Megan Devine began the volleyball season with a reputation of being the best player in the Atlantic Sun Conference. She’s going out the same way.
The East Tennessee State junior was Tuesday named A-Sun player of the year. The honor caps a season in which Devine, an outside hitter from Kingsport, reached the 1,000 plateau in both kills and digs for her career.
She led the league in double-doubles in those categories, with 23, and set three A-Sun records along the way. Devine already owns several school marks and has been an all-conference performer the last two years.
She’s the first ETSU player to win conference player of the year since Carey Cavanaugh in 2001.
“I have set the bar exceptionally high for Megan, and she keeps climbing to new levels,” said Lindsey Devine, ETSU’s coach and Megan’s mother. “She’s handled the pressure overall because of her hard work and the support of a great group of ladies we have around here.”
Teammate Meredith Hardy, another former Dobyns-Bennett star, joined Devine on the A-Sun first team, while Khadijah Wiley was named to the all-freshman team. The Bucs (20-12) are the No. 3 seed for the conference tournament, which begins Thursday night in Nashville.
Hardy, a sophomore middle blocker, set an A-Sun record for blocks this season (180) and had double-digit kills in 19 of the 32 matches.
“She’s had a phenomenal year,” said Devine. “It’s been great to see her starting to understand how great a player she can be.”
The coach said Hardy has been a mentor to the 6-foot-2 Wiley, who ranked third in the A-Sun in blocks per set and recorded at least one in all 27 matches she played in.
“A lot of what I see in Khadijah is what I saw in Meredith last year,” said Devine. “She’s going to be a fine player for years to come.”
Devine, Hardy, Jamie Rutledge and Ivey Rice were named to the A-Sun all-academic team.
The Bucs will try to extend their season Thursday night at Lipscomb when they face Mercer, the 6-seed, in a 6 o’clock quarterfinal.
The teams split during the regular season, with each winning on its home floor. The Bucs won the last meeting 3-1 on Oct. 9.
“They’ve come on quite strong of late,” said Devine, “but they have some youth on their team and hopefully we’ll be able to use that to our advantage. Player to player, I believe we are a little stronger athletically.”
Devine thinks her team can make a run on the weekend, despite the formidable teams seeded above it.
No. 2 Lipscomb is the three-time defending champ and went 15-3 in the league. Top-seeded Florida Gulf Coast handed the Bisons two of those losses on its way to a 16-2 mark.
The Eagles were unbeaten when ETSU knocked them off 3-2 here earlier this month.
“I think that win made our girls understand how talented they are and can beat anybody when they put their minds to it,” said Devine. “We’ve been continuing to build confidence, build momentum and build strength. I think we’re exactly where we want to be right now.”
The men’s soccer season came to a frustrating end for the Bucs when they were beaten by Mercer 4-2 on penalty kicks in the conference semifinals last Friday in Ft. Myers, Fla. The match was tied at 1 at the end of regulation.
Frank Doumbe had given the Bucs the lead with his goal in the 75th minute, but they couldn’t hold it. Four minutes later, David Murtaugh gave the Bears the tying score.
“We had created a bunch of chances and were pretty confident we were going to score,” said ETSU coach Scott Calabrese. “We finally did and thought we could kick it on in from there, maybe even get another goal to seal it. In the end, they got a set piece and we didn’t handle it well. That’s one area where we have to improve.
“It shouldn’t have come down to a shootout. It’s always disappointing to lose on penalty kicks.”
The Bucs (10-6-4) missed making the championship match for the first time in three years. They won the title two years ago.
Calabrese loses a half-dozen players to graduation, including starters Doumbe and Alesi Osorio. But he returns some star power, led by striker David Geno and goalkeeper Ryan Coulter.
Geno, a junior from Kingsport, was the A-Sun player of the year after collecting 11 goals and eight assists. His 30 points were 12 more than the closest player, and he became ETSU’s career scoring leader along the way.
“He was kind of a runaway player of the year,” said Calabrese. “Nobody else was really close. David is so talented but such a humble young man and a hard worker. We’re very glad he still has another year with us.”
Coulter, a redshirt junior from Ireland, was the top goalkeeper in the conference and should only get better, said Calabrese.
“I think the best has yet to come for Coulter,” he said. “He didn’t get a chance to train last spring. He had fairly major surgery to repair his hip and had a five- or six-month layoff.
“I think he and Geno can both improve.”