KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 22, 2013) – Throughout the years, ETSU and Lipscomb have had many close encounters, and Friday’s Atlantic Sun semifinal match was no different, as the final play came down to a matter of inches.
After the Bucs fought back to force a decisive fifth set, Lipscomb defeated the Blue and Gold (25-17, 21-25, 13-25, 25-23, 14-16) on a controversial call to advance into Saturday’s Atlantic Sun Championship.
With Lipscomb ahead 15-14 in the fifth, A-Sun Libero of the Year Bri McCombs ended the match on an ace, lifting the Bisons into celebration. However, the match ended with controversy when Ivey Rice’s (Johnson City, Tenn.) return went over the net, but after the Lipscomb players let the ball drop near the sideline, officials called the ball out-of-bounds, ending ETSU’s season.
The Bucs, who posted back-to-back 20-plus win seasons, ended the 2013 campaign with a record of 22-9, while ETSU’s 16 conference wins marked a program best.
Playing in her final match in the Blue and Gold, senior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) registered her 13th straight double-double, finishing her career with 74. Devine, the A-Sun and ETSU all-time leader in kills, ended Friday’s match with 15 kills, 13 digs, and three blocks. In 131 career matches, the ETSU captain totaled 1,940 kills, 1,472 digs, 246 blocks, 104 service aces, and 2,176 total points, while also breaking the all-time Buccaneer record for total sets played at 500. The three-time First Team All A-Sun selection, was also named 2012 Player of the Year and Tournament MVP, while also being tabbed A-Sun Freshman of the Year in 2010.
Joining Devine in double-figure kills were sophomore Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) and Rice. Wiley added 12 and hit a match-high .526, while Rice posted 10 kills, six digs and two service aces. Wiley also finished with three blocks, and junior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) recorded eight kills and six blocks to move her streak of posting at least one block to 91 straight matches.
The Bucs got off to a strong start in the opening set and cruised to a 25-17 victory. After Lipscomb took the first point of the match, ETSU responded with six unanswered to take a 6-1 lead, forcing Lipscomb to burn a timeout. From there, ETSU continued to control the set as the Bucs pushed their lead to seven when Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) found Devine for the kill, making it a 14-7 contest. ETSU’s lead eventually soared to eight (21-13), and despite Lipscomb going on a brief 3-0 spurt, the Blue and Gold won four of the final five points to take the opener by eight. Wiley was perfect in the first as she converted on all four attempts, while Rutledge was 2-for-2. As a team, ETSU hit .345 (13-3-29), while holding Lipscomb to a .083 clip (10-7-36).
In the second set, Lipscomb got off to a fast start and the Bisons held on for a 25-21 victory. The Bisons won six of the first eight points, and after playing catch up all set long, the Bucs ran out of steam. ETSU pulled within a point on two separate possessions, but with Lipscomb ahead, 20-19, the Bisons won five of the final seven points to even the match at one. Wiley added four more kills for the Bucs in the stanza, while ETSU also out-hit Lipscomb, .355 to .306. Unfortunately, the Bisons had one more kill (16-15) and service ace (1-0) than the Blue and Gold, along with ETSU being charged with a pair of ball handling errors.
Lipscomb came out of the break and maintained momentum by taking a 2-1 lead in the match, following its 25-13 victory in the third set.
The early stages of the frame were tightly contested, but with ETSU leading by one (6-5), Lipscomb mounted a 10-3 run to grab a 15-9 lead, following an attack error by Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.). The Bucs never had an answer for the Bisons surge as Lipscomb eventually built a double-digit lead at 21-11 en route to posting the 12-point victory.
With the season on the brink, the Bucs rose to the challenge and rallied for a 25-23 victory in the fourth. Overall, the set saw 17 ties and eight lead changes, while neither team led by more than three. ETSU managed to win the final three points to keep the match alive thanks to a kill from Rice, while Hardy and Gesell ended the set with consecutive block assists. The Blue and Gold were solid with their offensive attack as ETSU hit .391 (11-2-23) in the frame, while Wiley was efficient again by hitting .800 (4-0-5).
With the match going to the decisive fifth-set tiebreaker, neither team was able to gain any breathing room. The Bucs led by two early on at 5-3 and 6-4, while going ahead 13-12 later in the set when Caitlin Dotson was charged with a service error. However, the Blue and Gold never led following the Bisons miscue as Dotson found Lauren Ford for one of her 17 kills on the night to pull even at 13. From there, ETSU escaped match point once when Devine’s kill knotted things at 14, but following a kill from Molly Spinznagle, McCombs’ service ace sparked controversy.
For the match, ETSU out-hit the Bisons, .276 to .252, while also out-blocking Lipscomb, 9-6. The Bisons were plus-12 in kills (65-53), plus-11 in assists (63-52) and plus-four in digs (47-43), while both teams tallied five service aces.
Jewell Dobson, the A-Sun Player of the Year, finished with 18 kills, while Dotson dished out 61 assists and had six digs.
With the win, the Bisons improved to 23-7.
Lipscomb advances to face Jacksonville in Saturday’s Championship match, which begins at 3 p.m.
For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com.