TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (Sept. 7, 2012) – Despite a convincing win in the first set, the ETSU volleyball team had its hands full with a scrappy Alabama State club, as the Bucs held on for a five-set win (25-15, 24-26, 25-19, 22-25, 15-11) over the Hornets in the first game of the Hampton Inn Bama Bash on Friday morning inside Foster Auditorium.
The Bucs – who finished with 14 more kills and five more service aces than Alabama State – recorded an uncharacteristic 39 attack errors in the win. Sophomore Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) was dominate in the first set as she posted eight of her career-high 16 kills in the set, but ended up with 13 attack errors for the match. Junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) also struggled with her hitting but still managed to end up with another double-double. Devine added 13 kills and 18 digs, along with four block assists. Meanwhile, sophomore Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) led the Blue and Gold with a .269 attack percentage, while setting a career high with five service aces and tied a career best with 13 kills. Gesell also generated four digs and three block assists.
With the win, ETSU has now improved to 6-0 in neutral court games and moved its mark to 8-2 on the season. Alabama State dropped to 0-8 with the setback.
The Bucs set the tone midway through the first set as ETSU closed out the frame on a 14-5 run to take the opener, 25-15. Hardy lifted the Blue and Gold to the win as she registered eight of ETSU’s 14 kills in the set, while also hitting .500 (8-1-12). Things were close early on as Alabama State hung around and trailed by one, 11-10, but that’s when Hardy got on fire. The Kingsport, Tenn. native tallied four kills during the impressive run to establish some breathing room for the Bucs and forced the Hornets to call both timeouts at 15-10 and 20-10. Alabama State had no answer for the ETSU surge and Gesell put the set away with one of her three kills in the stanza. As a team, the Bucs had 14 kills to Alabama State’s six, while ETSU also finished with four service aces with Gesell recording three of them.
Despite Gesell recording three consecutive kills to give ETSU a 22-20 lead in the second set, the Bucs couldn’t take the sting out of the Hornets as Alabama State rallied with a 6-2 run to take the second, 26-24. Play was close for the majority of the set, but with things knotted at 11, the Blue and Gold looked to have taken momentum when a ball handling error by Alabama State’s Chelsey Scott led to three straight points for ETSU – giving the Bucs a 14-11 advantage. Unfortunately, the Hornets responded by winning eight of the next 11 points to go ahead 19-17, as ETSU gave Alabama State four points during the spurt with four errors. From there, that’s when Gesell rattled off her three kills to put the Bucs up two, but ETSU committed four more errors down the stretch to give the Hornets the two-point set win. In total, the Bucs were called for nine attack and five service errors in the set, while the teams combined for 14 ties and eight lead changes.
ETSU exploded out of the gates to begin the third set as the Bucs opened up on an 8-2 run, forcing Alabama State to call a timeout. The Bucs extended their lead to nine, 14-5, when Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) and Gesell registered back-to-back kills, while three plays later ETSU pushed its margin to 10 (16-6), following an attack error by Scott. The Hornets never threatened from there, and Kayla Williams (El Paso, Texas) and Hardy ended the set with consecutive kills, putting ETSU up two sets to one. The Bucs led for the entire set, while Devine had 10 digs in the frame as well.
The Bucs looked to have carried their momentum over to the fourth set; however, with ETSU ahead 10-6, Alabama State mounted a 6-1 run to take a 12-11 lead as four of the six Hornet points were registered via errors by the Blue and Gold. The Hornets returned the favor with three consecutive attack errors, putting ETSU back up 14-12, but the Bucs still couldn’t put Alabama State away. Alabama State regained a two-point lead (16-14), but the Bucs answered with three straight blocks followed by a kill from Devine to recapture the advantage at 18-16.
But just like that, things went south for the Blue and Gold as five of their 11 errors occurred late in the set.
With the Bucs holding onto a 21-19 lead, the Hornets closed the frame on a 6-1 surge to force a decisive fifth set by taking the fourth, 25-22. In total, Alabama State scored four points off ETSU errors during the final run.
Fortunately, the Blue and Gold were able to do just enough to win the fifth set, 15-11. The set was close until the Bucs scored four straight points to break away and took a 12-8 lead, thanks to a block by Wiley and Gesell and a kill from Devine. ETSU never let the Hornets get back into the match as a kill from Wiley put the Bucs up four and Ivey Rice’s (Johnson City, Tenn.) eighth and final kill won the match for the Blue and Gold. Devine and Rice both had two kills in the fifth set, where ETSU hit .231 (6-3-13) compared to Alabama State’s .167 percentage (7-4-18).
Alabama State’s Brooke Beasley finished with a double-double as she compiled 34 assists and 12 digs, while Scott led the team with 13 kills.
ETSU returns to action at 3 p.m. on Friday when the Bucs face Austin Peay.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.