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Lady Bucs volleyball gets whole package in Buhr and Emerson
Jennifer Emerson (top) and Sarah Buhr
Jennifer Emerson (top) and Sarah Buhr

Friday, November 11, 2005

The East Tennessee State volleyball team recently completed the 2005 regular season, boasting an 18-13 record, the most wins by the Lady Bucs since the 2001 season.  Two crucial parts of that success have been junior transfers Sarah Buhr (Stockton, Calif.) and Jennifer Emerson (Santa Clara, Calif.). 

 

Even though Buhr and Emerson put on the Lady Bucs uniform for the first time this fall, it isn't the first time they've suited up on the same side of the court.  Both players made the trek to Johnson City, from San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif.

 

Though Buhr and Emerson, had always hoped to leave SJDC as a package deal, Emerson was the first name to cross ETSU head coach Lindsey Devine's desk.

 

"ETSU had originally just been looking for a setter," said Buhr. Then they found out about me, and that we were also interested in a package deal."

 

"So, I was the second half," Buhr said with a laugh.

 

After hearing about both players, Devine knew that the pair would be a great fit for ETSU.

 

"After watching tapes and talking with them," said Devine.  "I knew that if we got them as a package, we'd be in great shape."

 

But Buhr and Emerson knew, though it would be nice to make the transition together, it wasn't necessarily going to happen.

 

"It (the package deal) was never really a must-have situation," said Buhr.  "But it was definitely something we'd talked about since our freshmen year.  We've always known the reality that it might not happen, but it would be awesome if it did."

 

But happen it did, as both players joined the Lady Bucs volleyball squad during the summer of 2005.  Though the transition period to any new environment is sometimes a difficult one, through its ups and downs, Buhr and Emerson always saw a familiar face.

 

"It's always nice to have somebody that you already know playing with you," said Emerson.  "Because I knew Sarah, it was definitely easier to kind of bounce ideas off each other on how we could improve, or what the team needs to do to get better."

 

"It was definitely a comfort," explained Buhr.  "It was good to know that I was going through this with someone I already knew and trusted, and could fall back on.  Especially after a really tough day, I knew I was going back to a place were my roommate already knew what I was going through."

 

Along with a new team and new school, Buhr and Emerson were also dealing with a whole new way of life, moving from the West Coast to the South.

 

"It's different," said Emerson.  "You can't even compare the two (California and Tennessee).  But being different is one of the things I like about it.  I like it here; it's a nice change of pace."

 

By all accounts, Buhr and Emerson sailed through the transition and have been excelling in their new surroundings, both on the court and in the classroom.

 

So far, Emerson has done exactly what she came to ETSU to do, leading the Lady Bucs in assists, putting up 8.21 sets per game, and 961 on the year.  Buhr has also proved she came to play, belting 3.13 kills per frame, the second-best output on the team.

 

The pair has also been two of the team's top defenders with Buhr leading the team with 2.60 digs per game, and Emerson right behind with 2.36.

 

Emerson cites ETSU's academics as one of the major factors in her decision to come to Johnson City.

 

"There were a lot of aspects besides sports that brought me here," said Emerson.  "But I really liked coach Devine when we came to visit.  She was really honest, and told us our role on the team before we even signed, so we knew exactly what we were getting into."

 

Buhr echoed her teammate's statement, adding that she came to ETSU for, amongst other things, the opportunity for a new experience.

 

"I think what tipped the scales in ETSU's favor was that it was something new and different," noted Buhr.  "I mean, when would I get another chance to live in Tennessee for a couple years?  Its new places, new people, new challenges, and a new way of life, I was excited about a different college experience."

 

One of the differences the pair faced was coming from a program which had experienced a great deal of success, to a club that was, like the two Californians, in a transition period.  ETSU, coming off a couple of down seasons, was looking for a spark to make a change, something that Buhr and Emerson were more than happy to help out with."

 

"Just being a part of a change and being part of the catalyst to make that change," said Buhr, when asked what the best thing about this season has been.  "Going from previous records to this year's record has been a big difference, and it's really fun to be part of that change."

 

Emerson likes that fact that the sky is the limit for her and her teammates.

 

"I like knowing the potential of this team is so great," said Emerson.  "We're still discovering new positions for people to play and new levels of intensity.  We don't quite know everything about the team yet, that's the exciting part."

 

Devine knew upon meeting the pair that they had the winning attitudes that the Lady Bucs needed.

 

"They're used to winning," said Devine. "And they brought that mentality with them.  So rather than having just one voice, saying 'come on, we've got to do this,' we've got both of them, and that's really important to a college program."

 

And winning is what both student-athletes have on their minds going into next weekend's Atlantic Sun Conference tournament.

 

"I truly believe we have the potential to be the Cinderella story of this tournament," commented Buhr.  "We haven't played well in Conference thus far, and I really don't think anyone in the conference has seen the team we can be.  We have the ability and the dream to go in as the number six seed, and walk out of there with a plane ticket to the NCAA tournament."

 

Buhr also sees the A-Sun Championships as an opportunity for redemption, as the Lady Bucs draw number-three seed and host school Belmont in the first round.  The Bruins already downed the Lady Bucs in their regular season match up.

 

"We're going to go in and study the tape, make adjustments, and go in and put it all on the floor," explained Buhr.  "We'll see where we go from there."

 

After ETSU, Emerson, a biology major, hopes to return to California to earn her master's degree and become a physician's assistant.  Buhr, also plans on getting a master's, but also has dreams of furthering her career in athletics.

 

"I've always dreamed of playing overseas," said the Spanish major.  "Getting a chance to play in any country that speaks Spanish would be a dream come true."

 

Though both student-athletes have future aspirations beyond Johnson City, ETSU fans are certainly glad to have them while they can.

 

Jess Riden

ETSU Athletic Media Relations