JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (September 20, 2011) – Freshman Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and sophomore Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) each recorded 13 points to lead the ETSU volleyball team past USC Upstate, 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-23), Tuesday night in the Atlantic Sun opener for both squads, inside Brooks Gym.
The Bucs improve their record to 7-8 (1-0 A-Sun) on the season, while USC Upstate falls to 3-9 (0-1 A-Sun). ETSU has now won its conference opener in three consecutive seasons.
“Now that we are in conference play every match is so important,” said ETSU head coach Lindsey Devine. “You have to win matches at home and that’s what I stress to the team, because it is tough when you are on the road to have to win those matches. I thought that USC Upstate did a good job coming in here – they were scrappy and tenacious in their approaches of not letting a ball fall, but for us getting that first conference win at home in front of a great crowd is a great feeling for our team.”
Devine led the Bucs with a game-high 13 kills, while also adding nine digs. Meanwhile, Hardy had a solid all-around night with nine kills, four digs, three service aces and a block. Hardy was extremely efficient, totaling her nine kills on just 16 attempts with only one error, for a .500 hitting efficiency. Jamie Stancliff (Advance, N.C.) totaled 10.5 points on seven kills and a team-high five blocks, while also adding five digs. Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.), who was coming off an all-tournament performance over the weekend, played a solid floor game by finishing with a match-high 35 assists, while also totaling seven digs, three kills and a block. Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) combined for 15 kills, while Rice added seven digs and Gesell chipped in with four blocks. Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) tallied nine digs to tie Devine for the team-best on Tuesday night.
The Bucs finished the night with a decisive 47-32 advantage in kills, while also out-hitting the Spartans .240 - .180. ETSU also out-blocked USC Upstate, 7-5.
The opening set started with both teams trading off points for the first several possessions. Then, with USC Upstate in front 13-11, ETSU reeled off five straight points thanks to two kills by Devine and one each by Hardy and Rutledge. The other point came on a Hardy block. The kill by Devine to put the Bucs up 16-13 forced a USC Upstate timeout. The Spartans recorded a point after the timeout to pull within two but that is as close as the set would get. ETSU closed the set on a 3-0 run to take the frame, 25-18. Devine led the way with seven kills on 10 attempts without an error in the stanza, while the Bucs hit a stellar .444 as a team.
The Spartans got out to the quick start in the second set by taking an early 7-3 advantage. The Bucs pulled within one on three different occasions, but the Spartans would not relinquish the lead. USC Upstate looked to be in control of the set after extending its lead to six at 19-13, forcing an ETSU timeout. After a USC Upstate kill to make the score 23-18, ETSU put together a timely 7-0 rally to win the set, 25-23. During the 7-0 run, the Bucs got two kills from Devine and one each from Stancliff and Rice. The clinching point came on an opportune block by Stancliff and Gesell. Devine and Rice each had five kills to lead the Bucs in the set.
The third set started out very similar to the second set with USC Upstate jumping out to the quick 7-3 advantage. The Bucs quickly erased the deficit; however, by taking six of the next seven points for the 9-8 advantage. USC Upstate would not go away as the Spartans put together three mini rallies, capped off by a 4-0 run to take a 19-11 lead. An ETSU 3-0 run cut the lead to 19-14, forcing a USC Upstate timeout. After the timeout, an ETSU service error and an Upstate block extended the lead to 21-14. From there, the Bucs went on an incredible 8-0 run to take a 22-21 lead, their first lead since the 9-8 advantage. Stancliff and Hardy were stellar during the run, as Stancliff recorded three kills and Hardy added two timely aces. After both teams swapped points the next couple of possessions, ETSU got a kill from Gesell to earn set point at 24-23. Gesell was again part of the play on the next possession as she teamed with Stancliff for a match-ending block.
Kayla McAvoy and Morgan Thomas each had eight kills to lead USC Upstate, while Morgan Page led the defensive efforts with a game-high 21 digs.
ETSU takes a little break from match play until Friday, September 30 when it travels to Nashville, Tenn. to take on Belmont at 8:15 p.m. The Bucs will also travel just down the road to Lipscomb on Saturday at 3 p.m.
For more information on ETSU volleyball please visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball link.