JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 3, 2013) – On a night when the ETSU volleyball team unveiled its 2012 Atlantic Sun Championship and NCAA Tournament banners, the Bucs wasted little time protecting their home court against Furman.
Despite having only one scheduled home match in the month of September, the Blue and Gold gave the Buccaneer faithful a lot to cheer about before hitting the road for a 13-match road swing, as ETSU swept Furman (25-21, 25-15, 26-24) on Tuesday night inside Brooks Gym.
After dropping two of the first three matches to open the campaign last weekend at the Deacon Invitational, the Bucs won their second straight, improving to 2-2 on the young season. ETSU has also won 23 of its last 30 home matches and 11 of its last 12 inside the friendly confines of Brooks Gym. Meanwhile, Furman, who was picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, remains winless after its first four matches on the year.
Junior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) entered the match as the A-Sun leader in blocks, and the all-conference performer continued adding to those stats following a dominating performance at the net. The Kingsport, Tenn. native hit a team-high .583 (8-1-12) and added eight blocks, including seven solo which set a new program record in a three-set match. The previous mark of six solo blocks was set by Jennifer Pennington who finished with six in a win over Tennessee-Martin back on Aug. 30, 1996. Hardy has now registered at least one block in 66 straight matches.
Overall, all 12 Buccaneer players who stepped on the court helped contribute to the win. Senior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.), who was playing in her 104th consecutive match, tallied her 55th career double-double after recording a match-high 16 kills to go along with 17 digs. Sophomore Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) gave the Blue and Gold a huge boost in the second set and ended with a .429 hitting percentage (7-1-14) and three blocks, while junior setter Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) had 30 of the Bucs’ 35 assists. Fellow junior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) was stellar in the back row as the libero led all players with 20 digs and added two of ETSU’s four service aces in the match.
The first set saw seven ties and three lead changes, but after Furman pulled within one, 12-11, the Bucs won nine of the next 14 points, forcing the Paladins to burn their second timeout after a kill by Devine made it a 21-16 score. The stoppage of play worked for a moment as Furman mounted a 5-1 run to make it 22-21, but following a timeout by the Blue and Gold, ETSU won the next three points to take the opening set, 25-21. Devine had half of her 16 kills in the first set and registered a .438 attack percentage in the opener, while Hardy gave the Paladins fits at the net by coming away with three solo blocks in the stanza.
Following a minor Furman spurt to open the second, the Bucs regained their composure and cruised to a 10-point win, 25-15. The Paladins won the first three points of the frame, but three straight kills by Wiley fueled a Buccaneer rally. With the score knotted at five, ETSU closed out the set by winning 20 of the next 30 points to take control of the match. After the Bucs hit .378 (19-5-37) in the first set, the Blue and Gold posted a .303 clip (14-4-33) in the second, while Rutledge (1-0-1), Hardy (2-0-2) and Wiley (4-0-9) combined for a .583 percentage. ETSU also had three service aces – two by Muey and one from Devine.
The third set was the closest of the three as the teams traded five leads and tied up the scoreboard eight times; however, when the dust settled the Bucs were left celebrating a sweep after a 26-24 set win. Neither team enjoyed any breathing room until the Blue and Gold turned a 12-all game into a three-point lead when Devine’s kill made it a 16-13 score, making Furman call a timeout. The Paladins regained the lead after the break when Jo Wilks’ kill put the Paladins up 19-18, but after an ETSU timeout, a service error by Casey Wells put the Bucs ahead, 24-22. Despite having the chance to put the match away, back-to-back ETSU attack errors evened things up at 24, but the Blue and Gold responded after their second timeout to win the final two points for the victory.
Furman was held to a .110 hitting percentage (33-21-109) on the night and Ashton Gregory led the Paladins with nine kills.
The Bucs begin their road swing on Friday when the Blue and Gold take on 2012 NCAA Tournament participant Liberty in the Kentucky Classic. Game time is set for 5 p.m. in Lexington.
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