Courtesy of Scott Wallace, Communications Coordinator for Volleyball & Softball , Tennessee State Athletics
The Tennessee State University Tiger volleyball team and the UT Martin Skyhawks have two things in common. They both are coming off seasons that they are the defending Ohio Valley Conference championships. The Tigers were the surprised OVC postseason winners after being picked to finish last in the preseason. Martin won the regular season championship. They both have started the 2023 season on a bit of a struggle.
TSU (2-12, 2-2) opened the season by losing all ten pre-conference games. They started OVC play with two wins at Tennessee Tech. The Skyhawks (3-11, 1-3 OVC) were 2-8 before OVC play. They started OVC play 0-2 after losing to Eastern Illinois. Martin split with Lindenwood on the road last weekend, while the Tigers were swept at home against Southern Indiana. Both teams will be looking to get back to their winning ways.
Martin has won eight in a row in the series. The last time TSU won against the Skyhawks in Martin was October 21, 2014. The Lipscomb Bison are the only common opponent for both teams this year. Both teams fell to the Bison, with TSU losing in straight sets and Martin falling in five.
Match 15: TSU (2-12, 2-2 OVC) at UT Martin (3-11, 1-3 OVC)
Date/Time: Tuesday, October 3 | 6 p.m. (CST)
WatchTennessee State vs. UT Martin (10/3/23) – Stream the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Game – Watch ESPN
Live Stats:Tennessee State at UT Martin (statbroadcast.com)
Location: | Skyhawk Fieldhouse, Martin, Tennessee
Head coach Donika Sutton loves to motivate her players. Last season, her team was picked to finish last by her conference counterparts. That prediction inspired the Tennessee State Tiger volleyball team to win the OVC tournament, earning an automatic berth in the NCAA. Despite their strong finish, the Tigers are once again motivated. They are picked to finish sixth out of the 11 conference teams.
Three of the five leaders in digs for the Tigers are freshmen. Celianiz Cabranes leads the team with 252. Jadyn Webb is third with 68, and Alanys Otero is fifth with 63. The trio’s efforts are needed while junior libero Hadley Pride recovers from injury.
Six Million Dollar Man Recruiting
After playing nationally ranked Stanford University in the regular season and Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament, Sutton vowed to add size and speed to her recruitment strategy. With the addition of tall and athletic transfers Erica Calderone (Indian Hills Community College), Jayla Holcombe (Murray State), and Hennesys Lalane (Indian Hills CC), there are now eight players at her disposal who are listed at 6’0 and above.
Defense Wins Championships
Last season, the Tigers used an outstanding defense to fuel their run to the OVC championship. TSU led the OVC in opponent-hitting percentage (.172) and blocks per set (2.45) while also finishing as the only team in the conference to have over 300 total blocks with 326, placing them second in the country. Senior Kennedy Davis (138) and sophomore Gabrielle Johnson (129) had over 100 total blocks, with Davis leading the OVC in that category. Davis is the lone Tiger to make the OVC preseason all-conference team.
The Prides of the Nashville Area
Junior libero Hadley Pride has some big shoes to fill in trying to replace the OVC all-time leader in digs, Gina Rivera-Ortiz. Pride, a graduate of Hillsboro High School in Nashville, and Storm White, who hails from Smyrna, Tennessee, are the only Nashville area players on the roster.
Over the years, the Tigers have relied on an international approach to recruiting, so much that it isn’t foreign (see what I did there) to hear music from other countries during pregame warmups. Grad student Aleksandra Rojecka (Poland) and senior Alondra Santana-Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) are holdovers from last year’s team. Like Santana-Rodriguez, freshman duo Celianiz Cabranes and Alanys Otero are from Puerto Rico. Erica Calderone and Hennesys Lalane come to Big Blue Country from the Dominican Republic. Freshman Jadyn Webb has international experience playing for the US Virgin Islands.
THE TIGERSAT A GLANCE
- The Tigers are the defending OVC Tournament champions.
- The Tigers have won the last three games at Skyhawk Fieldhouse; all three games were not against Martin.
- TSU leads the OVC in blocks.
- Senior Kennedy Davis was the lone Tiger named to the Preseason All-OVC Team. She is tied for the most total blocks in the OVC.
- Celestial Miller led the Tigers in kills for the first this season with 15 on Saturday. She also had 11 digs, recording her first double-double of the season.
- Hennesys Lalane has recorded double-doubles in three of the last four games.
SCOUTING THE UT MARTIN SKYHAWKS:
- Head coach Jaclyn Wilson is the OVC 2022 Coach of the Year.
- The Skyhawks were picked to finish third in the OVC.
- Dylan Mott started the season fifth all-time in digs for Martin.
- Kayla Carroll ranks eighth in the OVC with 3.57 digs per set.
- Olivia Saunders is ninth in the league with a .284 hitting percentage.
The Tigers will take a week off before taking on SEMO at home on October 13 and 14.