JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 8, 2013) – The “Cardiac Bucs” were at it again.
Playing in its third straight five-set match, the ETSU volleyball team overcame a two-set deficit to rally past Lipscomb in five (25-27, 22-25, 25-21, 35-33, 15-13) in front of a boisterous crowd Friday night inside Brooks Gym.
Despite dropping the first two sets and dodging six match points in a marathon fourth frame, the Blue and Gold rallied behind the powerful arm of Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) and the strong blocking of Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) and Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.). Devine collected her ninth straight double-double after recording a career-high 28 kills (14 in the fourth set) and 18 digs, while Wiley hit a match-high .480 (13-1-25) and totaled seven blocks. Hardy, who was honored before the match for breaking the all-time Atlantic Sun record for blocks, added 11 kills, seven blocks and four service aces for the Blue and Gold.
With the victory, ETSU pushed is home win streak to 13 straight and the Bucs tallied their second consecutive 20-win campaign by improving to 20-7, 14-1. ETSU, who has also won seven straight matches overall, still holds a one-game lead over Jacksonville in the A-Sun standings. Lipscomb saw its nine-match win streak come to a halt and dipped to 18-7, 12-3.
“Tonight’s comeback shows a lot about our character,” said head coach Lindsey Devine, whose team has now defeated Lipscomb in the last three meetings. “Our team has the will and fight. They weren’t going to let Lipscomb come into our gym and take one from us. At the turn, we talked about battling back and our girls responded with the adjustments that were made. Lipscomb brings out the best in us, and I like to think we bring out the best in them. We knew this was going to be a battle right down to the end.
“Once again, our fans were outstanding tonight. They hung around until the very end and were loud. They gave us the energy and push when we needed it. We are their team, so they stuck with us and it shows the strong school spirit we have. It’s great to be a Buccaneer.”
After ETSU handed Lipscomb a five-set loss last month in Nashville, the Bisons looked prime for a revenge win by taking the first two sets.
However, the battle-tested Bucs, used the energy from the crowd to fight back and gave the ETSU faithful a memorable comeback win.
Following a tightly contested opening set (10 ties and three lead changes), the Bisons led wire-to-wire in the second to hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.
Fortunately, the Blue and Gold proved the old adage “It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish" to be true.
Coming out of the break, the Blue and Gold won five of the first seven points of the third set, and despite Lipscomb pulling even twice, ETSU started building momentum by winning the frame, 25-21. With the score knotted at 11, Hardy and Devine both pitched in with two kills each, and the Bucs regained a 17-14 lead, forcing the Bisons to burn a timeout. Lipscomb was forced to use its final timeout shortly after when Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) pushed ETSU’s advantage to four, 19-15, courtesy of a kill and a service ace. From there, the Bucs saw their lead grow to five and captured the win when Bri McCombs tallied one of Lipscomb’s 20 service errors on the night. After combining to hit .098 (22-14-82) in the first two sets, ETSU’s offense found some rhythm in the third as the Blue and Gold totaled a blistering .467 (16-2-30). Wiley hit .475 (3-0-4), and Devine, Hardy, and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) combined for a .500 attack percentage (12-1-22).
With the Bucs gaining confidence off their first set win of the match, neither team budged in the fourth, but after 16 ties, five lead changes, and ETSU escaping six match points, the Blue and Gold picked up kills from Wiley and Devine, pushing the match to the brink. The Bucs controlled the tempo early as ETSU won nine of the first 14 points and built a four-point lead when Wiley and Rice combined for a block, making it an 18-14 contest. Unfortunately, the Blue and Gold couldn’t put the Bisons away in regulation as Lipscomb dodged set point at 24-23, when a kill by Jewell Dobson tied the score at 24.
From there, the seesaw game started and words can’t describe how play ended.
Devine help the Bucs sway off the first two match points with a pair of kills, while Gesell evened things at 27 when she slammed down her only kill of the stanza. ETSU then got a gift from Dobson as she was charged with a service error, while Hardy and Devine came through with kills of their own to pull even at 29 and 30.
Then, for the first time since 24-23, the Blue and Gold were back to serving for the set when Molly Spitznagle’s attack error made it 31-30 in favor of the Bucs, but Lauren Ford’s fifth kill of the frame tied it at 31. Fortunately, after missing out on three chances to close the set out late, Wiley snapped a 33-all tie with a kill and Devine finished it when Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) found the all-time ETSU and A-Sun leader in kills for her 14th of the frame, forcing the match into the decisive fifth-set tiebreaker. As a team, ETSU had 24 kills (.291 attack percentage) in the fourth, and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) assisted on 20 of them. Both teams combined for 10 service errors (five each), but Wiley and Devine stepped up when the Bucs needed it, and lifted the Blue and Gold to the all-important two-point victory.
Play was nip-and-tuck the entire fifth set, but with ETSU trailing by one (13-12), the Bucs closed the match out on a 3-0 run to cap off the gutsy comeback. Midway through the stanza, the Bucs gained a little breathing room when Gesell and Rice connected on kills, giving ETSU a 9-7 advantage, but Lipscomb used a 6-3 spurt of its own to regain a 13-12 lead, forcing the Blue and Gold to call their final timeout. The stoppage worked as Lipscomb’s Kayla Ostrom failed on her service attempt, while an attack error by Dobson put ETSU back up one, 14-13. This time the Bisons needed to regroup, but the timeout didn’t work as Rutledge and Wiley stuffed Sophie Kellerman at the net, keeping the Bucs’ winning ways intact. Ironically, that was the only block of the set, while both teams totaled seven kills each in the frame. However, Lipscomb finished with two more attack errors than ETSU (5-3) and one additional service error (3-2). Individually, Wiley (two) and Rice (three) accounted for five of the kills and hit .455 (5-0-11) in the fifth.
The statistics were nearly identical for the match, as both clubs registered 64 assists, whereas, ETSU was plus-3 in kills (69-66), plus-3 in aces (7-4), and plus-4 in blocks (14-10). Lipscomb won the digs battle by one, 76-75, but Muey led all players with 21 digs and also had six assists. Rutledge dished out 52 assists and had three blocks, while freshman Briana Allmon (Flower Mound, Texas) came off the bench to provide the Bucs with solid serving and fellow rookie Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) stepped in for Rutledge in the second to record five assists.
Lauren Ford led the Bisons with 25 kills and Caitlin Dotson ended with 55 assists, 12 digs, four kills, and two blocks in the losing effort.
The Bucs return to action Saturday afternoon when ETSU hosts Northern Kentucky at 3 p.m. inside Brooks Gym.
“We know NKU is another great team,” said Devine. “We have to do a better job controlling the ball when it comes to our side, play with better composure, and not let them take away the lead when we have it.”
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