CLEMSON, S.C. (Aug. 31, 2012) – The ETSU volleyball team started off the Clemson Classic in fine fashion as the Bucs swept their way past Chattanooga (25-10, 25-18, 25-21) in the opening match of the tournament on Friday afternoon inside Jervey Gymnasium.
The Bucs – who have now recorded back-to-back sweeps and three total on the season – moved their record to 5-1, while Chattanooga suffered its first loss and dropped to 3-1. With the win, ETSU is off to its best start since 2001 when the Blue and Gold won 13 of their first 14 matches before finishing the year with a 20-6 mark.
Coming off a program best 18-block effort Tuesday night at Presbyterian, ETSU continued with its strong presence at the net as the Bucs recorded 11 on Friday, compared to three by the Mocs. Sophomore Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) paced the Blue and Gold with six blocks, while adding 11 kills and three service aces. Fellow sophomore Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) fueled the strong start after registering five of her team-high 12 kills in the opening set. In addition, Hardy and Gesell combined to hit .513 for the match. Meanwhile, junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) picked up her fourth double-double of the year as she finished with 10 kills and a team-best 19 digs. Wrapping things up was sophomore setter Jamie Rutledge’s (Kingsport, Tenn.) 32-assist and 8-dig effort.
Chattanooga won the first point of the opening set, but it was all ETSU from there. The Bucs responded with a 9-3 run, forcing a timeout by the Mocs after a block from Gesell and Jessica Schafer (Dekalb, Ill.) put ETSU ahead, 9-4. Eventually, the Blue and Gold saw their lead balloon to eight, 12-4, but Chattanooga was able to cut its deficit to five (12-7). However, the Bucs turned their game up another level as ETSU closed out the set on a 13-3 surge to claim the opener, 25-10. Gesell and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) were on fire as they combined for nine of ETSU’s 13 kills and hit .571. Rice had four kills on six swings, while Gesell had five kills on eight attempts with one error. As a team, the Bucs outhit Chattanooga, .435 to -.074.
The Bucs carried the momentum over early on in the second set as ETSU won five of the first six points, but the Mocs answered with four consecutive scores to pull even at five. But once again the Blue and Gold continued to have fun and brought the positive mojo back on their side.
ETSU mounted an 11-4 run to push its margin to seven, 16-9, as Hardy began the blitzkrieg with two service aces and a kill, while Gesell compiled two kills and Rice added one of her own. The Mocs had one last threat in them as Chattanooga pulled to within three points on two different occasions, but the Bucs weren’t fazed. After the Mocs cut the Buccaneer lead to 21-18, ETSU claimed the final four points to hold a two-set advantage. Devine generated two of the four points courtesy of a kill and an ace, while Gesell’s fourth kill of the set capped off the final point.
Despite a close third set, the Bucs remained calm to claim the match, 25-21. ETSU stormed out to an 8-3 start, but the Mocs countered with six consecutive points to grab a 9-8 advantage. The Bucs retaliated by using two kills each by Gesell and Devine to capture eight of the next 12 points and led by three after a service error by Chattanooga’s Paula Passmore made it a 16-13 contest. The Mocs had one final run in them when they scored the next four points to pull back ahead, 17-16, forcing ETSU to call its first timeout of the entire match. However, ETSU used the timeout to its advantage and flexed its muscle by closing the match on a 9-4 run to earn the Bucs’ second consecutive sweep over their in-state rival. Gesell was perfect on all three of her attacks in the final set, while Hardy hit .417 with six kills.
The Bucs return to action at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday when ETSU faces Charlotte, before wrapping up play with Clemson at 4 p.m.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.