DeLAND, Fla. (Nov. 2, 2013) – Less than 24 hours after defeating Florida Gulf Coast in five sets, the ETSU volleyball team was taken to the brink yet again.
However, the Bucs never backed down from the challenge, as the Blue and Gold spoiled Stetson’s Senior Day by outlasting the Hatters in five sets (25-23, 21-25, 25-14, 22-25, 15-11) on Saturday evening inside the Edmunds Center.
Like they did on Friday night, senior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) and junior Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) recorded double-doubles, while junior Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) scored the final three points for the Bucs to cap off another five-set victory. Devine posted her eighth consecutive double-double by totaling 26 kills (.308 attack percentage) and 16 digs, while Rice added 11 kills and 11 digs. Fellow junior Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) also collected a double-double after finishing with 59 assists and 10 digs, to go with three kills and two blocks. Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.), Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) and Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) also stepped up big for the Bucs defensively. Hardy ended with six blocks and 12 kills (.321 attack percentage), Wiley also notched six blocks, and Muey accounted for 20 of ETSU’s 66 digs on the night. Overall, ETSU had four players total double-digit kills as Gesell ended with 12, along with adding four blocks and a pair of service aces.
Following her 16-dig performance, Devine – the program’s all-time leader in kills – moved past Kaena Apana (2006-07) for fifth among ETSU dig leaders. Devine has accumulated 1,403 career digs and needs 38 to move past Jennifer Manchester (1992-95) for fourth in the Buccaneer record book.
ETSU has now won six straight and 15 of its last 16 matches, improving to 19-7, 13-1 in A-Sun play. The Bucs remain in first-place in the conference race as the Blue and Gold have a one-game lead on Lipscomb and a 1.5-game advantage over Jacksonville. ETSU still plays both teams at home in the final two weeks of regular season play. Stetson, who was playing its final home match of the season, dipped to 17-12, 8-6.
Early on, both teams split the first two sets in close contests, but the Bucs looked to have gained momentum by cruising to an 11-point win in the third, 25-14. However, the Hatters had another run in them and held on for a 25-22 victory, forcing another five-set tiebreaker for the Blue and Gold.
Playing in its fifth straight five-set road tilt, the Bucs drew from those past experiences and showed their maturity by getting off to a strong start. In a match that consisted of 27 ties and 13 lead changes, none occurred in the decisive set as ETSU used Muey’s strong serving to jump out to a 5-0 run. The Blue and Gold eventually led by six when a kill by Hardy made it a 9-3 score, and despite Stetson pulling within two, 12-10, the Bucs regrouped after a timeout as Gesell stepped up with three clutch kills to finish off the Hatters. Gesell had five of ETSU’s 11 kills in the final frame and also hit .667 (5-1-6). Hardy hit .600 (3-0-5), while the team registered a .320 attack percentage (11-3-25).
In the first set, ETSU rallied late by winning the final three points to jump ahead with a 25-23 win. Devine had eight kills in the opener, while Rice and Hardy total four and three, respectively. As a team, the Bucs tallied four more kills than the Hatters (17-13), which made the difference in the outcome. ETSU controlled the pace midway through the stanza as the Bucs led 16-12 after a Rutledge kill forced Stetson to burn a timeout, but after the stoppage, the Hatters mounted an 11-6 run to regain a 23-22 advantage. From there, Stetson was bit by a pair of unforced errors – a service error by Shannon Craighead and ball handling error from Kayla Weller – and Rice’s kill capped off the Blue and Gold comeback.
After not being able to finish off the rally in the opener, the Hatters prevailed in the second by coming away with a four-point win, 25-21. Stetson opened up by winning eight of the first 12 points, but ETSU used an 11-5 spurt to go up, 15-13, following a service ace from Rice. Unfortunately, the Bucs couldn’t hold off Stetson’s run as the Hatters won 12 of the final 18 points to even the at match one. Devine hit .375 (7-1-16) and Wiley added three kills on six attempts (one error) in the set, but as team ETSU registered a .158 clip (13-7-38). Meanwhile, Stetson hit .312 (14-4-32) and was led by Tiffany Creamer’s six kills.
In the only lopsided score of the match, the Bucs led from wire-to-wire to take the third, 25-14. ETSU won the first five points and Stetson never threatened as the Blue and Gold built a 10-point cushion when consecutive Hatter attack errors made it a 17-7 score. Stetson could only clip its deficit to seven (17-10) and ETSU enjoyed the 11-point victory. The Bucs only had two more kills than the Hatters (10-8), but Stetson totaled six more attack errors than ETSU (9-3). In addition, the Bucs posted three service aces and four blocks, while the Hatters came away empty in both statistical categories.
Both teams were efficient offensively in the fourth set, but Stetson won six of the final nine points to force the tiebreaker. ETSU hit .306 (17-6-36) in the frame, while the Hatters compiled a .333 (16-2-42) clip; however, it was Stetson’s blocking that cost the Blue and Gold from finishing the match in four. The Hatters out-blocked the Bucs, 5-1. The Bucs led until Stetson went ahead, 12-11, but from there both teams traded scores until the Hatters recorded three unanswered points to take a 19-17 lead. Despite ETSU tying the set at 19 via a kill and service ace from Gesell, Stetson used its solid stretch run to earn the victory.
Fortunately, the Bucs’ strong push early in the fifth set was too much for the Hatters to overcome, moving ETSU’s all-time record against Stetson to a perfect, 15-0.
In a match where both teams tallied 12 blocks, the Bucs’ plus-5 margin in service aces (6-1) and plus-11 advantage in kills (68-57) proved to be the difference maker.
Creamer paced Stetson with 22 kills (.373 attack percentage) and Kaley Melville ended with a double-double (10 kills/10 digs) in her final match inside the Edmunds Center. Weller also finished with a double-double in the hard-fought setback as she recorded 46 assists and 10 digs.
ETSU returns home next weekend to host Lipscomb on Friday night at 7 p.m., while facing off with Northern Kentucky Saturday at 3 p.m., inside Brooks Gym.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.