JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 22, 2013) – On a night when the ETSU volleyball team was challenged in more ways than one, the Bucs still managed to take down a scrappy Mercer club.
Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) posted her third straight double-double, while Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) and Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) provided solid efforts as the Bucs held on to defeat the Bears in four sets (27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-17) on Tuesday night inside Brooks Gym.
Devine, who was honored prior to the match for breaking the all-time Atlantic Sun kills record last weekend in Jacksonville, led all players with 21 kills and added 12 digs for the Blue and Gold. Hardy finished with 13 kills (.321 attack percentage) and four blocks, while Wiley hit a match-high .438 (8-1-16) and totaled seven blocks at the net.
Despite out-blocking the Bears, 12-11, the Bucs became frustrated at times with Mercer’s defensive presence at the net. Fortunately, when it came down to it in the fourth set, the Blue and Gold made adjustments and solidified the win by capturing an eight-point victory, thanks to ETSU out-blocking the Bears, 4-1, in the final frame.
With the win, ETSU has now strung together 10 consecutive victories inside Brooks Gym and improved to 15-7, 9-1 in A-Sun play. Mercer, who has now dropped 19 straight matches, dipped to 1-20, 0-11.
“Tonight was a tough match, but we knew it was going to be that way coming in,” said head coach Lindsey Devine. “Mercer is a defensive team and they pride themselves in scrambling in the back court. We knew this was something they were going to use as an advantage against us. Also, I think they did a good job of fronting our attackers, so early on in the match they slowed balls down and we became frustrated. We kept telling our team to stick to the game plan, which was to be aggressive and scramble more in the back court so we could execute on those digs. In the end, we made some big plays and were able to get the win.”
Tonight’s game promotion was “Bucs Backing Bucs” night, so ETSU student-athletes, coaches, and staff and campus officials were strongly encouraged to show up and support the Blue and Gold.
“Brooks is a comfort zone to this team,” said Devine, whose team has won 14 of their last 15 matches at home. “The girls love how the campus and community comes out to support them. It was ‘Bucs Backing Bucs’ and we got support from so many groups on campus tonight. The team appreciated the turnout and wanted to reward its fans with a victory. They rose to the occasion when needed and got the job done.”
The Bucs took the first two sets of the match, but Mercer made the Blue and Gold work for both frames.
In the first set, ETSU was solid with its attack as the Bucs hit .405 (17-2-37), but the Blue and Gold had to overcome a late four-point deficit to pull out a 27-25 win. The Bears got off to a strong start as Mercer opened up on a 10-4 run, but ETSU slowly bounced back into the contest by winning 11 of the next 17 points to make it a one-point game, 16-15. However, the Bucs still couldn’t get over the hump as Mercer quickly extended its lead to four when a block by Jordan Gollon and Zoe Becton put the Bears ahead, 21-17. From there, ETSU responded in a flurry as the Bucs scored five unanswered points to take their first lead (22-21) since winning the first point of the set. Although, Mercer didn’t back down as the Bucs saw its 24-22 lead evaporate, but after the Bears pulled even at 24 and 25, Devine stepped up and lifted ETSU to the win. Devine’s eighth kill of the frame snapped the tie and she aced Ellie James to end the set. Devine hit .412 in the first, while Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) was 4-for-7 with one attack error.
The second set was nip-and-tuck all the way through, but back-to-back kills from Devine and Wiley snapped a 23-all score, giving ETSU a 2-0 advantage in the match. Neither team led by more than three points in the stanza and both clubs combined for 13 ties and six lead changes in the second. The squads traded scores early on in the frame, but the Bears made the first move as they led 14-12 following a kill by Caroline Carlton. The Bucs made sure Mercer’s lead didn’t last long as ETSU registered a 6-1 spurt to go up, 18-15, forcing the Bears to use its first timeout. Despite the Bears pulling even at 18, the Blue and Gold never trailed after their run, and with the score knotted for the 13th time of the set (23-all), Devine and Wiley stepped up, giving ETSU the set win. The Bucs were out-blocked, 6-2, in the second set, while also committing five more attack errors than Mercer, 9 to 4. However, ETSU was plus-7 in kills (16-9) and overcame five service errors to secure the two-point victory.
Unfortunately, the Bucs couldn’t pick up their fourth straight home sweep as Mercer handed ETSU its first set loss (inside Brooks) of the campaign in the third, 25-23. The Bucs controlled play early on as ETSU led 8-5, but with the Bucs still ahead by one (10-9), the Bears mounted an 8-2 run to go up, 17-12. The Blue and Gold fought back to pull even at 22, but Mercer didn’t budge and won by two. ETSU hit .111 (10-7-27), compared to the Bears posting a .258 clip (14-6-31), while Mercer still managed to stay alive after recording five service errors in the frame.
With momentum starting to shift and Mercer holding a three-point lead midway through the fourth, ETSU stepped up and closed the set on a 15-4 surge to take the stanza, 25-17. The Bears committed four of their 10 attack errors in the stretch run, while freshman Renzey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) and sophomore Jessica Schafer (Dekalb, Ill.) came off the bench late to give ETSU a spark. Rice served the Bucs to five straight points, while Schafer ended the set with a block and a kill, sending the Buccaneer faithful home happy. ETSU held Mercer to a -.049 attack percentage in the fourth, while the Bucs were plus-6 in digs, 17 to 11.
For the match, ETSU hit .201 (54-25-144), and totaled 50 assists and 62 digs, while the Bears hit .158 (47-24-146) and registered 46 assists and 52 digs.
Junior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.), who was also honored before the match for joining the 1,000-dig club, led all players with 17 digs on Tuesday. Ivey Rice also added 14 digs of her own, while Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) ended with 38 assists and freshman Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) dished out 10.
Mercer was led by Carlton’s 12-kill effort and James finished with 11 kills and nine digs. Cara Tripp and Zoe Becton added five blocks each for the Bears.
The Bucs continue their three-match home stint Friday night when ETSU plays host to USC Upstate. First-serve is slated for 7 p.m.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball page.