BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Oct. 24, 2014) – The ETSU volleyball team had league-leading Samford on the ropes, but the Bucs were unable to deliver the knockout punch.
After dropping the first two sets, the Bucs fought back by winning the third and fourth frames; however, the Bulldogs survived ETSU’s gritty effort by escaping with five-set win (17-25, 18-25, 25-21, 25-18, 13-15) on Friday night inside the Pete Hanna Center.
Seniors Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) both tallied 11 kills, while junior Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) added nine kills and eight blocks. Gesell also recorded nine digs, two blocks and two service aces. Senior Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) led ETSU with 22 assists and sophomore setter Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) finished with 20 assists, eight digs and four services.
Samford, who extended its win streak to 11 straight and remained unbeaten in conference play, had three players reach double-digit kills. Senior Michaela Reesor, the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year, ended with a double-double (22 kills/10 digs) and also hit a match-high .326, while sophomore Erin Bognar registered 18 kills (.325 attack percentage) and five digs. Sophomore setter Erika Pifer dished out 58 of Samford’s 62 assists and Emily Meitz posted 10 kills and four blocks.
The Bulldogs overcame their 14 service errors by finishing plus-17 in kills, 64-47, while out-hitting ETSU, .261 (64-24-153) to .227 (47-18-128). Both teams totaled eight service aces, and the Bucs were plus-3 in digs (55-52) and plus-1 in blocks (10-9).
ETSU had its three-match win streak snapped as the Bucs dropped to 11-14, 5-4, while Samford improved to 15-7, 9-0.
Despite winning the first three points and five of the first eight in the first set, ETSU couldn’t pull out a win as Samford rallied for a 25-17 victory. With the Bucs ahead 5-3, the Bulldogs used a 12-5 run to take a 15-10 lead, while the Blue and Gold were only able to get within four points as Samford earned the eight-point win. The Bucs, who only committed one attack error in the frame, couldn’t slow down the Bulldogs’ offense as Samford hit .464 (17-4-28) compared to ETSU’s .250 clip (6-1-20). The Bulldogs also totaled five service errors in the set, but Reesor and Emily Meitz both recorded five kills for Samford.
The Bulldogs were able to take a 2-0 lead in the match after registering a 25-18 win in the second set. The early stages of the stanza were tightly contested, but with the score tied at six, Samford mounted a 10-3 run to open a seven-point lead, 16-9. ETSU managed to cut its deficit to three when Rutledge found Wiley for a kill, making it a 20-17 score, but Samford held on by winning five of the final six points to secure the seven-point victory.
With its back against the wall, ETSU stayed alive by holding on for a 25-21 win in the third set. The Blue and Gold jumped out to a hot start as the Bucs won seven of the first 10 points, but the Bulldogs fought back to tie the frame at 13. However, ETSU answered the challenge and used an 8-2 run to build a six-point advantage, 21-15. Samford cut its deficit to two late, 23-21, but the Bucs held their composure and won the final two points to win by four. Ivey Rice and Briana Allmon (Flower Mound, Texas) both finished with four kills in the stanza, while Favre picked up her two aces in the third set.
After gaining momentum with the win in the third, the Blue and Gold were able end the fourth with an 8-1 run and forced a decisive fifth set following a 25-18 victory. Play went back and forth during the stanza as neither team led by more than three until the final Buccaneer surge, while it was Gesell and Allmon who fueled the stretch run for ETSU. The Buccaneer duo combined for four kills and two blocks as ETSU won eight of the final nine points to earn the seven-point win. As a team, the Blue and Gold hit .345 (12-2-29) and out-blocked the Bulldogs, 3-0, in the fourth set.
As the match moved to a winner-take-all fifth set, the Bucs were looking to hand Samford its first conference loss in nearly a year (at Georgia Southern, Oct. 26, 2013).
Unfortunately, ETSU couldn’t slow down the Bulldogs’ potent offense in the final frame.
Samford started the fifth set by winning five of the first six points – and despite the Bucs pulling even twice – the Bulldogs survived with a 15-13 win. ETSU was able to tie the set at nine on a kill by Wiley, and again at 11, when Pifer was called for a set error. However, Samford won the next three points to go ahead, 14-11. As tension built throughout the Pete Hanna Center, the Bulldogs committed a service and an attack error to open the door for ETSU, but Reesor ended the match with her 22nd kill, extending Samford’s conference win streak to 15 straight victories. The Bulldogs finished with six more kills than ETSU in the fifth, 10-4, and outhit the Bucs, .261 to .150.
For the match, Allmon ended with six kills, five digs and two blocks, while Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) hit .316 (8-2-19) and added a pair of blocks. Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) led all players with 19 digs.
Friday marked the first-ever meeting between ETSU and Samford.
The Bucs will now have a week off before returning to the court as ETSU heads to UNCG on Friday, Oct. 31.
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