SPARTANBURG, S.C. (ETSU) — The ETSU volleyball team’s 2019 season came to a close in the Southern Conference championship match with a five-set loss (25-23, 25-22, 23-25, 17-25, 15-8) to the Samford Bulldogs. Kaela Massey (Brentwood, Tenn.) finished her career with 18 kills on 30 swings to bring her season clip to a program-best .353 hitting percentage.
Set 1 (25-23 SAM): The Bucs had the lead early, up 9-4 to force Samford to call their first timeout. The Bulldogs fought back out of the timeout to take a 10-9 lead on a 6-0 run. ETSU did not allow their lead to last long as the Blue and Gold took a four-point lead up 18-14 to force Samford to call their second timeout. The Bucs were the first to 20, but once again the Bulldogs came back with a kill to tie the match at 22. ETSU tied the frame at 23, but a kill and a block from the Bulldogs gave Samford the first set, 25-23.
Set 2 (25-22 SAM): Like the first frame, ETSU had an early advantage up 6-2, but Samford battled back and the rest of the set was back-and-forth throughout. After the Bucs held a three-point lead in the middle of the frame, Samford took one of their own, up 18-15. The Blue and Gold cut their deficit to one, down 21-20, but the Bulldogs took advantage of two kills from Kelsi Hobbs to hold a 23-20 lead and force the Bucs to call their second timeout of the set. Samford took the set 25-22 and put themselves within one set of the SoCon title.
Set 3 (25-23 ETSU): The third set was the most competitive of the first three with no team having larger than a three-point lead throughout the entire frame. With the set tied at 17, the Bucs used two kills and a Samford attack error to be the first to 20. Massey continued her success late in the third with two kills to give the Bucs set point. Lauren Hatch (Homewood, Ill.) found the corner in the back row of the Bulldogs defense to give the Bucs a 25-23 set-three victory and keep their season alive.
Set 4 (25-17 ETSU): The fourth set was back and forth at the beginning, but for the first time in the entire match one team held a big advantage. That team was ETSU. The set was knotted up at 12 before the Bucs went on a 13-5 rout to close out the frame and keep the match alive. The Blue and Gold hit .371 in the fourth and limited Samford to a .212 attack clip.
Set 5 (15-8 SAM): Samford’s experience showed up in the fifth jumping out to a 10-1 lead. The Bucs cut their deficit to four on a 5-0 run, but the Bulldogs would not let it go any further. Samford ended the match on a 3-0 run to take the set 15-8 and take the match.
Massey capped off her career with one of the best performances in the last four years by the Brentwood, Tenn. native. The winningest player in the program’s history hit .600 with 18 kills and no errors on 30 swings. She closed her line with six blocks and an ace.
Sara Esposito (Venezia, Italy) continued her all-tournament team performance with 17 kills on 36 swings. The sophomore added five blocks and the lone solo stuff for the Bucs.
Outside hitters, Olivia Cunningham (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Hatch both logged 11 kills. Cunningham closed out her 2019 season with a double-double, tallying 11 digs in the back row. The duo combined for three blocks.
The ETSU specialists of Emily Arnold (Louisville, Ky.) and Marija Popovic (Belgrade, Serbia) logged 43 assists and 22 digs respectively. Popovic was tied for a match-best two aces.
Lundyn Coffman (Nolensville, Tenn.) hit .316 with eight kills and recorded four blocks.
Inside the numbers:
Massey closed out her career setting an ETSU record. The senior hit .353 this season which is the best in program history. She will graduate with 397 total blocks and 342 block assists good for fourth and third-best in program history.
Massey closes out her four-year career with 94 wins, the best by any Buc in program history.
ETSU finished the season with a 25-6 record marking a .806 winning percentage, second best in the program’s 44-year history and by an ETSU volleyball team since 1987.
The team concludes 2019 with a .243 hitting percentage, tied for fourth best in program history.
This marked the first time this season the Bucs hit above .200 and lost a match (22-1).
Coach Jenkin’s 25 wins are the most by any active head coach in Division I this year.
Massey and Esposito were named to the all-tournament team.
From Coach Jenkins:
“What a ride it has been. Although the result today wasn’t what we were working towards, we are so proud of the effort from this young team. It’s been a great first season and I want to thank Kaela for her contributions to the program, we made sure to send her off with unforgettable memories and growth in her life.”
“We were picked to come in 5th in the preseason. We worked hard all year to earn our second place to end the season against an amazing Samford team. I’m excited to see what the future of ETSU volleyball holds and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The Bucs conclude their 2019 campaign with the second-best winning percentage in program history. The Blue and Gold will return 11 out of the 13 members of the squad in 2020.