JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 21, 2012) – After dropping its conference-opener at Mercer on Tuesday night, the ETSU volleyball team brought a new look back with them to Johnson City.
The move paid huge dividends for the Blue and Gold as the Bucs swept USC Upstate (25-20, 25-23, 25-15) in their Atlantic Sun home opener on Friday night inside Brooks Gym.
ETSU moved sophomore setter Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) to libero for the first two sets and the second-year player finished with 12 digs, an assist, and a service ace, while a pair of Buccaneers added double-doubles in the victory. For the second straight match against the Spartans, sophomore Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) collected a double-double as she registered a season-high 16 kills and 12 digs, and junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) picked up her ninth of the season. Devine ended with 15 kills and tied a career high with 19 digs.
As a team, the Bucs hit .246 (46-14-130) and held the Spartans to a .136 (29-14-110) clip, while for the second straight home match ETSU finished with nine service aces – which tied a season high. Meanwhile, ETSU’s 46 kills, 40 assists, and 58 digs were the most by the Blue and Gold in a three-setter this season.
With the win, ETSU has now won four straight against USC Upstate and improved to 10-6, 1-1 in A-Sun play, while the Spartans dipped to 4-8, 0-2.
In the first set, neither team broke away until the Bucs stepped up their game late as ETSU won, 25-20. After both teams combined for five ties and one lead change midway through the stanza, ETSU scored three consecutive points to take a three-point advantage, 19-16, following kills by Rice and Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) along with an attack error by Upstate’s Emily Bingham. Overall, the Blue and Gold closed out the frame on a 9-4 run to capture the opener, courtesy of the strong play by Rice. The Johnson City native totaled seven of her 16 kills in the opener, while Devine bagged 11 of her digs in the first set as well.
The second set was the closest of the three as the clubs saw 13 ties and seven lead changes, but the Blue and Gold held off the Spartans’ late run to take a 2-0 lead in the match, 25-23. The set was a mirror image of the first as ETSU pulled away slightly midway through the frame when Devine’s kill made it a 15-12 score, but the Spartans quickly evened things at 15 with a three consecutive points. From there, the teams traded points until Upstate went up 20-19, but the Bucs responded with a 5-0 surge to be serving for set point, 24-20. Unfortunately, the Spartans didn’t go down without a fight as Upstate cut its deficit to one (24-23), but Rice came through with a powerful kill to end the set following a timeout by ETSU. Rice (six) and Devine (five) combined for 11 of the Bucs’ 14 kills, while Kayla Williams (El Paso, Texas) had 12 of ETSU’s 13 assists in the stanza.
ETSU didn’t mess around in the final set as the Blue and Gold never trailed and cruised to a 10-point win, 25-15. The Bucs stormed out to a 6-2 start as Devine, Hardy, and Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) all generated kills, while ETSU saw its lead soar to seven, 14-7, when Hardy slammed home one of her nine kills in the match. Upstate got to within three (16-13), but the Blue and Gold won nine of the final 11 points to cap off the sweep. As a team, the Bucs hit .361 and only committed two errors with 15 kills on 36 attempts, while Upstate finished at .161 (10-5-31). ETSU also had four of its service aces in the third and five different players recorded kills.
Hardy extended her streak of registering at least one block to 42 straight matches after finishing with nine kills and five blocks, while Williams quarterbacked the offense with 36 assists. The El Paso, Texas native also set a career high with three service aces, and sophomore Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) tied her career best with three aces of her own.
Upstate was led by Kayla McAvoy’s 11 kills and Kayla Eversgerd finished with seven kills and 10 digs.
The Bucs now hit the road again as ETSU heads to the Sunshine State to face Florida Gulf Coast on Friday and Stetson Saturday.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.