JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 13, 2012) – The ETSU volleyball team put an exclamation point on its victorious homestand Saturday afternoon inside Brooks Gym.
The Bucs – who won four of their five games on this season-long home stint – wrapped things up with a four-set (22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 26-24) win over North Florida in Atlantic Sun Conference action.
Despite dropping the opening set, the Blue and Gold battled back behind the strong play of Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.). Hardy recorded her second career double-double after compiling 12 kills and 10 blocks, while Devine registered her conference-leading 14th double-double by tallying 13 kills and 11 digs, along with a career high seven blocks. Overall, ETSU out-blocked the Ospreys 17-6, while also holding the visitors from Jacksonville to a .117 hitting percentage.
ETSU has now won three straight and moved its mark to 15-8, 6-3 in A-Sun play, while North Florida has dropped nine of the 12 meetings versus the Bucs and dipped to 11-10, 3-6.
The first set was a wild one as both teams combined for 13 ties and eight lead changes; however, with the Bucs leading 21-20, UNF closed out the frame on a 5-1 run to claim the opener, 25-22. Ironically, neither team led by more than two points until the final score as the Ospreys won the first two points of the stanza – and after ETSU grabbed a 6-5 advantage on an attack error by Marija Pantovic – UNF regained the lead and didn’t trail again until the Blue and Gold mounted a 4-0 run to recapture a 15-13 lead courtesy of consecutive kills from Devine and Hardy. Unfortunately, the Ospreys answered with four straight points of their own to jump back ahead, 17-15, and despite ETSU holding three one-point leads following the spurt, UNF stepped up to win the set. The stats were nearly identical following the first as the Bucs held a plus-1 advantage in kills (14-13), while UNF won the battle in digs by the same outcome. Both teams also posted 13 assists, but two critical Osprey service aces proved to be the difference as maker as ETSU didn’t record any in the opener.
UNF won the first point in the second set, but that was the last time they led as the Bucs built a five-point lead, 11-6, forcing the Ospreys to call a timeout following a kill by sophomore Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.). Eventually, the Blue and Gold saw their lead soar to as many as eight when ETSU used a 5-0 run to extend a 16-13 advantage to 21-13, and the Ospreys never threatened as the Bucs were able to pull even in the match. ETSU forced UNF to hit a cool .065, while the Ospreys also committed 10 attack errors in the second. Meanwhile, Devine hit .429 (3-0-7), while Hardy generated five of her 10 blocks in the stanza.
In the third set, play was nip and tuck until UNF used a short 3-0 spurt to build a four-point cushion, 16-12. From there, the Ospreys still led 18-15, but the Bucs rose to the challenge by finishing the frame on a 10-3 surge to keep momentum in their corner. A service error by Dagnija Medina started the tailspin, and Devine and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) continued to put the pressure on UNF by posting back-to-back kills to pull even at 18. Later in the run, freshman Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) gave the Blue and Gold a pair of important kills, while sophomore Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) ended the third with one of her three service aces. The Bucs hit .297 (13-2-37) in the set with Wiley leading the charge by going 4-for-6 with one error.
The Ospreys put ETSU on its heels early in the fourth by winning the first four points and taking an 8-5 lead when Medina converted on one of her 11 kills in the match. Once again, the Blue and Gold held its composure and turned the three-point deficit into an eight-point advantage, 21-13, thanks to a hefty 16-5 run. However, UNF didn’t go down without a fight as the Ospreys won 11 of the next 14 points to pull even at 24, but an attack error by Julie Trembley stopped the momentum and Gesell and Wiley ended the match with a block – lifting the Bucs to the all-important conference victory.
For the match, Gesell finished with 10 kills and four blocks, while Rutledge added 40 assists, seven digs, and four blocks. In addition, Muey registered 11 digs to go with her three aces, which tied a career mark.
UNF had three players post double figures in kills with Carolyn Jenkins leading the way at 17 and a .344 hitting percentage.
The Bucs begin a four-game road swing Tuesday night when ETSU travels to Georgia to face Kennesaw State. Game time is set for 7 p.m. inside the KSU Convocation Center.
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