ETSU middle blocker Meredith Hardy (Kingsport, Tenn.) was one of many Buccaneers to help power the Blue and Gold to a sweep (25-21, 25-18, 25-22) over USC Upstate on Friday night inside Brooks Gym.
Hardy, who is two blocks shy of breaking the all-time Atlantic Sun record, finished with a match-high 14 kills (.458 attack percentage) and added five blocks, five digs and tied a career high with three service aces.
Along with Hardy, senior Megan Devine (Kingsport, Tenn.) collected her fifth straight double-double after totaling 13 kills (.344 attack percentage) and 15 digs, while sophomore Khadijah Wiley (Columbus, Ga.) hit a match-high .462 (7-1-13) and had two blocks. Junior setter Jamie Rutledge (Kingsport, Tenn.) quarterbacked the offense by dishing out a match-best 42 assists, while also recording four digs and a kill, and fellow junior Katie Muey (Alexandria, Ind.) ended with 15 digs and three assists for the Bucs.
As a team, ETSU accomplished a feat it hasn’t achieved in nearly three years as the Bucs held USC Upstate without a block. The Bucs, who posted seven blocks on the night, held North Florida without a block in the 2010 (Nov. 18) A-Sun quarterfinal. Meanwhile, the Blue and Gold hit .297 (46-13-111) and recorded six service aces against the Spartans.
The Bucs (16-7, 10-1 A-Sun) have now won three straight, while also extending their home win streak to 11, and ETSU remained tied with Jacksonville for first-place following the Dolphins’ five-set win at Northern Kentucky. The Spartans have now been swept in their last four visits to Brooks Gym and USC Upstate dropped to 3-18, 3-9 on the campaign.
Hardy made her presence felt early on as she hit .625 (5-0-8) and had a pair of service aces in the 25-21 opening set victory for the Bucs. The Blue and Gold jumped out to a hot start as ETSU won eight of the first ten points, but USC Upstate responded with a 10-3 run to take a 12-11 lead following a service error by Devine. However, the Bucs regained the lead for good when Wiley and Ivey Rice (Johnson City, Tenn.) registered back-to-back kills, and a service ace by Muey put ETSU ahead, 14-12. From there, the Spartans hung around and pulled within a point when consecutive kills from Emily Koelling made it a 22-21 score, but kills from Rice, Hardy, and Bethany Gesell (High Point, N.C.) gave ETSU the four-point win. Overall, the Bucs hit .317 (17-4-41) in the first set and posted three service aces.
The Bucs never trailed in the second set and cruised to a 25-18 win to go up 2-0 in the match. Once again, ETSU started strong by winning eight of the first 12 points, and this time USC Upstate never threatened. Eventually, the Blue and Gold led by as many as 10, when Rutledge found Wiley for the kill making it a 21-11 contest. Coach Devine was able to go to her bench in the second as 12 players saw action in the seven-point win. Six different Bucs tallied a kill in the frame, including freshman Briana Allmon (Flower Mound, Texas), which marked her first kill inside Brooks Gym.
In the third and final set, USC Upstate tested the Bucs early and late, but ETSU still managed to pull out a 25-22 win. The Spartans won the first two points of the stanza, but with the score knotted at 11, the Bucs scored four unanswered points to open a four-point cushion, 15-11. The Blue and Gold never trailed after the spurt, but the Spartans narrowed the gap to within a point three different times. However, after dropping its first home set of the season last time out against Mercer, ETSU stepped up to earn its fourth home sweep in five matches this season. Devine and Wiley were on fire in the third as they combined to hit .600 (9-0-15). Devine connected on five of her eight swings and Wiley totaled four kills on her seven attempts.
After hitting a season-high .336 in its sweep over Kennesaw State on Tuesday, USC Upstate was held to a .173 clip (35-16-110) by the Bucs. Kayla Eversgerd led the way for the Spartans as she ended with a double-double (12 kills/13 digs).
ETSU wraps up its three-match homes stint Tuesday night when the Bucs host Kennesaw State at 6 p.m.
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