November 23, 20191st2nd3rd4thFinal
MercerTeam StatsETSU
0.322Hitting Pct.0.323
115Total Attacks124
Major - 15
KillsEsposito - 19
Steele - 32
AssistsArnold - 49
Karle - 2
Smith - 2
AcesPopovic - 4
Smith - 12
DigsPopovic - 18
Major - 3
Morey - 3
BlocksEsposito - 5
Bucs Defeat Bears in Offensive Clash
Bucs Defeat Bears in Offensive Clash
Saturday, November 23, 2019

ETSU Advances to SoCon Championship Match for Third Straight Year

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Nov. 23, 2019) — After suffering a first-set loss, the second-seeded ETSU volleyball team battled back to win the next three sets to defeat the No. 7 Mercer Bears 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-21) and clinch a spot in the Southern Conference championship match tomorrow afternoon.  

Set 1 (25-22 MER): The Bears came out strong out of the gate and were the first team to 10, with six kills on nine swings for a .667 attack clip through the first combined 18 points. The remainder of the first set continued to go back and forth until Mercer held a three-point advantage up 18-15 to force ETSU to call their timeout. The Bucs were unable to reach Mercer’s lead as the Bears took the set 25-22. Both teams hit above .300 in the set with Mercer outhitting the Bucs .543-.353.

Set 2 (25-21 ETSU): Mercer took their momentum into the second frame, but a 5-1 from the Bucs down 8-4 allowed the Blue and Gold to tie the set at nine. The Bears regained the lead but Marija Popovic (Belgrade, Serbia) logged back-to-back aces to put the Bucs up 17-16. Sara Esposito (Venezia, Italy) took off in the second frame and recorded her 10th kill of the match to give the Bucs a crucial 22-19 lead. ETSU took the second set off of a Mercer error to tie the match at one set apiece.

Set 3 (25-23 ETSU): The third frame was back and forth until ETSU went on a 4-1 run to hold a 19-15 lead. The safe edge did not last long as Mercer battled back with a 4-1 run of their own to cut the deficit to one and force the Bucs to call timeout. Mercer was unable to reach ETSU’s lead late in the set as the Blue and Gold capped of the third-set win with a kill from Kaela Massey (Brentwood, Tenn.).   

Set 4 (25-21 ETSU): Mercer held a 5-3 lead in the fourth before the Bucs went on a 6-1 run to force the Bears to call timeout. Three of the six points during the run were service aces. The Bears cut their deficit to one, like they did all match long, but six straight points by the Bucs gave them a comfortable 16-10 lead. Like the previous two frames, the Bears inched close towards the end, but a kill from Esposito gave the Bucs the fourth-set victory and a trip to the championship match.

Key stats:

  • Esposito led the way with a .600 hitting percentage logging 19 kills on 30 swings. The Venezia, Italy native had a match-high five blocks.
  • Massey tallied 14 kills for a .480 attack clip. The senior added two aces, eight digs and three blocks.
  • Lauren Hatch (Homewood, Ill.) was the other member of the Blue and Gold with double-digit kills logging 13. Olivia Cunningham (Knoxville, Tenn.) finished with nine kills, an ace and a block.
  • Popovic led the match with 18 digs and four aces.
  • Emily Arnold (Louisville, Ky.) continued to quarterback the offense and recorded 49 assists.

Inside the numbers:

  • Esposito’s .600 clip was a career-best for the sophomore right side hitter.
  • Popovic’s four aces are the most for the libero this season and tied a career-high for the junior.
  • The Bucs are in the championship match for the third straight season and will face the Bulldogs in a rematch of the 2018 battle.
  • The Bucs are now 23-0 when hitting above .200 in a match and are 10-1 in four-set matches this season.

“This is an exciting moment for our team,” said Head Coach Benavia Jenkins. “We have competed hard in every match this weekend. We need to focus on ourselves, play well and limit our errors tomorrow afternoon.”

The Bucs are back in action tomorrow in the championship match to take on the Samford Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Fans can watch live on ESPN+.

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