NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 5, 2013) – Over the years, ETSU and Lipscomb have built a respected rivalry and another chapter was added to it on Saturday in the Music City.
In a battle of teams who have combined to win the last four Atlantic Sun Tournament titles, ETSU took down the Lady Bisons in a five-set thriller (25-22, 20-25, 25-23, 16-25, 15-13) inside Lipscomb’s Allen Arena.
Trailing by three midway through the decisive fifth set, the Bucs called a timeout and that’s when head coach Lindsey Devine got her team refocused for the comeback win. Following the break in play, the Blue and Gold won the next three points to pull even at eight, and after the teams combined for five more ties down the stretch run, ETSU won the final two points to finish off the instant classic.
“During the timeout, I told the team we were going to win this match,” added Devine, whose team has now won back-to-back matches over the Lady Bisons. “We worked so hard to get to that point and didn’t want to come up short. The team played with so much confidence down the stretch and I am very proud of the result.
“We have so much respect for the Lipscomb program as they always bring out the best in us. Their defense was outstanding. They ran down everything we hit to them and Bri McCombs is a tough player. Jewell Dobson was phenomenal for them tonight and we knew they were going to get her the ball. I kept telling our girls to stick to the game plan, get touches and slow them down. I thought we had great touches on the block and didn’t let our emotions get the best of us.”
Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) – who had four of ETSU’s 10 kills in the fifth set – finished with 18 kills, six digs, and three blocks, while junior Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) collected her fourth double-double of the year. Rice tallied 12 kills and 12 digs, and fellow junior Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) also added double-digit kills with 11. Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) led the backline with 18 digs and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) accounted for 48 of ETSU’s 52 assists and pitched in with five blocks.
Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) was solid all-around on Saturday as she registered nine kills, seven blocks, four digs and a .471 attack percentage. The junior middle blocker also set a new ETSU all-time record for block assists as Hardy moved her career total to 336. Hardy surpassed Jennifer Pennington’s (1993-96) mark of 331.
“We had a lot of people step up for us tonight and I was proud of the way everyone contributed to this win,” added Devine. Megan and Bethany had key swings when we needed them, and Meredith had great touches on the block – especially in the fifth set. Ivey had some big digs for us and Jamie did a solid job running the offense. We also had people come off the bench in clutch moments to provide aggressive serving.”
For the second straight match, the Bucs didn’t win the battle in the stat sheet, but did just enough to come away with the victory. ETSU was minus-16 in kills (54-70), minus-15 in assists (52-67), minus-12 in digs (48-60) and minus-3 in service aces (4-7). However, for the seventh straight outing, the Blue and Gold won the battle in blocks (13-8) and also committed 11 fewer attack errors than the Lady Bisons, 16 to 27.
ETSU has now won seven straight matches and improved to 11-6, 5-0, keeping the Bucs atop the A-Sun standings. The winning streak is the longest since the Blue and Gold won eight straight during the 2010 campaign, while ETSU wrapped up its grueling 13-match road swing with a 9-4 mark. With the setback, Lipscomb dropped to 9-6, 3-2.
“This was a very long trip and we can only rely on each other when being on the road,” said Devine. “You learn a lot about a group when being away for so long and this team are road warriors. They are a strong, cohesive group and will do whatever it takes to help each other out. They are great teammates, who work hard, and that’s the best part about this group.”
The Bucs never trailed in the first set and came out with the three-point win in the opener, 25-22. ETSU won eight of the first 11 points, forcing Lipscomb to call its first timeout. After the stoppage, the Lady Bisons tied the match at 11, but the Bucs used a 7-3 spurt to open a four-point advantage, 18-14. From there, Lipscomb cut its deficit to one on two separate possessions, but with ETSU ahead, 21-20, the Blue and Gold won four of the final six points to cap off the frame. Neither team was fluid on offense, but the Bucs out-blocked the Lady Bisons (5-2), and also totaled five fewer attack errors (5-10).
Just as ETSU didn’t trail in the first set, Lipscomb returned the favor in the second as the Lady Bisons evened the match with a 25-20 victory. Lipscomb began the stanza on a 9-4 run and the Bucs could never get over the hump. The Blue and Gold managed to get within two (11-9) midway through the set and trailed by three late in the frame, 21-18, but this time the Lady Bisons won four of the final six points to win by five.
With momentum hanging in the balance, Lipscomb got off to a strong start in the third, but ETSU rallied to a 25-23 victory, thanks to ending the set on an 11-6 run. The Lady Bisons won the first three points of the frame and built an 11-7 lead, forcing the Bucs to burn a timeout. After the break, Lipscomb continued to lead as Lauren Ford’s kill made it a 17-14 score. However, the Blue and Gold weren’t fazed and began their closing surge by winning the next four points, giving ETSU its first lead of the set, 18-17. The Lady Bisons managed to tie the score at 18, 20, and 21, but the Bucs never broke and held on for the crucial two-point win. The stats were nearly identical in the third, but ETSU out-hit Lipscomb, .289-.220 and committed three attack errors to the Lady Bisons’ five. Both squads totaled 14 kills and a block each, but the Bucs were plus-2 in digs (20-18) and plus-1 in assists (14-13).
After Lipscomb controlled the majority of the fourth set with its nine-point win, 25-16, the teams went to the all-important fifth set tiebreaker.
The teams traded points early on in the fifth, but with the score knotted at four, the Lady Bisons won four of the next five points to open the three-point advantage, 8-5. ETSU quickly adjusted after the timeout and won the next three points to tie the set at eight, courtesy of two kills by Devine and one from sophomore Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.). In a set that saw 10 ties and two lead changes, half of the ties came in the stretch run. But with the score even at 13, the Blue and Gold broke the stalemate by getting a kill from Devine, while she and Rice blocked Jewell Dobson to secure the match point, 15-13. Both teams had identical attack percentages .400 (10-2-20), assists (9), blocks (1) and service aces (1), but Dobson had the lone service error in the set which proved to be costly for the Lady Bisons. Devine had four of ETSU’s 10 kills in the fifth, while Rice and Hardy registered a pair.
“The fifth set went point-for-point, and when playing a team like Lipscomb, you have to be ready for their attack,” said Devine. “We knew they were going to go through Jewell and she made it difficult on us. In the end, I thought we were aggressive at the right times and did just enough to slow down some of her swings.”
Dobson led all players with 27 kills and Ford added 21 in the losing effort. Caitlin Dotson had 63 of Lipscomb’s 67 assists and McCombs recorded a match-high 20 digs.
The Bucs now return home for the first time since Sept. 3 when ETSU hosts Stetson on Friday night and reigning A-Sun regular season champion, Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday. Friday’s match is set for 6 p.m., inside Brooks Gym, while Saturday’s game time is slated for 3 p.m.
“We are ready to get back to Johnson City and play in front of our home crowd inside Brooks Gym,” said Devine. “These matches are important and we hope to see everyone in Blue and Gold next weekend.”
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