NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Nov. 14, 2012) – Survive and advance.
That’s the only thing on the minds of the ETSU volleyball team as the Buccaneers open up the Atlantic Sun Tournament on Thursday evening inside Lipscomb’s Allen Arena. ETSU – who earned the No. 3 seed after going 20-12, 11-7 in A-Sun play – face sixth-seeded Mercer in the first quarterfinal game at 6 p.m. (Eastern).
LAST TIME OUT
The Bucs dropped consecutive five-set heartbreakers at North Florida and Jacksonville over the weekend, but still secured the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) averaged 16 kills and 14 digs in the pair of matches, while sophomore Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) compiled 26 kills and 18 blocks on the weekend en route to breaking the A-Sun single-season record for blocks. Hardy moved her season total to 180 blocks, surpassing Jacksonville’s Melissa Merchant's mark of 175 set in 2007. Meanwhile, Devine broke the conference record for double-doubles in A-Sun matches as the Kingsport, Tenn. native registered her 10th straight double-double – finishing with 15 in league play. In addition to Devine and Hardy, sophomore Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) tallied 20 total kills on the weekend, and has generated double-digit kills in 10 of her last 12 games.
Mercer (11-17, 7-11 A-Sun) snapped a four-game losing streak by closing out the regular season with three-set wins over USC Upstate and Kennesaw State last week to earn a berth into the conference tournament. The Bears swept the Spartans last Tuesday night in Spartanburg, S.C., while defeating conference rival Kennesaw State at home Thursday night in their regular season finale. Mercer led the A-Sun in digs per set (17.9), while individually junior Emily Rochefort – a Second Team All-Atlantic Sun selection – led the conference in the statistical category after averaging 5.33 digs per set in 104 sets played. In addition, All-Freshmen Team member Molly Locke finished the season sixth in the conference in kills per set (3.3) and senior setter Monica Sanchez ranked sixth in assists per set (9.39).
ETSU and Mercer split the regular season series as both teams won on its home floor, but the Bucs lead the all-time series, 8-5. The Blue and Gold have won five of the last seven meetings, while Thursday marks the second time both schools will meet in the conference tournament. The fifth-seeded Bucs defeated fourth-seeded Mercer in five sets back in the quarterfinals of the 2008 A-Sun Tournament in Macon, Ga. Back in October, Devine and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) finished with double-doubles as ETSU went on to beat the Bears in four; however, Mercer swept the Bucs in mid-September to kick off the conference season in Georgia. In the seven sets played this year against Mercer, Devine averaged 4.71 kills and 5.00 digs, while Rutledge compiled 10.20 assists in five sets versus Mercer in 2012. As a team, ETSU out-hit the Bears .245 to .191 and out-blocked Mercer 19-9 this season.
Fans unable to make the trip to Nashville can watch all the action for free on ASun.TV, while live stats will also be available by visiting AtlanticSun.org. Twitter updates can be accessed by following @ETSUAthletics.
The winner of the ETSU/Mercer match will face No. 2 seed Lipscomb in Friday’s first semifinal game at 6 p.m. (Eastern).
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For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball page.