JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Oct. 18, 2013) – In a battle between the league’s top teams, Jacksonville snapped ETSU’s nine-match win streak as the Dolphins rallied past the Bucs in a hard-fought five-set showdown (19-25, 25-22, 25-20, 20-25, 13-15) Friday night inside Swisher Gym.
In a match where the Bucs finished with six more kills (64-58) and out-hit the Dolphins slightly (.245-.239), ETSU couldn’t put Jacksonville away in the fourth and fifth sets en route to suffering its first conference loss since falling to JU last November.
Junior Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) recorded a match and season high 19 kills on a .432 attack percentage (19-3-37), while Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.), Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.), and Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) all finished with double-digit kills. Devine posted her 11th double-double (63rd career) after ending with 18 kills and 11 digs, while Wiley added 10 kills (.438 attack percentage) and six blocks. Hardy finished with 12 kills, five blocks and hit .357 (12-2-28) for the match.
For the first time in 10 matches, ETSU was out-blocked as Jacksonville – who rank second behind the Blue and Gold in the statistical category – was plus-four on Friday night, 15 to 11. The Dolphins also committed three fewer attack errors (24-27), along with six less service aces, 9 to 15. The Bucs dished out six more assists than Jacksonville, 61-55, but ETSU committed the only two ball handling errors in the match. Both teams also totaled 50 digs each.
Follow their first setback in over a month (Sept. 13), the Bucs dipped to 13-7, 7-1, and now are tied for first in the A-Sun standings with Jacksonville. The Dolphins, who hold the tiebreaker after tonight’s win, improved to 17-2, 7-1, and have won their last 11 home matches dating back to last season.
“A lot of credit goes to Jacksonville, because they were the smarter team and did more than us to get the win tonight,” said head coach Lindsey Devine. “Jacksonville played cleaner than us and took advantage of our lost opportunities in the fifth set. We didn’t win the mental battle tonight and didn’t execute in the fifth set when we had chances.
“Ivey did a phenomenal job for us. I was proud of how Ivey embraced her chances during the match and she helped carry us.”
Despite holding a 2-1 lead after earning a 25-20 victory in the third set, the Bucs couldn’t win the key points to knock off the Dolphins late in the match. Jacksonville forced the decisive fifth set after leading wire-to-wire and claiming a 25-20 win in the fourth.
In the fifth, both teams combined for 10 ties and four lead changes, but with the Bucs up 10-9, Jacksonville went to Taylor Nyquist to cap off the stretch run. Following consecutive kills by Nyquist, along with one from Kendall Courtney, the Blue and Gold were forced to call timeout after the Dolphins regained a 12-10 lead. Following the stoppage, ETSU pulled even at 12, but more kills by Nyquist and Courtney put Jacksonville ahead for good. Devine tried to rally the Bucs late as her 18th kill of the match cut ETSU’s deficit to one (14-13), but a service error by freshman Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) gave the Dolphins the victory, 15-13. In the set, the Bucs suffered four service errors.
After jumping out to a strong start in the opening set, the Blue and Gold quickly squandered an opportunity to gain momentum as Jacksonville rallied for a 25-19 victory. ETSU won four of the first five points, but the Dolphins used a 7-0 run to take the wind out of the Buccaneer sails. Jacksonville never trailed after its surge and captured the six-point win. Unforced errors proved to be critical for the Blue and Gold as ETSU committed three service errors and a ball handling miscue in the opener. The Bucs also suffered four more attack errors than the Dolphins, 8 to 4.
Meanwhile, ETSU bounced back by winning the second and third sets to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The Bucs weathered Jacksonville’s early run in the second set as the Dolphins won six of the first seven points, but the Blue and Gold prevailed, 25-22. With Jacksonville ahead, 6-1, ETSU mounted 12-4 run to grab a 13-10 lead, following a block assist by Hardy and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.). From there, the Dolphins managed to tie the match three separate times, but with the score knotted at 17, the Bucs won four consecutive points to take control of the frame, 21-17. Jacksonville cut its deficit to one, twice, but ETSU won the final to points to take the second. Rice had seven kills and hit .500 in the second set, while Wiley connected on her two attempts.
Once again, Rice was stellar in the third set as she tallied seven more kills, while ETSU hit .323 (14-4-31) and held the Dolphins to a .103 (10-7-29) clip. The Bucs were trailing by one early in the stanza (10-9), but ETSU gained momentum by winning five consecutive points to regain the lead, 14-10. From that point forward the Bucs never trailed and won seven of the final 10 points to take the set, 25-20.
Unfortunately, Jacksonville never backed down and pulled out the final two sets to win its seventh straight match.
The Dolphins saw three players finish in double figures in kills, while Courtney added 44 assists and 13 digs. Sammie Strausbaugh led the team with 14 kills, while Nyquist and Gabriela Roman pitched in with 12 kills each. Strausbaugh and Roman also ended with nine digs, while Alyssa Robertson recorded 10 blocks and six kills for Jacksonville.
ETSU looks to bounce back into the win column on Saturday as the Bucs and North Florida square off in a rematch of last year’s A-Sun championship match. Game time is set for 3 p.m., but there will be no live video of the match.
“Tomorrow will be a challenge with the quick turnaround, but I am confident this group will come out and play focused,” said Devine. “Our team doesn’t like the feeling of defeat and we will look to bounce back tomorrow.”
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball page.