CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 29, 2014) – Six Buccaneer players had multiple kills, while setters Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) both recorded double-digit assists, as the ETSU volleyball team picked up a season-opening sweep (25-14, 25-20, 25-20) over Morgan State on Friday morning at the Charlotte Invitational.
Seniors Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) led the attack for the Blue and Gold as they both registered eight kills each, while fellow senior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) was nearly flawless in the middle. Hardy hit .600 (6-0-10) and finished with seven blocks as the Blue and Gold picked up their first season-opening sweep since defeating Campbell in straight sets exactly 11 years ago today. With her seven blocks, Hardy has now recorded at least one in 94 straight matches.
Defensively, the Bucs out-blocked the Lady Bears, 9.5-1.0, while Rice added four of her own. Senior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) led all players with a match-high 15 digs and freshman local product Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) tallied three kills, 12 digs, an ace and one block in her collegiate debut.
“There’s always a lot of excitement and jitters when starting a new season, but I thought the team settled in and did a great job staying composed at key moments throughout the match,” said head coach Lindsey Devine, whose team opens the year with a 1-0 mark. “The girls were ready to play and they really embraced the moment. Overall, I was really pleased with the energy we played with and it was rewarding to see us get the result at the end.
“It took a total team effort to pick up the win and it was a pleasure to see everything we have been working on this preseason carry over into the first match. We aren’t perfect yet, but we did some good things and we were able to execute when needed to.”
The early stages of each set were tightly contested, but once the Bucs got things rolling Morgan State had no answer for the Blue and Gold.
In the first set, both teams traded scores until ETSU used a 17-4 surge to turn a 4-all tie into a 13-point lead, 21-8. The Bucs had three of their six service aces during the run as Muey picked up two and Milhorn added the other, while Rice, Gesell, Milhorn and Jessica Schafer (Dekalb, Ill.) all added kills. ETSU’s lead remained in double figures for the rest of the set as the Bucs secured the 11-point win. Rice totaled three of her kills in the opener, while junior Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) slammed home two of her five kills in the first set.
The theme continued in the second as the Bucs broke play open with a 7-0 run and never trailed again en route to taking a commanding 2-0 match lead with a 25-20 victory. With the score knotted at six, the Blue and Gold opened a 13-6 advantage following their run and held off a late rally by Morgan State. The Lady Bears clipped their deficit down to two, 17-15, but the Buccaneers didn’t budge and ETSU kept its composure down the stretch run as Favre found Gesell for the set-clinching kill. The High Point, N.C. native fueled the offensive attack in the second as Gesell ended with five kills, while the Bucs posted their highest attack percentage in the frame as well at .276 (12-5-29).
The third set saw five ties in the stanza, but ETSU never trailed as the Blue and Gold capped off the match with another 25-20 win. Following the fifth and final tie at 11-all, the Bucs mounted another 7-0 spurt to take control as ETSU led, 18-11, following a kill by Gesell. Again, the Lady Bears made one final run as they pulled within two, 22-20, but ETSU forced Morgan State into three consecutive attack errors resulting in the final points of the match for the Blue and Gold. Hardy exploded in the third as she hit .800 (4-0-5) and Milhorn had nine of her 12 digs in the final frame.
As a team, the Bucs won every statistical category as ETSU hit .244 (33-11-90), while finishing with six service aces, 32 assists, 50 digs, and 9.5 blocks. Meanwhile, ETSU held Morgan State to a .065 clip (30-23-108) and the Lady Bears ended with two aces, 29 assists, 42 digs and one block.
The Bucs return to action later today as ETSU takes on Sacramento State at 5 p.m.
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