JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Oct. 17, 2014) – Seven different Buccaneers posted a block, while ETSU registered seven of its 11 total blocks in the third set as the Blue and Gold stuffed Wofford in straight sets (25-21, 25-17, 25-11) on Friday night inside Brooks Gym.
Senior Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.), who was honored pregame with a game ball for joining the 1,000-kill club back on Oct. 7 against MTSU, led all players with 11 kills (.393 attack percentage) and also added four blocks. Freshman Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) hit .444 (8-0-18) and pitched in with three digs.
Overall, eight different Buccaneers accounted for their 42 kills as ETSU registered a season-high .347 (42-8-98) attack percentage, while also out-blocking Wofford, 11-1.
Senior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) finished with seven kills (.417 attack percentage) and five blocks, while fellow senior Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) and junior Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) both ended with six kills. Wiley also put away five blocks and Gesell totaled a pair of her own. Senior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) posted a match-high 16 digs and moved into second-place all-time on ETSU’s career digs list with 1,607. Setters Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) quarterbacked the offense as Favre finished with a team-best 22 assists and Rutledge registered 10 assists, three blocks and two kills.
Following the match, head coach Lindsey Devine talked about the Bucs’ strong blocking performance.
“If they were doing a blocking demo, tonight’s match would be a good one to watch as this is exactly what people need to see how successful a block is when teams stay in a bunch and block together,” said Devine, whose team is now 14-4 all-time against Wofford. “We’ve been preaching that our team needs some catalysts. If everyone carries a little more weight in the effort category, we would be able to generate some great energy and things would fall into place. We saw that tonight as we followed the game plan and earned a positive result.”
Ivey Rice talked about how important it was to stick together and use great blocking to help propel the Buccaneers to victory. She also added how the pair of setbacks at Furman and Western Carolina helped fuel a fire for ETSU to get back into the win column.
“The block can be really positive or negative for us, and I think in the third set we made great blocking moves and used it to our advantage,” said Rice, who had all four of her blocks in the final set. “The coaches kept telling us to stay in bunches, move together and get to the pin. After hearing it over-and-over, it just clicked.
“I think those two losses gave us a bit of fire to push forward. Practices have been tougher and that’s what we needed. This is our home court and we take pride in playing in front of the crowd. I think the losses kicked us into gear.”
Along with kicking the Blue and Gold into gear, ETSU has now won four straight home matches and 23 of its last 26 inside Brooks Gym, improving to 9-13, 3-3 in SoCon play.
Playing in Brooks Gym gives Milhorn a sense of comfort when taking to the court.
“I feel calmer here inside Brooks Gym,” said Milhorn, who finished with a season-high .444 attack percentage. “It’s a lot different from the other courts -- it’s a different feeling. I always get nervous when I play on other courts, but when I come here, I have that confidence and calmness.”
The entire team was calm and confident following the first set as ETSU never trailed after the opener.
The Bucs came out on fire offensively in the opener as ETSU hit .433 (15-2-30) and ETSU won the final three points to win the first set, 25-21. The Blue and Gold rallied back as Wofford led 13-10 midway through, but following an ETSU timeout, the Bucs used a 10-4 run to regain a 20-17 lead. ETSU never relinquished its advantage and captured its four-point win. Rice hit .500 (4-0-8) in the first frame, while Hardy and Milhorn added three kills, and Wiley and Gesell pitched in with a pair each.
In the second, ETSU won five of the first seven points and led 12-7 when Favre found Wiley for a slam, forcing Wofford to call a timeout. From there, the Blue and Gold pushed their advantage to six when Favre got in on the fun with a kill – and despite the Terriers pulling within three late (19-16) – the Bucs closed the frame on a 6-1 run to take a 2-0 lead following their 25-17 victory. ETSU tallied 15 kills in the second set and Muey picked up 10 of her 16 digs in the stanza.
Following the 10-minute intermission, the Bucs set the tempo early by winning the first three points of the third set and never looked back from there. Wiley and Gesell added the kills and Wofford’s Molly Mayo was called for a ball handling error, which led to the Terriers burning an early timeout. Wofford would win the next three points after the stoppage of play, but the Blue and Gold kicked things into a different gear – leading to the “Block Party.” With ETSU ahead 13-5, the next five Buccaneer points came via the block as the Blue and Gold pushed their margin into double-digits, 18-6. Another Wofford timeout couldn’t slow down the blitzkrieg as Wiley and Rice combined for a block and Jessica Schafer (Dekalb, Ill.) and Briana Allmon (Flower Mound, Texas) followed suit, pushing ETSU’s lead to 14, 22-8. The block by Schafer and Allmon was the final one for the Bucs and ETSU celebrated the sweep when Wofford’s Jen Espenschied committed a service error to end the match, 25-11. In the end, the Bucs out-blocked Wofford, 7-0, in the third and ETSU out-hit the Terriers, .435 to -.094.
Wofford was led by Taylor Baird’s 9-kill effort, while Mayo led all players with 24 assists and added seven digs.
The Terriers dropped to 9-13, 2-4 following the setback.
The Bucs return to action Saturday afternoon when ETSU hosts Mercer at 2 p.m. inside Brooks Gym.
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