CULLOWHEE, N.C. (Oct. 11, 2014) – After dropping the first two sets, the ETSU volleyball team fought back to force a decisive fifth set; however, the Blue and Gold ran out of gas as Western Carolina hung on for a five-set win (20-25, 15-25, 25-20, 32-30, 11-15) on Saturday afternoon inside the Ramsey Center.
Seniors Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) both posted 20-plus kills, but it wasn’t enough to propel the Blue and Gold to a conference victory. Hardy finished with a match and season high 21 kills and eight blocks, while Rice totaled 20 kills and eight digs; however, ETSU couldn’t overcome its 36 attack and 10 service errors in the match. Fellow senior Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) and sophomore Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) both totaled double-doubles in the setback. Gesell ended with 17 kills and a career-high 31 digs, while Favre, who notched her first collegiate double-double, added 54 assists and 12 digs. Senior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) posted a career-high 40 digs, which were three shy of breaking the program single-match record.
As a team, the Bucs finished with plus-19 (77-58) in kills and plus-26 (130-104) in digs, but ETSU couldn’t overcome its unforced errors and was also out-blocked, 16-9.5. ETSU’s 130 digs were five shy of tying the school record, which was ironically set against Western Carolina back on Nov. 12, 1992.
With the setback, ETSU suffered its second straight loss and moved to 8-13, 2-3 in SoCon play, while the Catamounts snapped their four-match losing skid, improving to 8-11, 1-4.
The first set was a see-saw battle until Western Carolina broke a 16-16 tie and won nine of the final 13 points to take the opener, 25-20. Neither team led by more than two points prior to the Catamounts’ late run, but with the score knotted at 16, Western Carolina won two straight scores and never turned back from there. The Blue and Gold pulled within a point when a kill by Rice made it a 21-20 score, but Western Carolina won the final four points to complete the win.
Western Carolina led wire-to-wire in the second and captured a 10-point win, 25-15, to take a 2-0 lead in the match. The Catamounts won the first three points and eventually pushed their lead into double-digits when a service ace put Western Carolina ahead, 15-5. ETSU couldn’t dig itself out of the deep hole and went into intermission down two sets.
Fortunately, after the break, the Blue and Gold came out and won the next two sets to extend the match to a fifth set.
In the third, the Bucs jumped out to a fast start by winning seven of the first 10 points and cruised to the five-point win, 25-20. After leading 7-3, ETSU extended its advantage to five, 12-7, forcing Western Carolina to call a timeout following one of nine kills by Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.). The Catamounts had one last spurt in them as Western Carolina inched within a point (12-11), but used a 9-3 run to take a seven-point lead, 21-14. The surge helped push the Blue and Gold over the top as ETSU secured the victory. Hardy fueled the offensive output as she had seven kills in the frame, while Gesell posted seven of her digs in the stanza.
The fourth set was a marathon as it featured 12 ties and four lead changes, but after battling back from a four-point deficit and dodging four match points, the Bucs won the final three scores to capture the 32-30 comeback victory. After trailing 18-14 late in the frame, the Blue and Gold were forced to call timeout to regroup. Following the timeout, ETSU slowly chipped away at its deficit and eventually tied it at 24 when Favre found Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) for one of her eight kills in the match. From there, the closing stages of the set consisted of five ties and three lead changes, but kills by Wiley, Gesell and Rice helped finish the comeback. Rice tallied nine kills in the fourth, while Gesell, Hardy and Milhorn added four of their own. Muey (15 digs) and Gesell (13 digs) accounted for 28 of ETSU’s 52 digs in the frame.
However, after tying the match and going to a fifth set, the Bucs were unable to complete the comeback. ETSU controlled the tempo early as the Blue and Gold led 7-4 after a kill by Rice, but Western Carolina didn’t fold as they rattled off three unanswered points to even the set at seven. The Bucs managed to go up 8-7, but the Catamounts won eight of the final 11 points to hang on for the win. ETSU committed three service errors in the fifth set and hit .130 (6-3-23).
Four Catamounts tallied double-doubles in the win. Jordan Timmermann ended with 21 kills and 19 digs and Caitlin Piechota totaled 20 kills and 27 digs. In addition, Jo-Leigh Vervelde finished with 27 assists and 21 digs and Cristina Nazario recorded 21 assists and 13 digs.
The Bucs now return home to open a three-match homestand, beginning Friday night as ETSU hosts Wofford. First serve is set for 7 p.m. inside Brooks Gym.
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