block by Crask got the Skyhawks within one at 8-7 and UTM would get within one point on two more occasions the rest of the way. UTM closed its gap to three points at 15-12 but UNC Asheville closed out to win the first set.
Despite the loss, Keaton tallied five kills against zero errors on seven swings (.714) in the first set.
Just as it had in the first set, UNC Asheville raced out to a 4-2 lead before the Skyhawks pieced together a 6-1 run, which included kills from four different players. UTM would push its lead out to 12-8 thanks to a Crask kill and would soon open up a five-point advantage thanks to a Whimpey kill that made the score 19-14. The Skyhawks extended their lead out to seven points on two occasions before earning the clinching point with an assisted block by Keaton and Hoskins.
Keaton was a perfect five-for-five with zero errors in the second set, helping UTM hit a robust .375 (16 kills, four errors, 32 assists).
The third set went back-and-forth early and with the score tied at 10-all, the Skyhawks unreeled a 4-0 lead thanks to back-to-back-to-back kills by Crask, Keaton and Hoskins. However, UNC Asheville recovered to put five straight points on the scoreboard to retake the lead. Neither side could push their lead out to more than two points until UTM scored four consecutive points to go on top 23-20. A Keaton kill provided the final point in the third set and gave the Skyhawks a 2-1 lead.
Hoskins had five kills against zero errors in nine attempts (.556) in the third set, while Crask (12 assists), Bowles (eight digs) and Larson (eight digs) also heavily contributed to the Skyhawk success in the third set.
UTM sped out to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set but UNC Asheville would shortly take a 5-4 lead. The Skyhawks then went on a 6-1 run – led by two service aces and a kill by Keaton – to go ahead 10-6 but UNC Asheville soon evened the contest at 10-10. UTM then boasted a long run, accounting for 13 of the next 17 points to surge on top by a 23-14 margin. UNC Asheville would close in within six points until Devinney gave the Skyhawks the win with a match-ending kill.
Keaton had five kills against zero errors while Bowles scooped up nine digs in leading UT Martin to victory.
The final day of the Country Inn and Suites Invitational takes place on Saturday, Sept. 7. The Skyhawks will battle a couple of intrastate rivals in Chattanooga (10 a.m.) and Tennessee (2 p.m.) while looking to claim their second straight tournament victory to open the season.