JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Oct. 19, 2013) – On a day when Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) broke the all-time Atlantic Sun kills record, the ETSU volleyball team didn’t want the record-setting day to be overshadowed by a losing effort.
With their backs against the wall, the Bucs capped off a monstrous comeback as the ETSU volleyball team won the final three sets to rally past North Florida (20-25, 23-25, 25-18, 25-12, 15-13) on Saturday afternoon inside UNF Arena.
Despite getting off to a slow start, Devine finished the day strong as she compiled 21 kills and 14 digs, marking her 64th career double-double. Devine entered the match needing only seven kills to break the conference record, which was held by Lipscomb’s Alex Kelly (2007-10), and the Kingsport, Tenn. native broke the mark midway through the second set. Following today’s performance, the Buccaneer senior captain has now accumulated 1,761 kills in her illustrious career.
“Breaking the record is a team accomplishment and I couldn’t achieve this mark without my teammates,” said Devine. “I want to thank the defense behind me and the setters, because they were the ones who put the ball in my hands and gave me an opportunity to get the kills. Getting the win today makes this record even more special, because we all stepped up after last night’s loss and came together to beat UNF today.”
Coach Devine also realizes this award couldn’t have been accomplished without a great team presence.
“I am proud of Megan for breaking this record,” said coach Devine. “As Megan said, it’s a team award. In order for a record like this to be broken, a player needs a strong team behind them, because it gives confidence to the hitter when going up for the attack. Megan has registered a lot of attempts over the years, which shows the respect this team has for her by putting the ball in her hands. She gets a lot of power behind those swings and we are fortunate she’s on our side.”
Devine wasn’t the only ETSU player to reach a milestone on Saturday as junior libero Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) recorded her 1,000th career dig. Muey needed only nine digs to reach the mark and led all players with 17.
“Again to reach these individual accolades, is a testament to the hard work put in, but we share these honors as a team award,” commented Devine. “Katie has been an important player for us over the years. I love her energy, confidence and her play in the back row for us. I’m glad she’s on our side of the net.”
While Devine and Muey enjoyed the milestone marks, it took a total team effort to cap off the come-from-behind victory.
Junior Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) joined Devine with a double-double as the junior setter tallied a career-high 65 assists and posted 10 digs, resulting in her first double-double of the season (12th career). Rutledge also totaled four blocks and two kills, while fellow junior Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) bounced back with an impressive effort. After finishing with only five kills and a -.091 attack percentage Friday night at Jacksonville, Gesell ended with 18 kills (.342 attack percentage), seven digs, and six blocks. Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) also totaled double-digit kills for ETSU. Hardy finished with 12 kills and six blocks, and Rice – who secured the final point for the Bucs in the fifth set – added 13 kills and eight digs. Meanwhile, sophomore Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) also had a career match as she had nine kills (.400 attack percentage) and nine blocks. Wiley’s 9-block performance set a new career high for the middle blocker.
In a rematch of last year’s A-Sun Championship, the Bucs dominated UNF statistically. As a team, ETSU posted 75 kills, 72 assists, 62 digs and 16 blocks, while the Ospreys totaled 51 kills, 49 assists, 50 digs and 12 blocks. In the end, the Bucs set season highs in kills, assists, and blocks.
After having its nine-match win streak snapped Friday night, ETSU bounced back into the win column, improving to 14-7, 8-1, and remained tied for first with Jacksonville. UNF entered the day winning back-to-back games, but the Ospreys dropped to 7-13, 3-6 following the loss.
“Today’s match was a gut check for our team,” said head coach Lindsey Devine. “We were challenged and forced to make adjustments – which we did. We stopped playing on our heels and with fear that we could lose, and instead, we turned to our physical play to help us come back and earn the win.
“I was really happy with how we bounced back from last night’s loss. Once again, Ivey was strong today and this weekend was a turning point for her to understand how valuable she is for this team. Although the numbers don’t reflect it, Megan was strong late. She started slow, but gave us some key plays when we needed them in the later portion of the match. Both Meredith and Khadijah kept the defense off-balance, because we were able to feed them a ball and they got great swings in transition. This allowed Jamie to distribute the ball to a lot of players, which made UNF question who we were going to throughout our run.”
In a match where the Bucs got off to a shaky start, ETSU’s maturity and composure kicked in to earn its third five-set win on the campaign.
