Volleyball drops 3-2 heartbreaker to ETSU in A-Sun opener

Sept. 21, 2007

Box Score

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Senior middle hitter Melissa Merchant set a program record with 15 blocks to go with 11 kills as the JU volleyball team dropped a heartbreaker to East Tennessee State, 3-2 (27-30, 30-23, 14-30, 30-25, 12-15), Friday evening in the Atlantic Sun Conference opener at Brooks Gymnasium.

JU (5-9, 0-1) racked up a match-high 20 blocks and rallied from a 2-1 deficit to force game five. Merchant's block total surpassed freshman middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher's 13-block effort against New Orleans last weekend. ETSU (9-7, 1-0) recorded a match-high 62 digs and used a 5-0 run in the final game to take the match.

On the offensive side of the net, Merchant led the Dolphins with a team-high .318 (11-4-22) hitting percentage. Along with Merchant's career night, junior outside hitter Sara Bendorf tallied a team-high 12 kills and 13 digs to record her fifth double-double of the year. Freshman outside hitter Aidan Yeager registered 11 kills and eight blocks to round out the JU offense. Sophomore libero Michelle Walroth added 19 digs to lead the back line.

Laura Waddell tallied a match-high 19 digs to lead the Buccaneers while Amanda Youell finished with 52 assists and 12 digs to notch the squad's lone double-double. Erin Ryan (13 kills) and Callie Kiselich (12 kills) rounded out the Bucs in double figures. Kaena Apana led the defense with a match-high 22 digs.

In game one, both squads endured three ties and two lead changes early on before ETSU used a 4-1 run to take a 10-7 advantage on a kill by Desiree Dyck. The Bucs increase the lead to 16-9 with a kill by Kristen Provchy but the Dolphins cut the deficit to 17-16 with a 7-1 run, capped by a block by freshman middle blocker Abby Gruenbacher and freshman setter Hannah Munneke.

ETSU answered with an 8-2 to lead 25-18 after an attack error by the Dolphins. After a timeout, JU cut the deficit to 26-25 on an attack error by Provchy but the Bucs finished with a 4-2 run to win the game

In the second frame, the Dolphins jumped out to an early 7-2 lead after a bad set by Apana. JU increased the margin to 14-7 after an attack error by Waddell but the Bucs cut the lead to 14-11 with a 4-0 run, capped by an ace by Waddell. JU increased the lead to 19-13 on a kill by Bendorf to cruise the rest of the way as the Bucs never got closer than five points for the remainder of the game.

In the third game, JU led 6-4 early but would falter the rest of the way as ETSU dominated the game with runs of 6-0, 6-0, 3-0, 5-0, 4-0 and 4-0. The Bucs finished with a match-high .324 (17-5-37) in the game as the Dolphins finished -.129 (2-6-31).

In game four, each team grinded early as the squads went through seven ties and two lead changes before JU pulled away with a 5-0 run to lead 16-11 on a kill by freshman outside hitter Brittany Lehman. JU increased the lead to 22-12, fueled by a 5-0 run, until ETSU battled back with a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to 24-21.

The Dolphins answered back with a 3-0 run to lead 27-21 on an attack error by Kiselich but the Bucs made things interesting with a 3-0 run of their own to make it 27-24. JU finished with a 3-1 run to force game five.

In the deciding game, JU took an early 4-1 lead on a kill by Merchant but the Bucs answered with a 5-1 run to lead 6-5 on an ace by Kiselich. JU retook the lead, 8-7, after an attack error by Waddell before the Dolphins pushed the lead to 12-10 after a kill by Bendorf. ETSU struck the final blow with a 5-0 run to end the game, fueled by a trio of kills and a service ace, to open conference play on a positive note.

JU will next play conference newcomer USC Upstate on Saturday at 5 p.m. The contest can be viewed on GameTracker.