The ETSU volleyball team added to its win streak on Thursday night as the Bucs cruised to a convincing three-set victory (25-21, 25-11, 25-13) over USC Upstate inside the Hodge Center.
ETSU dominated in all phases of the game as the Bucs won nearly every statistical category. The Blue and Gold enjoyed its best offensive attack of the campaign as ETSU hit a season-best .408, while holding the Spartans to a .083 clip, marking the second straight match the Bucs have held their opponent below .100. In addition, the Blue and Gold were plus-23 in kills (50-27), plus-21 in assists (46-25), plus-19 in digs (51-32) and plus-6 in blocks (10-4). The Bucs have now finished with double-digit blocks in their last three matches and have accomplished the feat eight times this year, while ETSU has now totaled 40.5 blocks in its first three conference matches.
Individually, the Bucs were led by the trio of Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.), Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) as they combined to hit a blistering .515 (40-5-68). Devine led the charge with 22 kills, eight digs, four blocks and a .463 attack percentage, while Rice registered a .600 clip (7-1-10) and added 13 digs. Hardy, fresh off receiving A-Sun Defensive Player of the Week honors on Monday, finished with 11 kills and seven blocks, while also hitting an impressive .588. Junior setter Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) dished out 38 of ETSU's 46 assists, while junior libero Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) tallied a team-high 14 digs and recorded six assists.
The Bucs, who have now won five straight matches, improved to 9-6, 3-0 in Atlantic Sun play, marking their best conference start since going a perfect 9-0 in 2006. After picking up its first win of the season last Saturday at Mercer, USC Upstate dropped to 1-10, 1-2.
"We keep preaching to our team that our opponent is going to bring their best game against us, so we have to be prepared each time we take to the floor. Tonight we stuck to the game plan, and we were disciplined, well-balanced, and worked hard, said head coach Lindsey Devine, who improved to 8-3 against USC Upstate. "We pride ourselves on being a very physical group and we are at a point where everyone knows what their role is on this team. Our physicality makes it difficult on the opposition, and everyone in an ETSU uniform is doing their best playing their role."
The first set was tight early on as both teams traded scores, but with USC Upstate leading by one (5-4), ETSU used a 10-2 surge to build a seven-point lead, 14-7, when Rutledge found Hardy for one of her five kills in the set. From there, the Spartans scored the next four points to pull within three (14-11), but the Blue and Gold responded and pushed their advantage back to seven as a kill from Devine gave the Bucs a 23-16 advantage. USC Upstate had one last spurt in them as the Spartans narrowed the gap to three (24-21); however, Devine's sixth kill on the night ended the set, giving ETSU the four-point win. As a team, the Blue and Gold hit a solid .343 (17-5-35) and out-blocked the Spartans, 5-2.
ETSU controlled play in the second set as the Blue and Gold ended the frame on a 15-3 run en route to cruising to a 25-11 win. Once again, the early stages were tightly contested as the teams combined for five ties and one lead change, but with the Bucs up 10-8, ETSU took over by posting its run to grab a 2-0 lead in the match. With the Bucs leading 10-8, ETSU won seven straight points to extend its two-point advantage to nine, courtesy of solid serving by Rice, and the Spartans never had an answer for ETSU. The Blue and Gold continued with their exceptional attack as ETSU hit .424 (16-2-33) in the second, with Devine producing 10 of those kills and a .474 percentage.
Things continued to get better for the Bucs in the third as ETSU led wire-to-wire and closed out the match with a 25-13 victory. The Blue and Gold won the first four points of the stanza and quickly saw their lead soar to double figures when a kill by Hardy made it a 15-5 contest. The Spartans never threatened and ETSU walked away with the 12-point victory. Devine and Rice were flawless in the third as the duo hit .667 (10-0-15). Rice finished on four of her five swings and Devine was 6 for 10. Rutledge posted 15 of the 16 assists in the frame, while the Bucs registered its highest attack percentage at .467 (17-3-30).
Kayla Eversgerd led USC Upstate with 10 kills and Lexi Gober added 21 assists and eight digs.
The Bucs will now enjoy a long break between games as the Bucs don't return to action until next Friday at Northern Kentucky.