NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 16, 2012) – The third time was the charm for the ETSU volleyball team.
After having Lipscomb sweep the regular season series, the Bucs won the one that mattered most as ETSU downed the Lady Bisons, 3-1 (19-25, 26-24, 25-22, 25-20), in Friday’s Atlantic Sun semifinal match inside Allen Arena.
With the win, ETSU (22-12) advanced to the A-Sun Championship for the second time in the last three years, while ending Lipscomb’s three-year run of hoisting the tournament championship trophy. Following the setback, Lipscomb finished its season with an 18-12 mark.
The Bucs, who hit .301 (56-19-123) as a team, battled back strong after dropping the opening set to claim the next three frames – all of which were nail biters. ETSU also out-blocked Lipscomb, 11-6, en route to setting a new A-Sun single season record with 348 total blocks on the year. Ironically, the Blue and Gold broke their own mark which was set in 2010, while the 348 blocks rank third all-time in ETSU history.
Individually, junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) etched her name into the A-Sun record book as she registered her 24th double-double of the season, tying her with Kelly Paiva from Florida Atlantic for the most in conference history. A night after having her streak of 10 straight double-doubles come to an end, the A-Sun Player of the Year followed things up with a 15-kill, 14-dig effort in the win over the Lady Bisons. Joining Devine in double figures with kills were sophomores Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.). Hardy hit a match-high .478 while compiling 14 kills and six blocks, and Gesell added 13 kills on a .345 attack percentage. Meanwhile, sophomore Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) had a solid night as she totaled nine kills, six digs, and four blocks along with hitting .348.
Play in the early stages of the opening set went back-and-forth, but with the score tied at 11, Lipscomb rattled off three straight points and never trailed from that point forward en route to claiming the frame, 25-19. After seeing 10 ties early on, the Blue and Gold couldn’t force the 11th despite pulling within a point when a block assist by Rice and Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) made it a 16-15 contest. However, Lipscomb closed play out on a 9-4 run to capture the six-point win. Both teams played well in the opener, but the Lady Bisons used their pair of runs to take the wind out of the Buccaneer sails. Lipscomb hit .424 (19-5-33), compared to ETSU’s .320 percentage (13-5-25). Once again like she did last night, Gesell led the Blue and Gold early by recording four kills on a .429 attack percentage.
The Bucs did an excellent job staying composed in a tight second set, but with the score knotted at 24, Hardy and Rice tied the match at one with back-to-back kills – lifting ETSU to a 26-24 victory. Neither team led by more than three in the stanza as the Blue and Gold grabbed a 19-16 advantage following an attack error by Lipscomb’s Kaycee Green, but the Lady Bisons fought back to tie things at 20. Lipscomb eventually regained a 22-21 lead after Devine committed an attack error, but a quick 3-1 spurt put the Bucs ahead, 24-23, forcing Lipscomb to burn its final timeout. The stoppage of play worked for a second after Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) served one into the net, but Hardy and Rice flexed their muscles to give ETSU the win. Again, both teams were strong with their hitting as the Bucs recorded a .400 (17-3-35) attack percentage and the Lady Bisons hit .361 (19-6-36). Devine fueled the offense with six kills on a .455 hitting percentage, while Gesell continued to swing well after generating four kills on six attempts with only one error. Hardy and Rice also combined for seven kills on 15 swings for the Bucs.
ETSU carried the momentum out of the break and took a 2-1 lead in the match after ending the third set on a 3-0 run for a 25-22 victory. For the third straight set neither team enjoyed any breathing room until the end as the clubs combined for 15 ties and three lead changes, while no one led by more than two until the final point was scored. Lipscomb jumped out to an 8-6 lead, but the Bucs responded with four consecutive scores to gain their first advantage of the set at 10-8. The two-point cushion didn’t hold long as Lipscomb strung together a pair of points to tie it at 10 – and after the Blue and Gold went back up 13-11 – the Lady Bisons charged back with a 3-0 spurt to recapture a 14-13 lead. The rest of the set would play out much of the same way. However, the Bucs didn’t back down as Rice’s kill began the final ETSU surge and the Lady Bisons were rattled from the slam. Lipscomb ended the set with an attack error by Green and a bad set from Caitlin Dotson, giving the Blue and Gold the one-set advantage. Serving was key in the third as ETSU finished with a pair of service aces and committed no service errors, whereas, the Lady Bisons tallied three service errors to only one ace. Devine and freshman Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) accounted for the service aces for the Blue and Gold.
After a nip-and-tuck third set, Lipscomb looked to have grabbed the momentum after opening up with a 5-1 run, but ETSU shifted the energy back to its side with a 6-0 run midway through the set to pull off the comeback win, 25-20. With the score even at 10, Hardy started the run with two kills and Rice added the other, while block assists from Hardy and Rice along with Hardy and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) pushed the Bucs’ advantage to 15-10. In the end, a third kill by Hardy capped off the run and Lipscomb started to see its season come to halt. The Lady Bisons threw one last punch at the Blue and Gold by getting within two, 19-17, but ETSU stuck together to win six of the final nine points to secure the victory. After hitting .424 and .361 in the first two sets, Lipscomb was held to a .116 (13-8-43) attack percentage in the fourth, while the Bucs posted a .267 percentage (13-5-30) thanks to Hardy’s .667 (5-1-6) showing.
For the match, Green led all players with 22 kills and hit .304, and Jewell Dobson (15 kills) and Lauren Ford (14 kills) combined for 29 of Lipscomb’s 64 kills.
The winner of No. 1 seed Florida Gulf Coast and No. 4 North Florida (currently in progress) faces ETSU in Saturday’s A-Sun Championship game. Game time is set for 4 p.m. (Eastern) inside Allen Arena. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3, while live stats will be offered via AtlanticSun.org.
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