JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Nov. 10, 2012) – Needing a win to solidify its spot in the Atlantic Sun Tournament, the Jacksonville volleyball team did just enough to clinch a berth as the Dolphins handed the Bucs their second straight five-set setback (22-25, 25-11, 24-26, 25-22, 11-15) on Saturday evening inside Swisher Gym.
Coming off a five-set heartbreaker down the road at UNF on Friday night, the Bucs looked to have gained momentum after rallying back for a three-point win the fourth and holding onto an 11-9 advantage in the fifth. However, the Dolphins answered by winning the final six points of the frame to pick up the win and earned the fifth seed in the conference tournament.
Junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) both provided the Blue and Gold with double-doubles, while sophomore Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) just missed one of her own – finishing with 10 kills, eight digs and five blocks. Devine collected her 23rd double-double of the campaign (10th straight) after compiling a match-high 18 kills and 13 digs, while Hardy recorded her fourth double-double of the year as she contributed with 13 kills (.435 attack percentage) and 11 blocks. Hardy’s 11-block effort moved her season total to 180, which set a new single-season A-Sun record previously held by Jacksonville’s Melissa Merchant (175 blocks) in 2007.
After winning four straight and 10 of its last 13, ETSU saw its record drop to 20-12, 11-7 in A-Sun play following the back-to-back five-set heartbreakers, while Jacksonville improved to 10-22, 7-11 and has now won six of its last eight matches.
Both teams used a hefty run to establish momentum in the opener, but when play was all said and done, Jacksonville’s 13-3 surge midway through the set carried the Dolphins to a 25-22 victory. The Bucs opened the match on an 8-2 spurt, but Jacksonville responded by winning 13 of the next 16 points to lead 15-11 after a Dolphin service ace by Sammie Strausbaugh. From there, ETSU pulled within one (17-16) and closed a late five-point deficit to two, 24-22, but a kill by Emily Laskelle finished off the set win for Jacksonville. The Bucs had four more kills than the Dolphins, 15-11, but it were eight attack and three service errors which cost ETSU from pulling out the win. On the other side of the net, Jacksonville finished with one service and four attack errors in the first set.
The Blue and Gold completely destroyed the Dolphins in the second as ETSU won the first five points and cruised to a 25-11 win in the frame. After the Bucs led 5-0 from the start, Jacksonville pulled within two, 5-3, but ETSU went on to win 20 of the final 28 points to tie up the match at one set apiece. Ironically, after seeing the Dolphins hit .226 in the first set, Jacksonville was quickly cooled off as they followed up with a -.226 (6-13-31) clip. Meanwhile, the Bucs hit a soothing .381 (10-2-21) and stuffed the Dolphins at the net, 5-1, in the second.
The third set was much like the first as ETSU jumped out to an early lead, but Jacksonville answered and held on for a 26-24 win – taking a 2-1 lead in the match. The Bucs led 7-2 out of the gates, but with ETSU ahead 11-5, the Dolphins mounted a 7-1 run to tie it at 12-all – and despite holding a 16-14 advantage – the Blue and Gold couldn’t close out for the win. Once again, Jacksonville used another run to gain momentum as a 6-1 spurt gave the Dolphins a 20-17 lead. Unfortunately, after pulling even at 20, 21, and 24, the Bucs couldn’t capture the comeback as Jacksonville won the final two points. The Dolphins overcame poor serving in the third (five service errors) by hitting .282 (16-5-39) and held ETSU to a .161 percentage (11-6-31). Both teams registered three blocks each, while the Blue and Gold cancelled out their three service aces with three service errors.
In the fourth, both teams traded leads five times and combined for eight ties, but after trailing 19-17, ETSU closed the set out on an 8-3 run to pull off the comeback win, 25-22, forcing the decisive fifth set. Neither team built a lead larger than two until the Bucs opened up a four-point cushion when Hardy and Rice combined for a block to make it a 14-10 score. The Dolphins retaliated with six straight points, while ETSU responded by taking three of the next four scores to pull back even at 17-all. Following a Jacksonville timeout, the Dolphins again pushed their lead back to two, 19-17, but that’s when the Blue and Gold stepped up the down the stretch to cap off the rally. ETSU came away with the victory in the fourth thanks to winning the margin in kills by plus-2, 15-13, and blocks by three, 4-1. Rice had five of her 10 kills in the stanza, while Devine and Hardy combined to hit .600 (7-1-10).
Unfortunately, the positive impact couldn’t last through the fifth set as Jacksonville won the final six points to lock up a spot in the conference tournament with its 15-11 victory. Early in the fifth, both teams traded scores until the Dolphins went up 8-5, but coming out of a timeout ETSU looked to have gained the momentum. The Bucs won six of the next seven points out of the break to hold an 11-9 lead thanks to a kill from Hardy, but things rapidly turned in the wrong direction for the Blue and Gold and Jacksonville capitalized for the win. Neither team hit well in the final set, but the Dolphins used strong serving to pick up the home win. Jacksonville totaled four service aces (all by Strausbaugh) and seven kills, compared to four kills and one service ace by ETSU.
Strausbaugh tallied 16 kills, seven digs, and five service aces for the Dolphins, while Kendall Courtney ended with 41 assists and 13 digs.
As a team, the Bucs won every statistical category except for block errors (3-2) and ball handling errors (3-0). ETSU ended with a .203 attack percentage (55-27-138), 48 assists, six service aces, 53 digs, and 16 blocks, whereas, the Dolphins hit .123 (53-34-154) to go with 47 assists, six aces, 45 digs and 10 blocks. Jacksonville also had three more service errors than the Bucs, 11-8.
With the regular season now complete, ETSU begins its run for an Atlantic Sun Championship on Thursday evening inside Lipscomb’s Allen Arena in Nashville. The Bucs earned the No. 3 seed and face sixth-seeded Mercer at 6 p.m. (Eastern) in the first quarterfinal game. The Bucs and Bears split the season series with both team winning on their home floor.
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