JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 11, 2012) – After a rough weekend in Tuscaloosa, the ETSU volleyball team returned home to the friendly confines of Brooks Gym on Tuesday night, and the Bucs bounced back into the win column with a sweep (25-20, 25-14, 25-11) over Western Carolina.
Following a close opening set, the Blue and Gold took over in sets two and three courtesy of strong serving and team play. The Bucs tied their season high with nine service aces, five of which came in the third set, including three by sophomore Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.). Hardy also added nine kills, four digs, and five blocks – moving her streak of finishing with at least one block to 40 consecutive matches. Along with Hardy, freshman Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) hit .429 (4-1-7), while also collecting four blocks. Senior Kayla Williams (El Paso, Texas) – who was honored prior to the match with a special game ball after registering her 1,000th career assist last weekend at the Bama Bash – quarterbacked the ETSU offense by finishing with 33 assists, seven digs, and five blocks.
With the win, ETSU snapped its three-game losing skid and improved to 9-5 on the season, while Western Carolina dipped to 3-8 with the setback.
The opening of the first set was tightly contested, but with things knotted at six, ETSU broke the frame open with a 10-2 run to take a 16-8 lead after Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) served home an ace. From there, the Catamounts won eight of the next 11 points to pull within three, 19-16, forcing the Bucs to call a timeout following consecutive ball handling errors by Williams. However, the Blue and Gold regrouped coming out of the timeout as Western Carolina’s Nicole Ford was charged with an attack error on the first play after the stoppage, while Williams and Wiley combined on a block on the next play to put ETSU ahead, 21-16. The Catamounts would only get to within three points from that point forward, and the Bucs won four of the final six points of the set to win by five, 25-20. Sophomore Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) had five of ETSU’s 13 kills in the stanza, while Western Carolina had nine kills on 45 attempts along with nine errors.
Once again the second set was close early on as the teams combined for seven ties, but with the set all even at 10, ETSU closed out the frame on fire. The Bucs ended the set on a 15-4 run as six different Buccaneer players accounted for the scoring during the surge. Devine began the blitz as she scored three of the first four points with kills, while Wiley, Rice, Hardy, and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) also added one kill each. In addition, Shain provided a service ace to put the Blue and Gold up, 24-14, and the set ended with block from Hardy and Williams. As a team, ETSU outhit the Catamounts, .276 to -.036, while the Bucs had 14 kills to Western Carolina’s seven. Hardy hit .400 (3-1-5) in the set, whereas, Devine tallied four of her team-high 11 kills in the second.
The third set was never in doubt for the Blue and Gold as ETSU raced out to a 7-2 start, courtesy of three straight service aces from Hardy. The aces became contagious as Williams added a pair of her own to put the Bucs up eight, 11-3, and ETSU’s advantage soared to 13 (21-8) after Hardy posted back-to-back kills. Devine put the icing on the cake when her fifth kill of the set ended the match at 25-11. Overall, the A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year selection hit .833 in the frame, while five different players generated a kill. As a group, the Bucs hit .476 (12-2-21), compared to Western Carolina’s -.083 clip (5-7-24).
ETSU will now enjoy a week off before opening Atlantic Sun play next Tuesday night at Mercer. Game time is set for 7 p.m. inside the University Center.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.