JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Aug. 9, 2014) – After moving back on campus and sitting through team meetings on Friday, the ETSU volleyball team was able to take to the court for the first time as the Bucs began preparations for the 2014 season on Saturday.
The 2014 campaign features some changes for the Blue and Gold as ETSU made the move to the Southern Conference on July 1, head coach Lindsey Devine brought in two new assistants, while a new look to Brooks Gym and two local players in Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Lexi Hartsock (Kingsport, Tenn.) have also been added to the Bucs’ roster. In addition to the changes, this also marks the first time since 2010 that All-American standout Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) – the ETSU and Atlantic Sun all-time leader in kills (1,940) – won’t don the Blue and Gold as she graduated and will begin her professional career overseas later this month.
“This is a new season and we are ready for the challenge” said coach Devine, whose team began practicing inside ETSU’s Basler’s Center for Physical Activity (CPA) on Saturday. “We are excited to enter the Southern Conference and the players were eager to get on the court this afternoon. We may be facing some adversity as we enter the preseason, but we won’t view that as a negative. Instead, this will make us stronger.”
Despite all the adversity, coach Devine does return five senior starters who have helped guide ETSU to a pair of conference championships as well as averaging 20-plus wins (a season) since stepping foot on campus in the fall of 2011. The group of Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.), Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.), Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.), Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) look to finish off their illustrious careers by hanging one more banner in Brooks Gym.
“This senior class has played in a lot of matches and they know what it takes to win,” added Devine. “They are going to help the underclassmen this preseason and prepare for another successful year. This is their last season in an ETSU uniform and they want to go out on top.”
The senior class will act as an extension of the coaching staff on the court, while new assistants Marquis Clark and Nikki Dailey have already adjusted nicely in their roles since Lauren Baufield and Luke Murray left in the spring. Baufield joined former Buccaneer assistant Michelle Piantadosi at Eckerd College, while Murray departed for Colorado State in May. Clark spent the 2013 season on the staff at perennial power Wichita State, while Dailey finished up a stellar four-year playing career at Iowa – where she ranks fifth all-time with 3,161 career assists.
“Marquis and Nikki have been working hard since getting on campus,” said Devine. “Marquis has already been out recruiting and Nikki is fresh off an outstanding four-year playing career at Iowa. They are both eager to get the preseason started and ready to help this team get better each and every day.”
ETSU has less than three weeks to prepare for its season opener, which begins Aug. 29 against Morgan State at the Charlotte 49er Invitational. Overall, the Bucs play in four preseason tournaments – featuring opponents from the Pac-12, ACC and Big 10 – host 10 home matches and take part in a home-and-home Southern Conference slate. The conference leap may be a new move for the Blue and Gold, but the majority of the opponents will be familiar as ETSU has played six of the eight SoCon teams at least once since 2011.
“Once again, we have another difficult road ahead of us this season,” said Devine. “We play in four preseason tournaments, which we hope prepares us for conference play. The Southern Conference is a good league and we are familiar with a lot of these teams. We are looking forward to the test, while also renewing old rivalries and starting new ones.”
With all the changes and new additions one goal is still the same for coach Devine and the 2014 ETSU volleyball team – win a championship.
Click here to purchase 2014 ETSU volleyball season tickets or call 423-439-3878.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball page.