LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2012) – The ETSU volleyball team saw its historic season come to an end as Kentucky swept the Bucs (9-25, 17-25, 15-25) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night inside Memorial Coliseum.
The Bucs – who were making their first-ever appearance in the “Big Dance” and played in front of a crowd of 1,917 fans – were led by junior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.), while sophomores Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) provided five kills each for the Blue and Gold. Devine, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, finished with eight kills, seven digs, and three service aces – all of which led or tied team highs. Meanwhile, Hardy added five kills and a pair of block assists, moving her streak of registering at least one block to 62 straight matches. Fellow sophomore Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) accounted for 21 of ETSU’s 25 assists, while also ending with three blocks and two kills on three attempts on the night.
ETSU had won three straight and 11 of its last 14 matches coming into the tournament, and ended the season with an overall record of 23-13 – marking the Bucs’ second 20-win season in the last three campaigns. Meanwhile, Kentucky – the tournament’s No. 16 seed nationally – improved to 21-10 and advanced to play Ohio State in Saturday’s second round.
Despite the season-ending setback, the Bucs still enjoyed an outstanding year. ETSU set program records for block assists (613) and sets played (139), while also setting new A-Sun records for total blocks (366.5) and blocks in conference only matches (198.5). Furthermore, the Blue and Gold also etched their name into the ETSU single-season record book for total blocks (366.5, 3rd), assists (1644, 4th), kills (1781, 5th), and attack percentage (.223, 5th).
Individually, the Bucs saw the career of senior setter Kayla Williams (El Paso, Texas) come to an end on Friday night. Williams – who played two seasons for the Blue and Gold after transferring in from Frank Phillips College – registered 1,204 assists in 53 matches. Williams also recorded five double-doubles during her tenure at ETSU.
As for the match went, ETSU won the first two points of the first set; however, it was all Kentucky from that point forward as the Wildcats captured the opener, 25-9. The Wildcats answered with a 10-1 run following the pair of Buccaneer points, forcing the Blue and Gold to burn a timeout. After Kentucky won the next point, Hardy’s kill cut the deficit to seven, 11-4, but the Wildcats closed the set out on a 14-5 spurt to take a 1-0 lead in the match. ETSU gave the Wildcats 13 points via errors, while Kentucky outhit the Bucs .409 (10-1-22) to .032 (7-6-31).
The Bucs shook off the jitters and rust in the second as ETSU jumped out to a 14-11 advantage, but with play knotted at 15, Kentucky won 10 of the final 12 points to win the set, 25-17. Early in the set, the Blue and Gold trailed 6-3, but scored four consecutive points to pull back ahead, 7-6. ETSU eventually built a five-point cushion when Devine capped off a stretch of three straight service aces to make it a 13-8 score. Unfortunately, the Bucs couldn’t extend their lead any larger as the Wildcats rallied for the win and grabbed a 2-0 advantage in the match. Devine had four of her eight kills in the second, while she compiled three of ETSU’s four service aces in the set.
The early stages of the third set were close, but with the game tied at 5-all, Kentucky broke the frame open with six unanswered points to go ahead, 11-5. From there, the Wildcats extended their lead to 12, 22-10, but the Bucs threw one final spurt at Kentucky by scoring the next four points to make it an eight-point contest, 22-14. However, ETSU’s deficit was too big to dig out of and Kentucky took the set and match with a 25-15 victory. Of Rice’s five kills, three came in the third, while Hardy kept her block streak going with both of her stuffs coming in the stanza as well. As a team, the Bucs generated 10 of their 26 kills in the final set along with two of their three blocks.
Kentucky’s Ashley Frazier tallied a match-high 12 kills, while Whitney Billings added eight kills and nine digs. As a team, the Wildcats totaled 39 kills on a .361 attack percentage and finished with 43 digs.
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