CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 30, 2014) – At times the ETSU volleyball team took steps in the right direction this weekend, but at other times the Bucs took a few steps back.
Unfortunately, after playing a strong match in the season-opener on Friday, the Blue and Gold ended the Charlotte Invitational on a negative note as the host 49ers handed ETSU its second straight setback by defeating the Bucs, 3-1 (20-25, 25-15, 19-25, 15-25), on Saturday inside Halton Arena.
“This weekend was a good learning tool for us,” said head coach Lindsey Devine, whose team dipped to 1-2 after the opening weekend. “At times we saw what we are capable of being when we play at a high level. Unfortunately, we also saw the other side of things. We identified we need to spend more time in the gym as we were inconsistent with the fundamentals of the game. The girls learned in order to be a successful team they need to be more consistent with our serving and passing. I know we have the pieces to be a good team. We just need to work on getting better.”
The Bucs were short-handed from the beginning as they were without one of their top offensive weapons on Saturday. Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.), who had played in 77 consecutive matches and led ETSU with 18 kills on Friday, missed her first game since Oct. 14, 2011.
Without the services from one of their key veterans, the Bucs got off to slow starts in three of the four sets and ETSU couldn’t get consistent play from its remaining players on the court.
The Blue and Gold were led offensively by senior Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) and freshman Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) as they both registered 10 kills each; however, senior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and junior Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) were held in check. As Gesell led the team with a .600 attack percentage (10-1-15), Hardy and Wiley combined to hit -.059 (10-12-34) for the match. Junior Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) gave the Bucs a spark as she registered three of ETSU’s seven service aces and added eight digs.
The 49ers set the tone early in the opening set as Charlotte won the first five points and held off a late charge by the Buccaneers to take a 25-20 win. With Charlotte ahead 15-12, the Blue and Gold used a 4-1 spurt to pull even at 16; however, ETSU couldn’t get over the hump as the 49ers won nine of the final 13 points to claim the opener.
ETSU responded in the second as the Bucs used a strong surge midway through the frame and cruised to a 10-point win, 25-15. With the score knotted at five, the Bucs posted an 11-3 run to take a 16-8 lead after Charlotte was called for a bad set. From there, the Blue and Gold eventually saw their lead soar to 11 as the 49ers were charged with three straight attack errors, resulting in a 24-13 Buccaneer advantage. ETSU hit .379 (14-3-29) in the set as they were fueled by Gesell (3-0-3) and Milhorn (6-0-8).
However, sluggish starts doomed the Bucs in the third and fourth sets as Charlotte remained undefeated on the early season at, 3-0.
In the third, Charlotte started and finished strong to win the set, 25-19, and went up 2-1 in the match. The 49ers won eight of the first nine points of the frame, and despite ETSU eventually getting within two, 21-19, Charlotte won the final four points to place momentum back on their side of the net.
The Blue and Gold held an early 4-2 advantage in the fourth set, but ETSU couldn’t extend its lead as Charlotte responded with 14 unanswered points to go ahead, 16-4. The Bucs managed to clip their deficit to six (17-11) when Hardy registered one of her seven kills of the match, but the 49ers ended the set on an 8-2 run to secure the victory.
Hardy’s streak of recording at least one block in 95 straight matches was in jeopardy, but the Kingsport, Tenn. native recorded her block late in the fourth set to keep the run intact.
Both teams had equal chances, but Charlotte tallied 11 more kills than ETSU, 51-40. The 49ers hit .230 (51-23-122), while the Bucs finished with a .142 clip (40-23-120). The Blue and Gold out-blocked Charlotte, 8-3, but the 49ers were plus-9 in digs, 46-37.
Charlotte was led by Sarah McDonald and Semen Sen as they both pitched in with 11 kills, while Britney Lehigh Held quarterbacked the offense with 39 assists.
The Bucs return to action next weekend when ETSU heads to Fairfax, Va. for the Patriot Invitational. The Blue and Gold open the tournament against William and Mary on Friday at 3 p.m.
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