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MACON, Ga. (Nov. 15, 2014) – Teams want to be playing their best ball at the end of the season.
The ETSU volleyball team is doing just that.
The Bucs wrapped up regular season play with their sixth straight win as the Blue and Gold defeated Mercer in four sets (25-23, 27-25, 19-25, 25-20) on Saturday inside Hawkins Arena.
Seniors Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) led the Buccaneer attack as they totaled 36 of ETSU’s 56 kills, while the setter duo of Kristen Favre (Plano, Texas) and Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) directed the offense. Favre finished with 25 assists, six digs, two kills and two blocks, while Rutledge added 21 assists, two digs and a block. Hardy led all players with 20 kills and pitched in with four blocks, and Gesell hit .414 (16-4-29).
In a match, where the Bears won nearly every category on the stat sheet, ETSU took advantage of Mercer’s unforced errors. Overall, the Bears committed 15 unforced miscues (13 service errors and two ball handling errors), while the Bucs only tallied four. On the flip side, ETSU registered nine service aces as Renzey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Ashleigh Shain (Geneva, Ill.) totaled three each.
In the end, the Blue and Gold were out-hit .239 (56-22-142) to .324 (58-14-136), while ETSU was minus-3 in digs (50-53) and lost the blocks battle by a half-point, 9.0-8.5.
For the second straight season, ETSU won the season series over Mercer as the Bucs improved to 17-15, 11-5, securing the third straight winning campaign for the Blue and Gold. Meanwhile, the Bears finished the regular season at 10-19, 5-10.
The Bucs now turn their attention to the SoCon Championship, which begins Saturday in Greensboro, N.C.; however ETSU’s seed won’t be determined until Monday when the new NCAA RPI’s are released. Due to conference tiebreaker scenarios, the seeding between the Bucs and UNCG will rely on the rankings based on splitting the head-to-head meeting and having the same outcomes against the rest of the conference foes. The team with the best RPI earns the No. 3 seed, while the other takes the No. 4 seed. Five seeds have been clinched as Furman won the regular season championship and will be the No. 1 seed, Samford is the second seed, Western Carolina is fifth, while Wofford and The Citadel will play the 8-9 game to start the tournament on Saturday morning.
ETSU’s strong serving helped lift the Bucs to a 25-23 win in the opener. The Bucs posted three aces to one error in the frame, while the Bears committed three service errors to one ace. Mercer jumped out to a quick start in the first set as the Bears won seven of the first 10 points, but ETSU answered with a 12-5 run to go ahead 15-12, following consecutive service aces by Renzey Rice. The Bears responded with four straight scores to regain a 16-15 lead, but after three ties (16, 18 and 19), the Blue and Gold won six of the final 10 points to secure the two-point win.
ETSU grabbed a 2-0 lead in the match after surviving a 27-25 win in the second. Again, the Bears started strong by winning the first three points, but the Bucs stayed the course and looked to be in good shape when a kill by Hardy gave the Blue and Gold a seven-point lead, 21-14. But Mercer didn't back down as the Bears posted a 10-3 surge to pull even at 24, forcing ETSU to call timeout. The teams traded points after the stoppage of play, but with the score knotted at 25, Gesell gave the Bucs the lead with a kill and Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) and Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tenn.) finished the frame by blocking Caroline Carlton's attack attempt at the net. Hardy had five of ETSU’s 11 kills in the frame, while all three of Shain’s service aces also came in the second.
Following the break, ETSU looked to be set for a clean sweep as the Bucs led 9-6 in the third set, but Mercer answered with a 13-3 run to gain momentum and captured a 25-19 win.
However, just like they did Friday night at The Citadel, ETSU stepped up and closed out the match in four sets by earning a match-clinching 25-20 win. The frame was tightly contested for the majority of the stanza as neither team led by more than two points until the Blue and Gold won the final six points to finish regular season play with a win. Hardy was unstoppable in the stretch run as the senior middle blocker had four kills and a block assist to fuel the comeback. The Kingsport, Tenn. native had eight kills in the fourth set, while ETSU hit .364 (17-5-33).
Mercer saw four players record double-digit kills in the setback. Molly Locke finished with a double-double (19 kills/12 digs) and Ellie James also added a double-double by totaling 12 kills and 12 digs.
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For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball page.