Johnson City, Tenn. (September 13, 2002) - Head coach Deane Webb knew that his East Tennessee State volleyball team needed a big win in order to bust out of its current slump. On Friday night the Buccaneers got off to a slow start against visiting Chattanooga, losing the first game 30-26, but ETSU rattled off three consecutive victories over the Lady Mocs to take the match 3-1 in front of its home fans in Brooks Gym.
For a minute it looked as if the Bucs would let the second game slip away until freshman Nicole Ryan (Etiwanda, Calif.) caught on fire. The 5'11" outside hitter sparked a late-game rally to lead East Tennessee State to a dramatic 33-31 victory. Ryan finished the evening with 28 kills, which was one kill shy of breaking the school's record for kills in a four-game match. ETSU then dominated game three, 30-15, before securing the match with a 30-28 decision in game four.
"There were spots where we played very well, particularly in game three," said Webb. "At the end of the match I looked out on the floor and saw five freshman and one sophomore. This win was a great character building experience for our young players."
Freshman Katie Ralph (Seattle, Wash.) teamed up with Ryan and came on strong in games three and four, finishing the match with 19 kills on 33 attempts (.485).
"Nicole and Katie really established themselves as leaders on this team tonight," said Webb. "It was a breakthrough night for both of them."
Jody Steinberger and Kari Krouse led Chattanooga with 18 and 12 kills, respectively, and setter Jessica Woodby tallied 39 assists. For the ETSU, sophomore Karen Freeburg (New Castle, Ind.) continued to play well defensively registering 18 digs, and freshman Renee Vesey served up 53 assists.
Now, ETSU will have some time off now before traveling to Georgia Southern on Sunday, Sept. 22. The Buccaneers will be hosting a middle school tournament on Saturday, Sept. 14, and will be back into the gym for practice the following Monday. In the meantime, Webb and the Lady Bucs will enjoy the win over Chattanooga, but they realize there is still much work to be done.
"Again, tonight was a great win for this team and we appreciate all of the fans coming out to support us, especially the ‘bleacher creatures' with their painted chests," Webb added. "But we can't rest on our laurels. We get a few days off from playing now and we have to use this time to improve in practice."