FT. MYERS, Fla. (Nov. 1, 2013) – Playing inside Alico Arena has been unpleasant for the ETSU volleyball team in the past, but the Blue and Gold bucked the trend Friday night, as the Bucs held off Florida Gulf Coast’s comeback to defeat the Eagles in five sets (25-19, 25-17, 17-25, 17-25, 15-4).
Entering Friday’s road match, the Bucs were 0-5 all-time against the Eagles inside Alico Arena, but with their backs against the wall, ETSU stayed focused to annihilate FGCU in the decisive fifth-set tiebreaker, 15-4. The Blue and Gold extended their win streak to five and kept its one-game lead atop the Atlantic Sun standings over Lipscomb and Jacksonville.
“It’s tough to win on the road and FGCU is one of those places we haven’t had a lot success in,” said head coach Lindsey Devine, whose team has won three straight against the Eagles. “I thought our team did a really good job tonight. We had a great warm up and we were mentally focused. The team executed our game plan and we played with confidence tonight.”
Senior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) and junior Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) posted double-doubles for the Bucs, while junior Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) moved into fifth-place all-time in the ETSU record book for assists. Devine registered her seventh straight double-double after tallying 19 kills and 17 digs, while Rice earned her fifth double-double of the year by providing the Blue and Gold with 13 kills and 11 digs. Devine moved her career digs total to 1,387 and is now tied with Kaena Apana (2006-07) for fifth all-time in program history. Rutledge – who now has 2,560 career assists – finished with 39 assists, nine digs and three blocks against FGCU. Meanwhile, fellow junior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) fought off a shaky start to end with 11 kills (.318 attack percentage), six digs, four blocks, and two service aces, and junior libero Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) contributed with 16 digs and six assists.
Along with winning its fifth straight, ETSU has now won 14 of its last 15 matches and improved to 18-7, 12-1 in A-Sun play. The Eagles suffered their third straight setback and moved to 11-15, 7-6 on the campaign.
“We have a team with so many options, which makes it hard for opponents to scout us,” Devine said. “Tonight we got strong serving from Meredith. Ivey and Megan gave us some key kills, Bethany found good shots in the fifth set, and Khadijah made her presence felt at the net.
“We keep learning something new about ourselves each time we step on the court. Tonight’s lesson was becoming relaxed in a negative way, which allowed FGCU to gain momentum. This is something we will be able to fix, but the way we responded in the fifth set was some of the best volleyball we’ve played. Winning the fifth set was a testament that this team wasn’t going to back down.”
In the first set, Rice and Devine helped power the Blue and Gold to a 25-19 victory. Both teams traded points early on, but with ETSU trailing by one (4-3), the Bucs used a 9-2 run to take a 12-6 lead as the Eagles committed four attack errors and Devine posted a pair of kills in the surge. From there, ETSU never trailed as Rice and Devine helped propel the Bucs to the six-point win. The Bucs led by as many as eight points in the stanza (22-14), and despite FGCU getting within four late, ETSU won the final two points to silence the Eagle rally. Rice and Devine accounted for 10 of ETSU’s 13 kills in the set and combined to hit .409 (10-1-22). Both Rice and Devine tallied five kills each in the opener.
Despite trailing by three (14-11) midway through the second set, ETSU flexed its muscle and closed the frame on a 14-3 run to rally past FGCU, 25-17. The Eagles controlled the momentum until Rice’s 10th kill of the match put the Bucs ahead, 16-15. With ETSU posting the fifth lead change of the set, FGCU never knew what hit them as the Blue and Gold won nine of the final 11 points to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Rice hit .364 (5-1-11) in the set, while Devine added four kills and eight digs. Hardy was also strong by finishing with three kills on four attempts (one error). The Bucs had three service aces in the frame, with Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) accounting for two of them.
Just when ETSU looked to be in good position for a quick win, FGCU used the break to regroup and fight back into the match.
After the Bucs used a dominating run to win the second set, FGCU returned the favor in set three as the Eagles ended the frame on a 13-5 spurt to stay alive with a 25-17 victory. The early stages of the set were tightly contested as the teams combined for 11 ties and four lead changes, but with the score knotted at 12, FGCU mounted its run to come away with the eight-point victory.
In the fourth set, the Eagles won the first four points of the frame, and ETSU never led as FGCU pulled even with a 25-17 victory. FGCU led by as many as 10 (22-12) in the frame, while the Eagles hit .258 (14-6-31), compared to the Bucs putting up a .071 clip (8-6-28).
“FGCU did a good job coming out of intermission and turning the match around,” said Devine. “They really stepped up, but we also didn’t play with the desire to finish the match out in three sets. We became relaxed and didn’t serve as aggressively as we needed to. We waited for something to happen and didn’t take control of it ourselves.”
With the Bucs playing in their fourth straight five-set road match, ETSU turned its game up another level to register its fourth, five-set win of the season.
ETSU never gave the Eagles a chance to breathe in the final set as the Blue and Gold won the first four points, and quickly saw their lead soar to seven, 10-3, forcing FGCU to call its final timeout. After the timeout, the Bucs continued adding to their lead courtesy of two straight solo blocks from Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.), which helped lift ETSU to its commanding 11-point victory. As a team, the Bucs hit .353 (7-1-17) in the fifth set and held FGCU to a -.190 (2-6-21) attack percentage. Gesell connected on two of her three attempts in the fifth, while Hardy was a perfect 2-for-2.
“We’ve been in a lot of five-set matches this season and I told the team to pull from those past experiences,” added Devine, whose team is 4-3 in five-set matches this year. “We know what it takes to win these fifth sets – to play clean, be aggressive and stick to the game plan. We did all those things tonight, which is why we came out on top.”
For the match, ETSU totaled 55 kills, 48 assists, 70 digs, 12 blocks and a season-high nine service aces.
FGCU was led by Kaitlin Holm’s 16 kills, while Jessica Barnes finished with a double-double (14 kills/12 digs).
The Bucs play their final road game of the regular season Saturday evening when ETSU takes on Stetson at 5 p.m. inside the Edmunds Center.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.