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Lady Govs open home slate with OVC-openers against Murray State and UT Martin

 

APSU Women’s Volleyball

Austin Peay State University Governors

After a highly successful season-opening road swing, Austin Peay State University’s volleyball team opens its home and Ohio Valley Conference schedules with a pair of weekend contests. The Lady Govs host long-time rival Murray State in a 7:00pm, Friday contest before UT Martin visits for a 2:00pm, Saturday match. Both contests will be played at the Dunn Center and admission is free to all fans.

Austin Peay completed its 10-match road swing with an impressive 9-1 record. The Lady Govs finished second at both the Mississippi State Maroon Classic and the IUPUI Hampton Inn Invitational before winning the East Tennessee Buccaneer Classic, last weekend.

Sophomore Nikki Doyle and junior Ilyanna Hernandez paced the Lady Govs offense through the season’s opening 10 matches. Doyle leads the OVC with 3.60 kills per set while Hernandez is third among conference hitters with 3.31 kills per set. However, the offense has remained balanced with the team’s five starting hitters each recording a 10-plus kill outing this season. In addition, senior Taylor Skinner leads the league with a .350 attack percentage while junior Kayla Grantham is fourth with a .292 attack percentage.

Lady Govs Volleyball. (Courtesy: Austin Peay Sports Information)

Lady Govs Volleyball. (Courtesy: Austin Peay Sports Information)

Particularly impressive in the early going has been Austin Peay’s service game, which has recorded 77 service aces in 10 matches, averaging 2.20 service aces per set – which ranks seventh nationally. Five Lady Govs have reached double-digits in service aces, Hernandez leading the team with 17 while senior Taylor Skinner and junior Kayla Grantham each have added 13 aces.

“We’re always working to get better,” said Lady Govs head coach Haley Janicek. “If we get too comfortable, our growth will hinder. That being said, now is the time to push the hardest. The pre-conference schedule is designed to expose our weaknesses before conference play and allow us to fix them. Now it’s up to us to show what we have learned from those matches.”

Murray State opened the 2010 campaign with four straight losses, but has three wins in its last six outings to stand at 3-7 entering conference play. The Racers finished second at the Cincinnati Bearcat Invitational, September 3rd-4th, winning two of their three matches and losing only to host Cincinnati. Last weekend, Murray State picked up a victory against Western Carolina at the Evansville Tournament.

Senior Ashley Nenniger leads the Murray State offensive attack with 96 kills this season, her 2.85 kills per set average ranking 10th among OVC hitters. Senior Becca Lamb is ranked third among league hitters with a .315 attack percentage, recording 93 kills in the early going.

The conference opener for both teams will come down to defense. Offensively, Austin Peay and Murray State are ranked first and second, respectively, in hitting percentage this season. However, the Lady Govs boast the league’s best defense, holding opponents to a .158 attack percentage. Murray State’s defense is ranked ninth, allowing opponents to hit .247.

The Austin Peay-Murray State series has been closely fought with the Racers holding a narrow 32-28 edge all-time. The Lady Govs ended the Racers seven-match win streak in the series with a victory at the Dunn Center to end the 2009 campaign.

“Conference play is everything in the OVC,” Janicek said.” I think we are in a very good spot right now with the opportunity to open up conference play at home, especially against a team that has proven, over time, to be very competitive. We are looking forward to finally playing in front of our fans.”

UT Martin brings a 2-9 record into the league’s opening weekend, after falling in three sets at Southern Illinois, Tuesday – the seventh sweep suffered in its opening 11 matches. The Skyhawks two victories this season came at the Mercer Invitational, a three-set sweep of Citadel and a four-set victory against Presbyterian.

Offense has been UT Martin’s biggest problem early on with the team’s .127 attack percentage ranking ninth among the OVC’s 10 members. However, the Skyhawks posted a season-best .222 attack percentage at Southern Illinois.

Junior Brittany Wilburn leads the Skyhawks offense with a .282 attack percentage and is ranked sixth among the league’s hitters in that category. Lauren Montague leads UT Martin with 2.79 kills per set after missing the season’s opening weekend due to injury.

Austin Peay has won the last five meetings – and 10 of the last 12 contests – in the series against UT Martin to take a 35-29 lead in the all-time series. The Skyhawks last victory in Clarksville came during the 2006 campaign.

“We cannot afford to overlook an opponent during conference play,” said Janicek. “We have to come ready to play Austin Peay volleyball every night if we want to achieve our goals this season.”


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