HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (Oct. 27, 2012) – The ETSU volleyball team knows when they come together and stick to the game plan the outcome is typically in favor of the Blue and Gold. On Saturday, the Bucs followed the plan and used a total team effort to outlast Northern Kentucky, as ETSU defeated the Norse in a five-set thriller (25-20, 19-25, 27-25, 22-25, 15-10) inside Regents Hall.
As a team, the Bucs hit .268 (78-29-183) and posted season highs in kills (78) and assists (74), while individually four ETSU players either set or tied career marks in the match. Sophomore Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) finished with a career high 25 kills along with hitting a team-best .476 (25-5-42) and compiling five blocks and four digs. Meanwhile, fellow sophomores Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.), and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) tied their career bests in digs and assists. Muey – who registered 22 digs last August against Coastal Carolina – accomplished the same feat in the win on Saturday, while for the second time this season and against the same opponent, Rutledge totaled 64 assists. In addition to assists, Rutledge added eight digs and four blocks. Freshman Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) also matched her career mark in digs with 10.
Along with the career performances, junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) and sophomore Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) also put forth solid efforts for the Bucs. Devine notched her fifth straight double-double after tallying 18 kills, 14 digs, and five blocks, while Rice provided one of own with 14 kills and 14 digs.
With the win, the Bucs snapped their two-game conference skid and improved to 17-10, 8-5 in A-Sun play, whereas, NKU moved to 21-6, 8-5 following the setback.
Afterwards, head coach Lindsey Devine was pleased with the way ETSU responded after its loss at Lipscomb less than 24 hours ago.
“We followed the game plan and people stepped up big for us tonight” said Devine. “I thought Ashleigh did a great job and had some key digs, while Jamie got us in rhythm offensively. Meredith was able to establish herself early, which then opened it up for Megan and Bethany (Gesell). Ivey and Megan were both clutch out there for us by recording double-doubles and Jessica (Schafer) gave us a lift with a huge block in the third set.
“It’s tough to win on the road, especially after falling to Lipscomb 3-0 last night, but we really responded with the competitive attitude we’ve been looking for. The girls showed a lot of pride and they understood the magnitude of this match. Every match from here on out is crucial. To turn around after last night’s loss and show the trust and faith in what the coaching staff has been preaching all year is so pleasing to see. In the end, it shows our team is capable of doing great things when they stick to the game plan. This team took a big step forward with their play tonight and we are excited to return home on Tuesday night.”
Despite getting down early in the first set, the Bucs weathered the storm and kept their composure to come away with a five-point win, 25-20. NKU jumped out to a 5-1 start in the frame, but ETSU answered with a 10-4 spurt to take an 11-9 advantage, forcing the Norse to burn their first timeout following an attack error by Shelby Buschur. From that juncture, the Blue and Gold never trailed and eventually built four five-point cushions until Devine ended the set with her fifth kill. Devine led the Blue and Gold in kills, while Rice (four), Hardy (three), and Bethany Gesell (two) also finished with double figures in the statistical category. ETSU kept the league’s top hitting team in check in the opener as the Norse compiled a .091 clip (10-7-33), compared to the Bucs’ .257 (16-7-35) attack percentage.
The second set saw NKU win seven of the first 12 points, but the Blue and Gold quickly knotted the game at seven, courtesy of Gesell’s third kill of the match. From there, play remained tight as the teams accounted for six ties until the Norse moved a 14-all game to an 18-14 lead after Rutledge was called for a ball handling error. The 4-0 NKU run gave the home team all the momentum needed to even up the match at one, as the Norse captured a 25-19 victory in set two. After being forced into seven attack errors in the opener, NKU only committed one miscue on 32 attempts and registered 13 kills in the second. Meanwhile, ETSU finished with four extra kills than the Norse, but unforced errors led to NKU tying the match. The Blue and Gold were charged with 11 unforced errors, compared to only one by NKU.
In the third, the Norse led for the majority of the set, but when it was all said and done, ETSU was left holding a 2-1 lead in the match, thanks to a kill by Devine and a block assist by Jessica Schafer (Dekalb, Ill.) and Rutledge. NKU – who led by as many as six in the stanza – couldn’t overcome the strong will and determination by the Bucs. NKU opened up to a 4-1 start, led 13-7 midway through, and thought they had things in control when a block assist from Buschur and Julian Jayden put the Norse up 22-16. However, the Blue and Gold buckled down and closed out play with an astonishing 11-3 surge to complete the incredible comeback, 27-25. Rice and Hardy were solid in the late stages of the set as they combined for six kills (three each), while six different Buccaneer players provided scoring plays for ETSU during the blitzkrieg. The Bucs hit .368 (16-2-38) as a team and Hardy fueled the charge with a .727 attack percentage. The Kingsport, Tenn. native recorded eight kills on 11 attempts.
Following the third set win, NKU evened the match at two by winning the fourth, 25-22, but ETSU redeemed itself from its five-set heartbreaker last Friday at USC Upstate by ending the decisive frame on a 10-4 run to earn the all-important road conference win, 15-10. With the Bucs trailing 6-5 in the fifth, Devine began the final spurt with kill from Devine and Gesell’s slam gave ETSU a 9-6 lead. Another kill by Gesell propelled the Blue and Gold to a 10-7 advantage, forcing the Norse to call their final timeout, but the stoppage of play couldn’t cool off the surging Bucs. Devine, Hardy, and Rice provided the spark offensively, while Rutledge set up the big plays with 11 assists in the stanza. The Buccaneer trio combined for 10 of the 12 kills in the set and hit a blistering .529 (10-1-17). Once again, ETSU did a tremendous job keeping the strong hitting team in check, as the Norse were held to a .133 (4-2-15) attack percentage in the final frame.
Freshman Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) added eight kills and five blocks along with hitting .316 (8-2-19) for the match, while Gesell generated 11 kills – marking the seventh time in the last nine matches the High Point, N.C. native tallied double figures in the offensive category.
Kelly Morrissey led the Norse with a double-double after finishing with 14 kills, 10 digs, and four blocks.
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