COLUMBIA, S.C. (Aug. 23, 2012) – The ETSU volleyball team opens its 2012 season this weekend as the Bucs head to the University of South Carolina for the Gamecock Invitational, which begins Friday morning inside South Carolina’s Volleyball Competition Facility.
The Blue and Gold begin the two-day, four-game tournament with a 10 a.m. match versus UNC Asheville on Friday, before wrapping up the day against Temple at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Bucs face Akron at 12:30 p.m. and wrap up play against the host Gamecocks at 3 p.m. Fans unable to make the trip to Columbia can follow live stats via Gametracker by visiting the tournament central page at http://www.gamecocksonline.com/sports/w-volley/spec-rel/12-gamecock-invitational.html.
ETSU is coming off its sixth Atlantic Sun Tournament appearance in the last seven seasons and reached the conference semifinals for the fifth time in 2011. The Bucs return eight players from last season’s squad and five newcomers join the ETSU volleyball family this season as the Blue and Gold look to make a strong run at the conference title. Overall, ETSU was picked to finish third in the A-Sun Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Despite having only two upperclassmen on the roster, the Bucs return a lot of talent as the five rising sophomores gained valuable playing time a season ago. Kayla Williams (El Paso, Texas) is the lone senior on the roster, but the junior college transfer played in 24 matches during her first season with the Blue and Gold and also ranked fourth in the A-Sun with 9.36 assists per set. Meanwhile, junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) is coming off a dominate campaign where she landed First Team All-Atlantic Sun and All-Tournament Team honors. After setting the ETSU single-season record for kills per game (4.16) and ranking second in the A-Sun in kills (503) and points (545.5) last year, Devine was selected A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year by the league coaches earlier this month.
Returning for a second season with the Bucs are sophomores Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.), Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.), Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.), Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.), and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.). Hardy landed A-Sun All-Freshman Team honors in her first season as she ranked first among freshman in the A-Sun in blocks per set (0.84) and third in hitting percentage (.246). Rutledge was also among the A-Sun leaders as her 8.28 assists per set (505 total assists) ranked seventh in the conference. Red-shirt freshman Eryn Samuels (Tampa, Fla.) missed the 2011 season and will make her debut as a middle blocker for the Bucs in 2012.
With the Blue and Gold graduating seniors Kiley Tamblyn (Torrance, Calif.), Jamie Stancliff (Advance, N.C.), and McKayla Barber (Columbus, Ind.), Devine and her staff were busy on the recruiting circuit as they brought in five new faces – Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.), Hailey Pennington (Plainfield, Ill.), Jessica Schafer (Dekalb, Ill.), Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.), and Laura Lawman (Cleveland, Tenn.).
This weekend marks the first of three tournaments for the Bucs, while early non-conference matches with Presbyterian (Aug. 28), Marshall (Sept. 3), and Western Carolina (Sept. 11) will prepare the Blue and Gold for an 18-game conference season that begins Sept. 18 at Mercer. The top six teams will advance to the conference tournament, which will be held at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena from Nov. 15-17.
Gamecock Invitational Opponent Breakdown
The Bulldogs went 15-14, 7-8 in the Big South last season and were picked to finish fourth in the preseason conference polls … Asheville advanced to the conference semifinals for the sixth time in the last seven years in 2011 and return eight letterwinners … the Bulldogs have a mix of youth and veterans on the 2012 roster as Asheville lists six freshmen and seven upperclassmen (two seniors, four juniors) … Friday marks the 43rd meeting between the Bucs and Bulldogs and ETSU leads the all-time series, 22-20, while the Bucs have won the last six matches.
Temple returns seven letterwinners (four starters) from last season’s team that went 8-20, 4-11 … the Owls were picked to finish 11th in the preseason Atlantic 10 Conference poll, and are led by junior outside hitter Gabriella Matautia (3.22 kills per set) and sophomore setter Tiffany Connatser (9.55 assists per set) … Friday marks the first meeting between the two programs.
The Zips are coming off a 4-25 campaign (1-15 in the Mid-American Conference) where Akron endured an injury-plagued season … Akron only lost one senior from last season’s team and brought in four newcomers, while 10 letterwinners return in 2012 … the Zips return red-shirt senior and All-MAC selection Tina Dimitrijeys, while fellow senior Paiton Twitty will join Dimitreijeys at the net … this marks the first-ever meeting between ETSU and Akron.
South Carolina went 14-16, 5-15 last season and were picked to finish sixth in the SEC East … the Gamecocks return 10 players from a year ago and bring in seven newcomers … senior setter Taylor Burns is one of four starters returning for South Carolina, while junior outside hitter Juliette Thevenin led the team with 321 kills in 2011 ... ETSU leads the all-time series, 2-1, with this being the first meeting between both schools since 1993.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit www.ETSUBucs.com.