JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Nov. 4, 2014) – The emotional roller coaster ride continued for the Buccaneers on Tuesday night.
For the second time in four nights, the ETSU volleyball team was pushed to the limit, but the Bucs found a way to grind out another five-set win as the Blue and Gold rallied past Western Carolina (25-17, 24-26, 15-25, 26-24, 15-13) inside Brooks Gym.
Prior to the match, senior libero Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) was honored for breaking ETSU’s career digs mark in Saturday's win over Chattanooga, while the Buccaneer faithful celebrated another milestone following the win as head coach Lindsey Devine earned her 200th career victory.
Senior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and sophomore Briana Allmon (Flower Mound, Texas) helped lead the Bucs to the special win as they combined for 34 kills and a .354 attack percentage (34-5-82). Hardy – who totaled a season and match high 21 kills in the five-set loss to the Catamounts last month in Cullowhee – again finished with 21 kills (.315 attack percentage) and three blocks in Tuesday’s win. Allmon came off the bench and energized the Buccaneer offense in the fourth set as she registered seven of her 13 kills in the frame and hit .429 on the night. Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) also totaled double-digit kills as she ended with 11 and seven digs.
For the second straight match, the Blue and Gold had four players finish with double figure digs as Muey again led the way with 33. Sophomore Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) picked up her second double-double against the Catamounts this season as she tallied a match-high 37 assists, while adding 15 digs and five service aces. The dig and ace totals marked career highs for the Buccaneer setter. Joining Muey and Favre in digs was freshman Rylee Milhorn’s (Kingsport, Tenn.) 18-dig effort and junior Ashleigh Shain’s (Geneva, Ill.) 15-dig performance. Shain has now totaled 15 digs in her last two matches to tie a career best, while Milhorn also added nine kills for the Blue and Gold – including one for the match-clinching point. Senior Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) filled up the stat sheet as she posted 20 assists, four digs, two blocks and two kills.
In a match that featured 32 ties and 10 lead changes, along with both teams scoring an identical 105 points, it was ETSU’s plus-10 margin in kills that propelled the Bucs to their eighth straight home victory. The Blue and Gold finished with 67 kills and a .194 attack percentage, compared to Western Carolina’s 57 kills and .186 clip. ETSU also finished plus-13 in assists (64-51) and plus-6 in digs (102-96).
With the win, ETSU improved to 13-15, 7-5 in SoCon play, while the Catamounts – who had won seven of their last eight coming into the match – dipped to 14-13, 7-6.
The Bucs got off to a positive start as ETSU never trailed in the first set and claimed the opener, 25-17. Play was tight early on, but with the set tied at 13, the Bucs closed the frame on a 12-4 run to earn the eight-point win. Strong serving by Gesell and Muey, along with Hardy’s powerful swings ignited the late Buccaneer surge. Hardy totaled four of her seven kills during the stretch run, while Muey served ETSU to six straight points and Gesell followed with four consecutive scores.
Unfortunately, the Bucs squandered a late six-point lead in the second, giving Western Carolina momentum as the Catamounts rallied for a 26-24 win and went up 2-1 following a 10-point victory in the third, 25-15.
However, the turning point came in a wild and tense fourth set that consisted of 16 ties and six lead changes, but ETSU managed to win the final two points of the stanza to even the match, 26-24. Neither team led by more than three points in the set as the Bucs jumped out to an early 9-6 advantage. From there, Western Carolina rattled off three straight scores to pull even at nine, while the Catamounts would later go ahead, 17-15, following a kill by Caitlin Piechota. With their backs against the wall, the Blue and Gold responded with four unanswered points to regain a two-point advantage, 19-17. The see-saw battle continued as Western Carolina came out of a timeout and rallied with three straight scores to make it a 20-19 lead. Play remained nip-and-tuck – but after the Catamounts dodged set point twice at 24-22 and 24-23 – the Bucs won the last two points of the frame to force the decisive fifth set. Milhorn’s only kill of the set gave ETSU a 25-24 lead and Western Carolina’s Cristina Nazario was charged with a ball handling error to end the stanza.
In the fifth, the Catamounts raced out to a 5-2 lead, but the Bucs stayed focused and got revenge by rallying for the 15-13 win. Despite getting down by three early, ETSU registered a 6-2 run to go ahead, 8-7, following a kill by Allmon. The Bucs never trailed after that kill – and following three more ties – the Blue and Gold capped off the come-from-behind win by claiming four of the final six points.
The Catamounts had three players finish with double-doubles in the setback. Jordan Timmermann ended with 19 kills and 17 digs, Jo-Leigh Vervelde posted 30 assists and 21 digs, and Piechota finished with 16 kills and 23 digs.
Western Carolina’s five-set loss was just its second in eight tries this season, while marking ETSU’s fourth win in five sets this year.
The Bucs now hit the road as ETSU travels to Spartanburg, S.C. for a Friday night match at Wofford. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
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