In the first set, UNF jumped out to a hot start, and despite ETSU holding an 18-16 lead, the Ospreys rallied for the five-point win, 25-20. UNF won the first four points and six of the first eight to contain its four-point advantage early on. From there, the Blue and Gold responded by winning 16 of the next 26 points to grab a two-point lead as a kill by Devine made it an 18-16 score. However, just like they started the set, the Ospreys wrapped things up on a positive note, as UNF mounted a 9-2 spurt to take the opener. Despite holding a plus-one margin in kills (15-14) in the stanza, ETSU was out-hit, .306 to .222, while the Ospreys notched three service aces to only one by the Bucs. Gesell led the Blue and Gold offensively as she hit .667 (6-0-9).
The Ospreys kept momentum on their side as UNF held on to take the second set, 25-23, and gained a 2-0 lead in the match. Both teams traded points to start the frame, but with the score knotted at five, UNF received a kill by Cameron McGuire, while an attack error from Gesell put the Ospreys ahead, 7-5. From that juncture, UNF never trailed and eventually saw its advantage extend to six when a kill by Anna Budinska made it an 18-12 contest. The Bucs fought back and used a 10-5 spurt to cut their deficit to one, 23-22, but the Ospreys won two of the final three points and withstood ETSU’s run. Again, the Bucs had one more kill than UNF in the second (14-13), but it was the Ospreys’ strong serving that lifted the home team to another set win. UNF had two aces in the frame, while ETSU didn’t record any.
Then, with nowhere to go but up, the Bucs began digging out of their hole to begin the comeback.
The Blue and Gold came out of the break energized as ETSU led for the majority of the third set and cruised to a 25-18 victory. The Ospreys won the first point of the stanza, but with the score even at four, the Bucs rattled off four consecutive points and led for the remainder of the set. The closest UNF got was three, while ETSU led by as many as eight points at 19-11, 20-12, and 21-13. Devine (six kills), Gesell (five kills) and Rice (four kills) ignited the offensive spark in the third as they accounted for 15 of ETSU’s 17 kills, while the Bucs hit .394 (17-4-33).
In the fourth set, ETSU continued with its impressive play by winning the first three points and never trailed en route to tying the match at two with a 25-12 win. After taking the first three points, the Blue and Gold saw their lead soar to 10, when Rutledge found Wiley for the kill, making it a 15-5 game. The Ospreys never threatened as UNF could only clip its deficit to six (15-9), but the Blue and Gold won 10 of the final 13 points to secure the 13-point victory. Muey joined the 1,000-dig club in the set, marking the second straight year a Buccaneer accomplished the feat (Devine). Muey had five digs in the set, while ETSU’s attack percentage continued to soar after hitting .452 (17-3-31). Six different Bucs accounted for the kills, with Devine pacing the group at six kills (.600 attack percentage) and eight digs. Rice was a perfect 2-for-2 in her attempts, while Hardy hit .400 (3-1-5).
With the match coming down to a winner-take-all fifth-set tiebreaker, ETSU controlled the early stages of the frame by winning seven of the first eight points. However, the Ospreys didn’t back down and used a 5-2 run to pull within three, 9-6, forcing coach Devine to use her first timeout. Following the stoppage of play, the Blue and Gold regained momentum as the Bucs pushed their lead to five, and were serving for the match when a kill by Rice made it a 14-9 score. Again, the Ospreys didn’t budge and won the next four points to make it a 14-13 contest, but for the second time in a matter of moments, Rutledge found Rice for another kill, lifting ETSU to the five-set win. Neither team hit well in the decisive set as the Bucs registered a .129 clip, compared to UNF’s .048 mark. Despite committing five more attack errors than UNF (8-3), ETSU’s plus-eight margin in kills (12-4) was strong enough to pull out the victory. Gesell and Hardy each ended with four kills in the fifth, while Rice pitched in with three.
Like the Bucs, UNF had three players finish in double figures in kills as Budinska paced the Ospreys with 15 and added 11 digs for a double-double. Abby Fesl also finished with a double-double of her own as she tallied 33 assists and 13 digs, while McGuire (12 kills) and Saelina Dunn (10 kills) were the other two Ospreys with double-digit kills.
After playing 18 of its first 21 matches on the road, ETSU will now play seven of its final nine matches at home, beginning Tuesday night when the Bucs host Mercer at 6 p.m. inside Brooks Gym.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball page.