JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 5, 2012) – The ETSU volleyball team continued its home court magic on Friday night.
Despite dropping a tightly contested opening set, the Bucs showed their never-give-up character as the Blue and Gold pulled out an intense five-set win (26-28, 25-21, 26-24, 21-25, 15-13) over Atlantic Sun newcomer Northern Kentucky inside Brooks Gym.
The Bucs used a total team effort to remain undefeated at home (4-0) and moved their overall mark to 12-7, 3-2 in Atlantic Sun play. Meanwhile, the Norse dropped their first road match of the year (7-1) and fell to 16-3, 4-2.
Overall, four ETSU players recorded double figures in kills, while the Bucs were fueled by the strong play of freshman middle blocker Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.). The Buccaneer rookie hit a blistering .696, marking the highest attack percentage by an ETSU player with at least 20 attempts in a single match. Wiley finished with a career high 18 kills on 23 swings, while only tallying two errors and also added four blocks. Junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) collected her conference-leading 11th double-double of the season after generating 19 kills and a career high 22 digs, while Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) quarterbacked the Blue and Gold offense with her second straight double-double. Rutledge registered a career-best 64 assists and totaled 11 digs. Meanwhile, sophomores Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) and Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) combined for 29 kills on 55 attempts. Gesell finished with a career high 14 kills and hit .407 for the match, while Hardy pitched in with 15 kills and four blocks – moving her consecutive streak with recording at least one block to 45 straight matches. Defensively, Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) was stellar by tying her season high with 18 digs and fellow sophomore Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) contributed with 12 of her own.
ETSU rallied after falling in the first set by taking the second and third sets, 25-21 and 26-24.
In the second, the Blue and Gold jumped out to a 13-7 lead, forcing Northern Kentucky to burn its first timeout after Jayden Julian committed an attack error. From there, ETSU extended its lead to 18-9 and 19-11, but the Norse wouldn’t go away. Northern Kentucky went on a 7-1 spurt to pull within two, 20-18, but Hardy and Devine recorded consecutive kills to stop the surge and led 22-18. Fortunately, after NKU won the next two points, the Bucs buckled down and won three of the last four points to pull even at one. ETSU held the Norse to a -.057 attack percentage (6-8-35), while Devine and Wiley accounted for eight of the Bucs’ 14 kills.
The opening of the third set was evenly played as a kill by NKU’s Kelly Morrissey tied the match at eight, but ETSU used a 5-2 run to build a three-point cushion, 13-10, courtesy of Devine’s service ace. However, the Norse continued to claw back and tied things at 13, but the see-saw game continued when the Blue and Gold won four consecutive points to grab a 17-13 advantage. Wiley and Devine slammed home kills, while a pair of errors by the Norse provided the other two points during the run, but just as it seemed ETSU grabbed the momentum, NKU slowly chipped away at the deficit. With the Bucs holding a 23-20 lead, the Norse won three unanswered points to tie it at 23, but after both teams traded points, the Blue and Gold rallied behind the home crowd to grab a two-point victory thanks to kills from Devine and Gesell. Both teams were solid with their hitting as ETSU hit .389 (18-4-36), compared to NKU’s .378 clip (18-4-37). The difference came in blocks as the Bucs won the battle, 3-0, and also had an extra service ace, 2-1.
Northern Kentucky began the fourth set by taking a 10-7 lead – and after the Blue and Gold pulled even at 10, 12 and 17-all – the Bucs couldn’t get over the hump. The Norse closed the frame out by winning eight of the final 12 points, pushing the match to a decisive fifth set. NKU was flawless in the stanza as they hit .615 and finished with 16 kills on 26 attempts. ETSU mounted a .361 attack percentage (17-4-36), while Gesell and Wiley added five kills apiece.
Despite having the Norse even the match up at two, ETSU wasn’t going to back down in the fifth set. The Bucs stormed out to a three-point lead, 5-2, and NKU had to call its first timeout after Hardy perfectly placed a serve for her lone ace of the match. From there, the Bucs saw their lead soar to five, 11-6, but NKU closed the gap to one by registering a 6-2 run to make it a 13-12 affair. That’s when Hardy stepped up and recorded two of her 15 kills of the game to close out the win. The Blue and Gold forced the Norse into five critical errors, while the Bucs posted three in the final set. Six different ETSU players tallied at least one kill, with Hardy leading the way at three kills.
The Norse had four players finish with double digit kills as Morrissey led the way with 22, while Kylee Tarantino was one of three players to post double figure digs. Tarantino ended with 18 digs.
The Bucs return to action Saturday afternoon when ETSU hosts three-time reigning A-Sun Tournament championship Lipscomb at 3 p.m. inside Brooks Gym. Prior to the match, the volleyball team will hold a free cookout which is open to everyone, beginning at 1:45 p.m. in the front of Brooks Gym.
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