February 14, 20211st2nd3rd4th5thFinal
UNC Greensboro21252517112
0.168Hitting Pct.0.266
167Total Attacks177
Esch - 15
KillsCunningham - 30
McHugh - 39
AssistsArnold - 56
McHugh - 3
AcesArnold - 2
Wiggs - 18
DigsCherney - 28
Knier - 3
BlocksMattress - 5
Cunningham’s Dramatic Record-Breaking Kill Caps ETSU’s Comeback
Cunningham’s Dramatic Record-Breaking Kill Caps ETSU’s Comeback
Sunday, February 14, 2021

Bucs Defeat Spartans 3-2

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 14, 2021) — In a match that featured 122 kills, the final one did more than decide the match. Olivia Cunningham’s (Knoxville, Tenn.) 30th kill gave ETSU the 3-2 (25-21, 23-25, 20-25, 25-17, 15-11) victory over UNCG and set a new program record for kills in a match.

Cunningham becomes just the fifth Buc in program history to have 29+ kills in a match and the second in as many seasons after current teammate, Lauren Hatch (Homewood, Ill.) tied the previous record last season. 

How it happened:
Set 1 (25-21 ETSU): Both teams began the match strong offensively as the first 20 points featured 13 kills and just three attacking errors and the set was locked at 10. The competitive first frame featured six ties and three lead changes, but Cunningham’s fourth kill of the day put ETSU up 21-18 and the Bucs looked back. The Blue and Gold had two set points and on the second, Sanne Maring (Groningen, The Netherlands) put the set away giving ETSU a 1-0 lead.

Set 2 (25-23 UNCG): After an ace and a kill from Cunningham to start the set, UNCG went on a 7-1 run to hold a four-point advantage. The Spartans nearly held a five-point lead throughout the rest of the frame until the Bucs battled back to get within two. With the score 22-20, UNCG called their final timeout. The Bucs were able close UNCG’s lead to just a point at 23-22 with a kill from Sara Esposito (Venizia, Italy), but UNCG won two of the next three to tie the match at one set apiece. Nearly a third of Cunningham’s kills came in the second frame as she logged nine in the set; Esposito tallied the other five kills in the frame for the Bucs. It was the first time all season the Spartans won the second set.

Set 3 (25-20 UNCG): The Bucs’ offense came out hot in the third as they held a 10-6 lead. The lead didn’t last much longer as UNCG went on a 9-4 with three kills from Hannah Knier to put the Spartans up 15-14. ETSU won the next point to tie the set at 15 and UNCG took it from there. The Spartans won 10 of the next 15 points to take a 2-1 lead in the match. UNCG outhit ETSU .269 - .167 in the set and recorded four aces. Maring went a perfect 4-for-4 offensively in the frame.

Set 4 (25-17 ETSU): ETSU was not going down in their home opener. The Blue and Gold went on an 8-0 run to start the fourth win two kills from Cunningham, an ace and a kill from Emily Arnold (Louisville, Ill.) and a block and a kill from Asia Mattress (Mauldin, S.C.). UNCG was able to cut the lead to seven multiple times, but never got closer as the Bucs were ready for their second five-setter of the season. Six different Bucs recorded kills in the frame, a match high. ETSU outhit UNCG .316 - .075 to force the deciding fifth set.  

Set 5 (15-11 ETSU): Cunningham entered the fifth frame four kills shy of the program record. The final set of the two hour and 48-minute match began with back-to-back slams from Mattress in the middle. The frame was tied at six points apiece and then Jenna Forster (Maryville, Tenn.) sparked the first run by either team in the fifth. After they called timeout, the Spartans took their first lead since the third set, holding a 10-9 advantage. With Arnold back to serve, The Bucs raddled off four straight points with a kill from Esposito and a block from Mattress. With a 14-11 lead and their second match point, the Bucs pulled through. Cunningham had the opportunity to set the program record and win the match and she delivered with a cross-court kill to give the Bucs the win.

Key stats:

  • Cunningham’s record-breaking performance concluded with a .288 attack clip (30-9-73), 12 digs, an ace, two blocks and three assists. The performance marked her second-straight double-double.
  • Junior right-side hitter, Sara Esposito got her first start of the season and tallied 18 kills on 34 swings. She netted a .353 clip and set a career high with eight digs. The Italian was second on the team with four blocks.
  • Maring continued her dominance in the middle as she tallied 22 swings without an error. The Netherlands native delivered nine kills for a .409 clip and two blocks.
  • Mattress was a wall at the net with a match-high five blocks. For the second-straight match, the Mauldin, S.C. native logged six kills.   
  • Arnold recorded 49+ assists for the third straight match. The sophomore setter had 56 and a season-high four kills. She finished one dig shy of a double-double and led the team with two aces.
  • Sydney Cherney (Knoxville, Tenn.) became the third libero this season in the SoCon to tally 28 or more digs. Finishing just two digs shy of her career-best, the freshman also added eight assists.
  • Freshman defensive specialist, Staley Humphries (Kingsport, Tenn.), set a career high with 13 digs, the second most on the squad.
  • UNCG’s Hannah Knier led the Spartans with a .355 attack clip (13-2-31). Outside hitter, Maria Esch, had a team-high 15 kills.

Inside the numbers:

    • Cunningham becomes the youngest player in the NCAA this season to log 30+ kills and the ninth overall to reach that mark. After 37 kills in the first series of the season, Cunningham is now averaging 4.79 kills per set. The Knoxville is the first Buc to record back-to-back double-doubles since Arnold did it on Oct. 11-12 last season and her 73 attempts are the most since Leah Clayton logged 78 vs Samford on Sept. 28, 2018.
    • The sophomore outside hitter is the only player in Division I this season with 30+ kills, 10+ digs and 3+ assists in a match.
  • The win marks the first time the Blue and Gold were down 2-1 and won the match since Sept. 2, 2018 vs Tennessee. The Bucs were 0-5 last season when trailing 2-1.
  • Cherney’s 28 digs are the second most for the sophomore in her career and are the most in a league contest.
  • Maring eclipsed a .400 hitting percentage for the second time in three matches.
  • The Bucs are 3-0 to start league play for the sixth time since 2000.
  • This was UNCG’s fourth five-set match of the season, they’re 0-4 in those contests.

With the win, ETSU improves to 3-0, 3-0 SoCon and UNCG falls to 0-5, 0-5 SoCon. 

The Bucs and the Spartans meet back in Brooks Gym tomorrow, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m.

ETSU fans wanting to receive Buccaneer news, score updates, in-game promotions and much more sent to their mobile device can do so by signing up for “Buc Updates.” Click here to sign up today!

For more information on Buccaneer volleyball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the volleyball page. Also, like us on Facebook at follow us on Twitter and Instagram @ETSUVolleyball.