SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Oct. 19, 2012) – The ETSU volleyball team saw its four-game winning streak come to an end Friday night as USC Upstate defeated the Bucs in five (25-16, 17-25, 24-26, 27-25, 10-15) inside the G.B. Hodge Center.
Junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) compiled her third straight double-double (16th of the season) after finishing with 23 kills and 16 digs, while sophomore Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) registered her 1,000th career assist after generating 55 assists and nine digs in the match. Meanwhile, Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) combined for 30 of ETSU’s 67 kills. Hardy ended with 15 kills and three blocks and Gesell added 15 of her own, marking her fifth straight game with double digit kills.
The Bucs – who had won a season-best four straight and eight of their last 11 – dropped to 16-9, 7-4 in A-Sun play following the setback, while the Spartans won their third consecutive match, improving to 10-13, 5-6.
The beginning of the first set was tightly contested, but a 6-0 surge by the Blue and Gold shifted all the momentum to ETSU’s side and the Bucs cruised to a 25-16 victory. With Hardy serving, the Kingsport, Tenn. native began the run with a kill and pulled the Bucs even at eight with one of ETSU’s five service aces, and in the end, the Blue and Gold led 12-9 after scoring the six unanswered points. From there, the Spartans never knew what hit them as ETSU gradually increased its lead and closed out the set with four straight points to secure the nine-point win. Devine – who put the finishing touches on the set with consecutive service aces – led the Bucs with five of their 12 kills. Hardy and Gesell both posted three kills each, while Rutledge had all of ETSU’s 11 assists.
USC Upstate evened the match at one set apiece by taking the second, 25-17. The Bucs won three of the first four points of the stanza and led 13-12 midway through, but the Spartans mounted a 13-4 run to record the eight-point win. After hitting .333 (12-3-27) and holding USC Upstate to a .148 attack percentage (9-5-27) in the opener, the teams flipped roles in the second as the Spartans hit .421 (17-1-38), compared to ETSU’s .191 clip (15-6-47).
Despite fighting back from five down and dodging set point twice, ETSU couldn’t pull off the comeback as USC Upstate hung on for a 26-24 win in the third to take a 2-1 lead in the match. The Spartans won six of the first seven points of the set and led 12-7 before the Blue and Gold started chipping away at the deficit. From there, the Bucs pulled within one five times before tying the game at 18 on an attack error by Emily Bingham. Unfortunately, ETSU couldn’t get over the hump as the Spartans regained the lead – and after knotting things back up at 24 – the Bucs couldn’t strike for the crucial point as Upstate secured the two-point victory. The Spartans hit .212 (16-5-52) and registered 26 digs, 16 assists, and three service aces in the third, while ETSU finished with a .191 (14-5-47) clip, to go along with 23 digs, 14 assists, and two service aces.
The fourth set was a classic see-saw game as both teams combined for 18 ties and five lead changes, but the Bucs came away for a 27-25 win to force a fifth and decisive set. Neither team led by more than three points in the entire frame, while Upstate built a two-point cushion when a kill by Bingham made it a 17-15 contest, but ETSU looked to have things in control after one of Hardy’s five kills in the stanza put the Blue and Gold ahead, 23-20. However, the Spartans strung together a run of three straight scores to tie it at 23, but following two more ties, Devine stepped up with a kill and set-ending block to lift ETSU to the victory. ETSU used strong efforts from Hardy and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) in the set, as they accounted for eight of the Bucs’ 18 kills and combined for a .467 attack percentage (8-1-15). As a team, the Blue and Gold hit .326 (18-4-43) and out-blocked the Spartans, 5-1.
ETSU stormed out to a 3-0 start in the fifth courtesy of kills from Gesell and Devine, along with an attack error by Kayla McAvoy; however, things unraveled in a hurry as the Spartans scored seven straight points before Gesell ended the surge with a kill to make it a 7-4 affair. The Bucs weren’t able to make a dent in the deficit as Upstate won four consecutive points following Gesell’s kill to take a commanding 11-4 advantage. From there, ETSU was only able to cut its deficit to four on three different occasions, and the Spartans ended the match with a kill by Bingham. Upstate was nearly flawless in the fifth as they only recorded one attack error and hit .438 (8-1-16), while ETSU finished with a .138 percentage (8-5-22).
USC Upstate had two players post double-doubles as Lexi Gober finished with 52 assists, 13 digs, and six kills, while Kayla Eversgerd added 18 kills and 15 digs. As a team, the Spartans hit .264 (68-21-178) and totaled 84 digs and 66 assists.
Meanwhile, the Bucs hit .237 (67-23-186) and generated 72 digs, 64 assists, and nine service aces. ETSU’s nine service aces tied a season-best, while sophomore Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) tallied a season high 19 digs.
The Bucs will now have a week off between matches as ETSU wraps up its four-game road swing next weekend, beginning with a trip to Lipscomb on Friday, Oct. 26. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. (Eastern) inside Allen Arena.
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