KENNESAW, Ga. (Sept. 21, 2013) – The ETSU volleyball team passed the test in its opening weekend of conference play.
Less than 24 hours after taking down Mercer, the Bucs picked up their fourth straight win by defeating Kennesaw State, 3-1 (25-15, 25-21, 25-27, 25-19), on Saturday afternoon inside the KSU Convocation Center.
As a team, the Blue and Gold did a solid job distributing the ball as five players finished with six or more kills, including senior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) posting a match-high 15 kills and 14 digs for her third straight double-double. Devine also came away with four blcoks and a pair of service aces. Meanwhile, Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.), who recorded her 2,000th career assist Friday night, quarterbacked the offense as the junior setter recorded 45 of ETSU’s 51 assists. Rutledge also ended with six digs, six blocks and four kills. Junior middle blocker Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) shut down Kennesaw State’s offensive attack after finishing with 11 blocks (one shy of tying her career high) and added nine kills.
Following the win, the Bucs have now won four straight over Kennesaw State and ETSU improved to 8-6, 2-0 in Atlantic Sun play. Kennesaw State (6-6, 1-1) had a five-match win streak come to an end as well as suffering its first home loss of the season. Prior to Saturday’s setback, the Owls were 5-0 inside the KSU Convocation Center.
“Winning on the road is so important and I was proud of the way our team finished this match,” said head coach Lindsey Devine. “As a group, we know strong teams show maturity and play with confidence near the end of the match. Once our players remembered this, we were able to play our style of game, which gave us the opportunity to close out the match.
“Jamie is working hard to put the ball in a great locations by taking looks at the opposite side of the net, which creates more opportunities for our attackers. She is really beginning to develop this part of her game.”
The first set was close early on, but ETSU stepped up its play midway through the stanza to pull away 25-15. With the score knotted at five, ETSU used a 5-0 run to build a 10-5 lead, forcing Kennesaw State to burn a timeout. Following the stoppage of play, the Owls clipped their deficit to two (11-9), but the Blue and Gold responded in a big way as the Bucs won 14 of the final 20 points to win the opening set by 10. ETSU had five players record kills in the stanza, as Hardy led the way by having three of the Bucs’ 10 kills. The Blue and Gold out-hit the Owls, .280 to -.088, while ETSU out-blocked KSU, 6-0.
ETSU stood strong and kept momentum on its side in the second set as the Bucs held on for a 25-21 victory and led 2-0 in the match. The Blue and Gold never trailed in the frame, and despite seeing their 20-10 lead dwindle to three (23-20), ETSU maintained its composure to pull away for the win. After calling a timeout at 23-20, Sara Metroka posted a service error, while Rutledge ended the set with a kill, giving the Bucs a four-point win. ETSU recorded 23 of its 56 digs in the second set, with Devine and junior libero Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) tallying six each.
The third and fourth sets were tightly contested, but after dropping a hard-fought third, ETSU battled back to finish off the Owls in the fourth.
In the third set, the teams combined for 19 ties and 12 lead changes, but after holding a 24-22 advantage, ETSU couldn’t put the Owls away in straight sets. Kennesaw State closed the stanza on a 5-1 run to stay alive in the match, 27-25. The Bucs trailed 14-10 midway through the third, but coming out of a timeout, the Blue and Gold used a 5-0 run to regain a one-point lead. From there, neither team led by more than two points, and after the Owls held off match point twice, Kennesaw State used its run to prevail in the set.
Fortunately, the Bucs returned the favor in the fourth as ETSU closed the set on an 11-3 run to wrap up the match with a 25-19 victory. Just like the third, the final set was nip-and-tuck, but with the Owls leading 16-14, ETSU used its surge to complete the win. Overall, the fourth set had 10 ties and six lead changes, while Devine fueled the offensive attack down the stretch. The reigning A-Sun Player of the Year hit .700 (7-0-10) in the set and ETSU out-hit Kennesaw State .462 to .069. In addition, Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) was a perfect 2-of-2 in her attempts, Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) hit .500 (3-0-6) and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) hit .400 (3-1-5) in the final frame.
For the fourth straight match and the 10th time this season, the Bucs won the play at the net as the Blue and Gold finished with a season-high 15.5 blocks. Kennesaw State registered seven.
“Again, we continue to be strong at the net with our block and I was pleased with the way we stepped up our game in the fourth set,” commented Devine. “Megan and Ivey provided us with some key points when we needed them down the stretch.”
The Owls were led by Keyaira Stevenson’s 12 kills and Metroka ended with 35 assists, nine digs and four kills in the loss.
The Bucs continue their road swing Thursday night as ETSU travels to Spartanburg for a conference match at USC Upstate. Game time is set for 6 p.m. inside the Hodge Center.
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