Lady Raiders Start Off Conference Play Right

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In the conference opener of 2016, Aubrie Huddleston and Regan Coughlin shined as the Blue Raiders came away with a 3-1 victory at UAB Friday night.

Playing in front of her home-state fans, Huddleston tallied 12 kills, four digs, a career-high two aces and a solo block. The Huntsville, Ala. native also tied her career high in points with 15.

Coughlin finished the night with her fourth double-double of the season as she recorded a season-high 15 kills to go along with 13 digs. Coughlin also eclipsed the 100-kill mark for the season in the second set.

Bailey Mason also surpassed the 100-kill mark for the year with her four-kill performance. Setter Jacqueline Lux dished out 34 assists along with nine digs.

“Road wins are tough, no matter what conference you are in and no matter what team you are playing. That really shows the resilience of our kids and the focus they played with this week,” assistant coach Jeff Huebner said. “I think you take what you can from the match. We’re obviously really talented when we are all together.”

The Blue Raiders opened the first set with a 4-0 lead that quickly grew to 10-5 behind Huddleston’s block. UAB answered to trim the lead to 11-8, but MT used a 10-6 run to cushion the lead to 21-14. Silencing any Blazer run, MT held set point at 24-17, and an ace from Lux gave the Raiders the 1-0 lead in the match.

The Raiders opened the second set with a 5-2 lead that would not be relinquished. Out in front 15-10, the Blazers used their offense to close the gap to 15-14. A timely kill by Coughlin, an ace from Delaney Gallagher and a kill by Mason put MT back in control. With set point again in hand, MT finished the frame with another ace from Huddleston to go ahead 2-0.

Following the intermission, the Blazers answered. With UAB ahead 10-9 in the third set, the Blazers forced seven attack errors and used a 13-2 run to build a 23-11 lead. MT offered a rally of its own with a 5-0 run to close the gap, but UAB finished the set 25-16 to get on the board.

The final set of the match started with a back-and-forth until Middle Tennessee claimed a 12-10 lead. UAB knotted the match at 12-12 and forced ties over the next six points. The Raiders found an offensive spark when Huddleston collected her 10th kill of the night to give MT a 17-15 advantage. The Blue Raiders used the momentum to open a 22-18 lead. An assisted block by Mason and Vonnie Covington put the Raiders closer to victory, and a tight-rope kill down the line by Coughlin gave the Raiders match point. The Raiders claimed the final play to take the set and the match and open conference action with a win.

Huddleston recorded five of the Raiders’ 12 kills in the final set and hit .235 for the match.

“I think she has put in the work this week. Her and Jacqueline have been connecting really well. It speaks volumes about her setter and delivering the ball from anywhere on the court. That connection has improved,” Huebner said. “She played great. You can’t say enough about a kid who is a great teammate and puts in the work every day.”

Middle Tennessee will close its conference-opening weekend at Marshall on Sunday. First serve against the Herd is slated for 12 p.m. CT.

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