NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 12, 2014) – Senior middle blocker Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) recorded her 1,000th career kill, but the ETSU volleyball team was swept by Utah (23-25, 16-25, 22-25) on Friday night at the Lipscomb Invitational.
Hardy entered the match needing three kills to reach the milestone and the Kingsport, Tenn. native finished with the magic number. The preseason all-conference selection also added a pair of blocks to extend her streak of recording at least one block to 101 straight matches.
“It’s exciting to reach this milestone, but we wanted to get a win tonight against Utah,” said Hardy. “My teammates deserve the credit for this milestone, because I wouldn’t have been able to record those kills without any of them. They (my teammates) do the work and I get the glory, but my teammates should get the credit too.”
“Meredith is a special player and over her career at ETSU she has continued to define herself as one of the elite players on our roster,” said head coach Lindsey Devine. “Opponents have a hard time defending Meredith because of her style of play, and we are proud of what she has meant to this program (to date) at ETSU.”
Overall, the Blue and Gold were led offensively by Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) as the senior outside hitter finished with a match-high 12 kills and added six digs. Junior Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) led ETSU with a .235 attack percentage (7-3-17), while also pitching in three blocks. Sophomore setter Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) recorded her first collegiate solo block in the second set.
All three sets were tightly contested as the Blue and Gold either held a lead or were tied late in two of the three frames. Unfortunately, ETSU couldn’t get over the hump, while unforced errors played a key factor as the Bucs committed seven service errors and three ball handling miscues in the match.
With the setback, the ETSU dipped to 3-5 on the year, while Utah kept its perfect record intact, improving to 7-0.
“Tonight we weren’t consistent with our play for the entire match,” said Devine. “We did some good things throughout each set, but when play got tight, we went away from what got us to that point. We went away from the game plan late in the sets and we need to keep believing in ourselves when plays don’t go our way.”
The first set consisted of several runs, but when the dust cleared Utah won the final two points to win the opener, 25-23. ETSU jumped out to an early 4-3 lead, but Utah responded with four unanswered points to gain a three-point advantage, 7-4. From there, the Bucs pulled within two when a kill by Ivey Rice made it a 16-14 score, but Utah responded with a 7-3 run to go ahead, 23-17. ETSU didn’t budge as the Bucs showed their grit and toughness by rattling off six straight scores to tie the set at 23; however, Utah won the final two points to take the opener. Rice and Wiley led the Blue and Gold with four kills each, but it were unforced errors that haunted ETSU in the first. The Bucs committed two service and one ball handling error in the opener.
In the second set, ETSU dug itself in a deep hole early as the Utes won eight of the first 10 points, and despite the Bucs coming all the way back to take a 13-11 lead, the Blue and Gold couldn’t hold off the Utes. After falling behind by two, Utah closed out the set on a 14-3 run to take a 2-0 match lead with its 25-16 set victory.
The Bucs led early on in the third when a kill by Hardy made it a 6-4 score, but the Utes mounted a 7-1 run to take the lead for good, forcing ETSU to burn a timeout at 11-7. Utah was able to extend its lead to five, 19-14, but like they did all night, the Bucs continued to battle back and inched within a point at 20-19 and 23-22. However, Utah ended the match by claiming the final two points to pull out its sixth sweep of the campaign. Hardy reached her personal milestone in the third when Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) found Hardy for the kill to tie the set at seven.
Rutledge – who is now 42 assists shy of recording No. 3,000 of her career – finished with a match-high 26 assists, while Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) led all players with 17 digs. Junior Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) came off the bench to add 10 digs for the Blue and Gold.
Utah was led by Kendall Cygan and Chelsey Schofield as they both finished with double-doubles. Cygan ended with 20 assists and 11 digs, while Schofield added 11 kills and 10 digs.
As a team, Utah out-hit the Bucs .209 to .091.
The Bucs close out the Lipscomb Invitational on Saturday as ETSU takes on the host Bisons at 1:30 p.m. EDT, while facing Georgia Tech at 5 p.m. EDT inside Allen Arena.
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