EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. - SIUE volleyball celebrated senior Jessica Hemann's final match in a Cougar uniform Friday but were defeated 3-1 in the season finale by UT Martin.
UT Martin, which is battling for the No. 2 seed at next week's Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, improved to 17-12 overall and 12-7 in conference play with a 25-22, 17-25, 25-23, 25-18 win over the Cougars. SIUE completed the season with a 13-19 mark and an 8-12 record in its first season playing with an OVC schedule.
The Cougars and the Skyhawks played a decidedly defensive match as the teams battled through long points and dizzying rallies. UT Martin finished with 95 digs in the four-set match, including 34 from libero Kasey Elswick. SIUE libero Chelsea Colclasure was equal to the task with 36 of her own.
"It was a great effort defensively on both sides of the net," said SIUE Head Coach Leah Johnson. "When one team competes that hard, it only challenges the other team. I am happy that we responded with that equal defensive mindset."
UT Martin grabbed its advantage by blocking well against the Cougars. Britany Wilburn, who had 11 kills, lifted the Skyhawks with eight blocks. UT Martin had 11 blocks for the match.
Cori Harris led the Cougar offense with 11 kills while Brooke Smith added 10. SIUE's offense outhit UT Martin. The Cougars finished the match with 57 kills and a .188 hitting percentage. UT Martin collected 52 kills and a .168 hitting percentage.
Hemann completed her final match with nine kills and a team-high three blocks. Johnson said Hemann was a boost to the team chemistry this season.
"Jessica took a lot of pride in preparing the underclassmen for that opportunity. She worked very hard all season to push her team to prepare them for that next level," added Johnson.
UT Martin started the match with an early lead but surrendered a four-point lead at 20-20 when Hemann put away a kill for the Cougars. The Skyhawks prevailed down the stretch behind a pair of kills from Wilburn.
SIUE would tie up the match in the second set with a steady hand. Hemann recorded five kills and Harris added four as it cruised to a .349 hitting percentage.
The play was tight again in the third set. The two teams were deadlocked at 23-23 when Wilburn and Ashley Doherty supplied back-to-back kills for the set victory. Doherty would lead all players with 14 kills.
"We gave ourselves every opportunity by digging the ball for a second chance. We just could not terminate," said Johnson.
Doherty would strike for five more kills in the fourth set. UT Martin claimed seven of the last nine points of the set to close out the victory.
"I'm very proud of what we have done this season. I think our team has come a long way. We have shown a lot of growth and you see that in how our scores have gone throughout the season," said Johnson.