JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Sept. 23, 2014) – After playing its first 14 matches on the road, the ETSU volleyball team was hoping the return to Brooks Gym would help snap the Bucs’ losing skid.
Unfortunately, Furman spoiled ETSU’s home and conference opener as the Paladins swept the Blue and Gold (16-25, 17-25, 24-26) on Tuesday night inside the newly renovated Brooks Gym.
Furman used its explosive offense and back row defense to propel its way to a conference-opening victory. The Paladins, who hit .533 (16-0-30) in the opening set, finished with 14 more kills than the Bucs, 48-34, and were also plus-10 in digs, 61-51. In the end, Furman out-hit the Blue and Gold, .264 (48-15-125) to .131 (34-18-122).
Despite dropping the first two sets, the Bucs fought hard in the third and were serving for set-point at 24-22; however, the Paladins won the final four points to finish off the sweep.
Following the match, head coach Lindsey Devine talked about the game and what the Bucs need to do to turn things around.
“The main thing we need to do is play with consistency,” said Devine. “Furman is a very talented team and they fought hard tonight. We showed a lot of pride and guts in the third set, but we need to play like that from the beginning. We need to play for each other right now. This is a team that has the tools to win conference and go to the NCAA Tournament, but in order to get there we need to be more focused and consistent with our play.”
Things were rough from the beginning for the Blue and Gold as Furman never trailed in the opening set and eased its way to a nine-point win. The Paladins won five of the first seven points and eventually saw their lead grow to seven as a kill by Annie Bierman made it an 18-11 contest, forcing ETSU to burn its final timeout. The Bucs were unable to inch any closer and Furman closed play out with the 25-16 victory.
The Blue and Gold looked to have regrouped in the start of set two, but again, inconsistent play came back to haunt ETSU. After jumping out to a quick 6-2 start, Furman rallied and used a 10-3 run to go ahead for good, 12-9. Following a timeout by coach Devine, the Bucs were able to pull within a point, 13-12, but the Paladins ended the frame on a 12-5 spurt to win the set, 25-17, and took a 2-0 lead in the match.
Following intermission, ETSU dug itself in a deep hole early – and despite fighting back late by serving for set point – the Bucs couldn’t close the door and Furman responded with a 4-0 run to end the match, 26-24. After falling behind 8-3 in the beginning of the set, the Blue and Gold slowly chipped away at their deficit and eventually tied the match at 17 when Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) found Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) for one of her seven kills on the night. From there, the Bucs took their first lead since winning the opening point of the set after an attack error by Amelia Bohlander made it a 21-20 score. ETSU saw its lead grow to 24-22 following another kill by Hardy, but the Paladins picked up a kill by Andrea Fisher and a service from Megan DeMaar to even things at 24, forcing the Bucs to call their final timeout. The timeout couldn’t slow down the Paladins as Furman won the final two points to end the match.
With the setback, ETSU saw its losing skid move to five straight as the Bucs dipped to 4-11, 0-1, while Furman – who has now win seven of its last eight matches – improved to 8-4, 1-0.
The Blue and Gold were led by Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) as the freshman outside hitter finished with 10 of ETSU’s 34 kills, while senior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) led all players with 19 digs. Hardy and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) finished with seven kills each.
Prior to the match, Hardy and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) were honored for reaching their personal milestones two weeks ago in Nashville. Hardy was recognized for her 1,000th career kill against Utah, while Rutledge earned her 3,000th career assist in the win against Georgia Tech.
The Bucs return to action this weekend as ETSU heads to Chattanooga on Saturday at 3 p.m.
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