JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2012) – The two hottest teams in the Atlantic Sun squared off on Friday night; unfortunately, the ETSU volleyball team saw its four-match win streak snapped as North Florida rallied past the Blue and Gold in five (25-22, 18-25, 25-18, 20-25, 12-15) inside UNF Arena.
The Bucs held a 2-1 lead in the match, but despite leading 14-11 in the fourth, ETSU couldn’t put the match away. UNF closed the set out on a 14-6 run to force the decisive fifth set, and the Ospreys set the tone in the final frame by winning seven of the first ten points. The Blue and Gold were able to pull within a point twice; however, UNF hung on for the comeback win by taking the fifth, 15-12.
“UNF did a great job as the match went on and they built moment with their serving,” said head coach Lindsey Devine. “We struggled to find a rhythm, and when you play a team like UNF point-for-point, you know it’s going to be a struggle. UNF plays scrappy defense, and at this point of the season when every game is so crucial, you need to bring your best performance. Tonight we didn’t bring the focus and didn’t execute the game plan.”
Junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) recorded her ninth straight double-double and the 22nd of the season, while also setting a new conference mark for double-doubles in A-Sun only matches. Devine – who finished with 14 kills and 15 digs – registered her 14th double-double in conference matches, breaking Florida Gulf Coast’s Jelena Simic’s record of 13 set in 2009. Along with Devine, Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) tallied double-digit kills, while Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) just missed generating a double-double. Hardy ended with 13 kills and a .417 attack percentage and Gesell added 11 kills. Meanwhile, Rutledge compiled 41 assists and nine digs in the match.
With the setback, ETSU had its four-match winning streak come to an end as the Bucs saw their mark dip to 20-11, 11-6 in A-Sun play, while UNF won its fifth straight and improved to 19-11, 10-7. In addition, the Bucs missed their chance of securing the No. 3 seed in next week’s conference tournament, but a win Saturday evening at Jacksonville will get the job done.
The first set saw 14 ties and six lead changes, but ETSU won seven of the final 11 points to claim the victory, 25-22. The Bucs grabbed a two-point lead early on in the game when a block assist by Hardy and Gesell pushed the ETSU advantage to two, 10-8, but UNF responded with a 7-3 spurt to go ahead, 15-13. From there, play remained tight, but with things knotted at 18, the Blue and Gold ended the set on their 7-4 run to capture the win. Both team’s statistics were nearly identical except for the serving and block numbers. The Blue and Gold took advantage of five Osprey service errors, while the Bucs out-blocked UNF by two, 3-1. Hardy paced the ETSU offense by finishing with five of its 13 kills and hit a scorching .714 in the stanza.
Unfortunately, ETSU couldn’t carry the momentum over to the second as the Ospreys won the final six points of the set to even in the match, 25-18. The Bucs won the first two points of the frame, but UNF used a 6-1 run to go up three, 6-3. The Bucs were able to pull even at six and led 13-12 courtesy of Gesell’s kill; however, UNF responded with four consecutive scores – and after trailing 19-18 – the Blue and Gold couldn’t get over the hump as the Ospreys closed play on their 6-0 run. UNF – the top ranked team in opponent hitting percentage in the A-Sun – held ETSU to a -.048 clip (7-8-23), while the Ospreys hit .261 (11-5-23) in the second. After out-blocking the Ospreys in the opener, UNF returned the favor in set two by winning the battle, 4-1.
North Florida threw the first punch in the third as the Ospreys opened up a 9-5 lead early on, but ETSU absorbed the blow and rallied to a 25-18 win to go up 2-1 in the match. With the Ospreys up by four, the Blue and Gold broke things open with a 15-4 surge to go ahead, 20-13, following a kill from Devine. The Ospreys were only able to cut their deficit to five, 23-18, but ETSU won the final two points to capture the seven-point victory. Five different Buccaneer players posted a kill in the third, with Devine leading the charge at four. As a team, ETSU hit .226 (12-5-31), had 14 digs, and two service aces in the frame. On the other side, UNF hit .139 (13-8-36), had 11 digs and were held to zero service aces.
In the fourth, play was nip and tuck early on, but with the set tied at 7-all, ETSU used a 7-4 spurt to build a three-point cushion when Rutledge found Hardy for a kill – making it the 14-11 score. However, that’s when momentum shifted for good in the match as the Ospreys won 14 of the final 20 points in the stanza to fuel the comeback. Then, in the fifth, UNF stormed out to the 7-3 start – but after the Blue and Gold cut their deficit to one (9-8) on Gesell’s kill – ETSU couldn’t inch any closer. In the fourth and fifth sets combined, both teams tallied 12 attack errors, but UNF had five more kills than the Bucs, 23-18. The Bucs were also out-blocked 5-2 and out-dug 21-17 in the fourth.
Like the Bucs, UNF had three players finish in double figures with kills as Anna Budinska paced the Ospreys at 17, while Britt Claessens added a double-double – finishing with 50 assists and 10 digs.
For the match, both teams recorded 62 digs, but the Ospreys won the margin in kills by 12, 62-50, assists by eight, 56-48, and blocks by one, 13-12.
The Bucs wrap up regular season play Saturday evening when ETSU takes on Jacksonville. First serve is set for 5 p.m. inside Swisher Gym.
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