JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 1, 2014) – On a night when senior libero Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) broke ETSU’s career digs record, the Buccaneer volleyball team dug deep to find a way to win against their in-state conference rival.
Despite winning the first two sets in fine fashion, the Blue and Gold couldn’t put away a stingy Chattanooga squad until ETSU rallied and survived an emotional five-set thriller (25-21, 25-15, 18-25, 18-25, 16-14) in front of a rowdy Homecoming crowd on Saturday night inside Brooks Gym.
Muey, who entered the night needing 13 digs to break Tish Wilson’s (1991-94) mark of 1,689, finished with a match-high 24 digs, moving her career total to 1,701.
As Muey was helping the Buccaneers defensively, fellow seniors Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) helped pace ETSU on the offensive end. Hardy led all players with 20 kills (.349 attack percentage) and tallied four blocks, while Gesell registered her fourth double-double of the season. Gesell ended with 16 kills and 14 digs in the win. Freshman Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) and junior Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) also posted double-digit digs for the Bucs. Milhorn recorded a career-high 19 and Shain pitched in with a career-best 15 digs. ETSU’s duo of Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) quarterbacked the offense. Favre finished with a match-high 33 assists and eight digs, while Rutledge added 26 assists.
As a team, ETSU overcame 33 attack and 10 service errors as the Bucs were plus-19 in kills (65-46) and plus-7 in digs (90-83). The Blue and Gold managed to out-hit the Mocs, .166-.136.
With the win, ETSU snapped its two-game losing skid and improved to 12-15, 6-5 in SoCon play. Chattanooga dropped to 12-16, 5-8, and the Bucs have now won seven of the last eight over the Mocs.
Early on, the Blue and Gold looked prime to make quick work of Chattanooga, as ETSU claimed the first two sets by a total of 14 points.
The Bucs started and finished strong to win the first set, 25-21. ETSU jumped out to a 10-6 lead, forcing Chattanooga to call timeout, and after the Mocs tied it at 21, the Blue and Gold rattled off four straight scores to capture the first set by four points. Gesell and Hardy fueled ETSU’s offense as they combined for 10 of the Bucs’ 14 kills in the frame. The senior duo both totaled five kills apiece.
ETSU led wire-to-wire in the second and took a commanding 2-0 lead in the match, courtesy of its 25-15 win. Again, the Bucs sprinted out of the gates as ETSU won nine of the first 13 points and pushed its lead into double-digits when a kill by Favre put the Bucs ahead, 16-6. The Blue and Gold never let up as ETSU cruised to the 10-point victory. As a team, the Bucs hit .325 (16-3-40) in the second and held the Mocs to a .057 clip (8-6-35). Again, it was tandem of Hardy and Gesell that did the work offensively. For the second straight frame, Hardy finished with five kills and Gesell totaled four, while junior Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) had three of her nine kills in the second.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse as ETSU dropped the third and fourth frames, forcing the decisive and tense fifth set.
In the third, play went back-and-forth early on, but with the score knotted at seven, Chattanooga used an 8-2 run to open a six-point lead and the Mocs never looked back en route to posting a 25-18 win. After falling behind 15-9, ETSU could only inch within two points of Chattanooga (15-13) and the Mocs secured their seven-point win by closing the stanza on a 10-5 spurt.
The Bucs fell behind early in the fourth set and never recovered as Chattanooga again mounted a 25-18 win. The Mocs jumped out to a 9-5 lead and eventually led by as many as eight when a Muey service error made it a 19-11 score. ETSU handed Chattanooga five points via the service error in the frame, while also totaling 10 attack errors for the second straight set.
With its two-set advantage long gone, the Buccaneers had to buckle down and grind out a five-set win.
Things looked bleak early as Chattanooga won four of the first five points, but the home crowd revived the Buccaneers and the Blue and Gold responded with a 6-1 run to regain a 7-5 advantage. Following a timeout by the Mocs, Chattanooga zoned in and pulled even at 10, forcing ETSU to use its first timeout of the frame. From there, the lead changed hands twice, while the clubs also accounted for four more ties, but after the Mocs dodged match point at 14-13, senior Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) gave ETSU the lead for good when one of her 13 kills made it a 15-14 score. With sister Renzey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) serving for match point, it was Ivey (Rice) and (Khadijah) Wiley who stuffed Nicole Sumida at the net, giving the Bucs the 16-14 win and their seventh straight home victory. Rice had five kills in the final set, while the game-winning block was ETSU’s only one of the frame.
Briana Reid led Chattanooga with 12 kills and 22 digs, while Melissa Green added 23 digs in the losing effort.
The Bucs return to action on Tuesday night when ETSU hosts Western Carolina. First serve is set for 7 p.m., inside Brooks Gym.
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