GREENSBORO, N.C. (Nov. 22, 2014) – After playing a pair of thrilling five-set matches in the regular season, the scripted couldn’t be repeated as the ETSU volleyball team was swept by Western Carolina (17-25, 23-25, 23-25) in the quarterfinals of the Southern Conference Championship on Saturday afternoon inside UNCG’s Fleming Gym.
The Bucs, who dropped the final two sets by the slimmest of margins, could never get over the hump. Offensively, all-freshman team selection Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) led the Blue and Gold with 11 kills, while seniors Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) added eight of their own. Hardy also posted with four blocks, finishing her collegiate career with at least one block in 126 straight matches. Fellow senior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.), who posted match-highs in digs for all 16 conference matches, led all players with 21 digs and sophomore Renzey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) ended with 12. Sophomore Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) dished out half of ETSU’s 34 assists and also added six digs, while senior Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) registered 14 assists and three digs.
As a team, ETSU committed 24 attack errors and hit .093 (36-24-129), while the Catamounts hit .188 (41-17-128). The Bucs out-blocked Western Carolina by one, 8.5-7.5, while also finishing plus-2 in digs, 59-57.
With the loss, ETSU had its season-best six-match win streak come to an end and the Bucs finished the campaign at 17-16, marking their third straight winning campaign. The Catamounts improved to 17-14 and will now take on the winner of Furman/Wofford in Sunday’s SoCon semifinal.
The Bucs got off to a slow start in the opener as the Catamounts won the first three points and cruised to a 25-17 win. Western Carolina led wire-to-wire as the Blue and Gold were only able to pull within a point early on (4-3), but the Catamounts took control of the frame by posting an 11-5 run to extend their to lead to seven, 15-8. ETSU never had an answer for the surge and Western Carolina walked away with the eight-point win. Milhorn hit .444 in the frame and had four of the Bucs’ 10 kills in the first set.
Despite holding a three-point lead late in the second set, ETSU couldn’t hold on as the Catamounts rallied for a 25-23 win to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Again, Western Carolina started strong as they led 9-4, but the Bucs battled back with a 15-7 run to go ahead, 19-16. Unfortunately, after a Western Carolina timeout, the Catamounts came out refocused – and with ETSU leading 21-19 – Western scored five unanswered points to regain a 24-21 lead. The Bucs dodged set point twice, but Jo-Leigh Vervelde’s kill capped off the Catamounts’ rally. ETSU was plus-3 in kills in the second (16-13), while out-hitting Western Carolina, .209-.186; however, the Bucs committed two more attack (7-5) and service errors (2-0), resulting in the difference maker.
Despite a valiant effort, ETSU couldn’t fight its way back in the match as Western Carolina finished the contest by defeating the Blue and Gold, 25-23, in the third set. The Bucs got off to a hot start by winning five of the first six points, but the Catamounts rallied to pull even at six. From there, the teams traded scores until Western Carolina turned a 10-9 deficit into a seven-point lead, 18-11, courtesy of its 9-1 run. ETSU threw one last punch at the Catamounts as the Bucs made it a one-point score at 22-21 and 24-23, but Caitlin Piechota’s 11th kill of the night extended Western Carolina’s season for another day.
Piechota and Jordan Timmermann both finished with 11 kills, while Vervelde added a double-double (20 assists/12 digs) for the Catamounts.
With ETSU’s season coming to an end, six Buccaneers played their final match in Blue and Gold on Saturday. In total, the senior class registered 77 wins, claimed two conference championships and helped guide ETSU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012. In addition, the talented group compiled 3,535 kills, 3,737 assists, 336 service aces, 3,821 digs, and 1,311 blocks in 635 career matches. Katie Muey became the program leader in career digs (1,850), while Meredith Hardy will leave as the ETSU career leader in blocks (621) and block assists (531). Jamie Rutledge became the fifth player in program history to record 3,000 assists as she finished her career with 3,342 and Ivey Rice joined the 1,000-kill club this season and ended with 1,138. Bethany Gesell totaled 905 kills, 397 digs and 245 blocks in her four-year career.
“This group of seniors are great ambassadors to our university as they excel both on and off the court,” said head coach Lindsey Devine. “Players who come through our program are given the opportunity to grow academically and athletically, while also making an impact in the community. I am confident this class with move on and leave an imprint in their respective communities like they have done here at ETSU.”
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