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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Sept. 16, 2014) – The ETSU volleyball team was unable to build off its win against Georgia Tech as Tennessee State dropped the Buccaneers in four sets (21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 22-25) on Tuesday night inside Kean Hall.
The Bucs, who defeated Georgia Tech in five sets last Saturday at Lipscomb, returned back to the Music City on Tuesday night, but things didn’t go as planned for the Blue and Gold.
After the teams split the first two sets, the Tigers won the third and fourth sets to clinch their home opener and defeated ETSU for the first time in program history.
ETSU (4-7) was led by senior Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) as she finished with 16 kills and four blocks, while also hitting .609 (16-2-23) for the match. Freshman Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) and senior Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) also recorded double-digit kills for the Bucs, but it was poor serving that led to ETSU’s demise. Riced added 15 kills and four blocks, while Milhorn totaled 10 kills on .310 attack percentage (10-1-29).
However, in a tightly contested match that featured 33 ties and 13 lead changes, the most glaring stat was the 14 points the Bucs handed Tennessee State on service errors. Overall, ETSU finished with three more kills (54-51) than the Tigers, while also out-blocking Tennessee State, 11-3.
The service miscues started from the get-go as the Bucs were charged with six in the opening set, resulting in Tennessee State winning the opener, 25-21. The first two Tiger points came via service errors by the Blue and Gold, and after ETSU pulled within one midway through the set at 16-15, Tennessee State broke away with an 8-2 run to go up seven, 24-17. Despite the Bucs dodging set point four times, ETSU couldn’t overcome the deficit as a kill by Taylor Swayzer lifted Tennessee State to the three-point win.
The Bucs used the powerful hitting by Rice and Milhorn to pull out a 25-21 win in the second en route to tying the match at one. Rice (six) and Milhorn (five) accounted for 11 of ETSU’s 17 kills in the frame. Prior to securing the four-point win, the largest lead of the set was three, when an attack error by Swayzer gave the Bucs a 14-11 advantage. With ETSU holding onto a one-point lead, 17-16, the Blue and Gold won eight of the final 13 points of the set to even up the match.
Despite the final two sets being nip-and-tuck, and ETSU holding leads midway through both frames, the Bucs were unable to find a way to win.
In the third, ETSU held a 15-14 lead, but a service error by Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) ignited a 5-0 Tennessee State run, putting the Tigers ahead, 19-15. Tennessee State never gave up its lead as the Tigers fought off a late Buccaneer surge to walk away with the 25-23 win. The Bucs battled off three set points until Samantha Beltran found Swayzer for her fifth kill of the frame.
Then, in the fourth, the Bucs were ahead 14-12, but a 6-1 Tiger spurt gave Tennessee State all the momentum needed to close out the match, 25-22. Following the run, Tennessee State led by three, 18-15, and ETSU could only pull within two points on six different possessions before the Tigers ended the night with a kill from Arijana Anderson.
Swayzer led all players with 17 kills, while Anderson (10) and Haley Hampton (11) also finished with double figure kills. Beltran directed the offense as she recorded 41 of the Tennessee State’s 50 assists, and the Tigers also had three players reach double-digit digs. Naomi Wells led the team with 17 digs, while Taylor Patterson tallied 16 and Ileanushka Maldonado totaled 13.
Senior libero Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) finished with a match-high 20 digs.
After dropping its first six matches to start the season, Tennessee State has now won four of its last five and improved to 4-7.
The Bucs wrap up their preseason tournament schedule this weekend as ETSU heads to Richmond for the VCU Invitational. The Bucs open the tournament with Ball State Friday at noon.
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