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Kelly Hodge

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ETSU Sports

ETSU volleyball team gets sendoff to NCAA tourney

November 28th, 2012 8:55 pm by Kelly Hodge

ETSU volleyball team gets sendoff to NCAA tourney

The East Tennessee State volleyball team was back on the road again Wednesday, and couldn’t be happier.
The Bucs bused to Lexington, Ky., to prepare for their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance after a spirited sendoff outside the Dome. The Atlantic Sun Conference champions face the Kentucky Wildcats Friday night at 7:30.
“We got a great sendoff by staff, ETSU faculty and athletes,” said coach Lindsey Devine. “There’s been a lot of excitement the last week or so, but I’m very pleased with how calm our girls have been. They’re treating this like business as usual.”
The Bucs (23-12) will certainly have their hands full with the Wildcats (20-10), who are the No. 16 seed overall and playing in the NCAA tournament for the eighth straight year. Kentucky features five players who are 6-foot-2 or taller; ETSU has one.
“When you play any team in the SEC, they’re taller, and we can’t do anything about that,” said Devine. “They probably play consistently at a faster pace, too. But they’ll underestimate how good a blocking team we are, and how we’re able to distribute our offense through many players. They can’t concentrate on just one.”
The Wildcats will still focus a lot of attention on Megan Devine. The junior outside hitter was the A-Sun player of the year and tournament MVP, capping what has been a dream season for the Devine family.
“We started in January preparing for this year. We added our freshmen and everybody just jumped on board,” said Devine. “We’ve had a lot of support along the way. It’s just been an amazing journey.”
This is still a young ETSU team, with only one senior, setter Kayla Williams. Devine is the only junior.
The sophomore class is five deep and includes Meredith Hardy, an all-conference middle blocker. There are also six freshmen.
Coach Devine, in her 10th season, said she sensed something special may be in the offing back in late August – long before the Bucs beat A-sun powers Florida Gulf Coast and Lipscomb.
“Our first preseason tournament at South Carolina, I just thought the desire and competitive spirit in the group was there,” she said. “ I really believed they were capable of great things. We’ve had our highs and lows, but there has always been a belief that I haven’t seen in other teams I’ve coached.”
The Bucs and Cats have played only once before, at an early-season tournament in 2004. The Cats won in straight sets.
Kentucky features the three-time libero of the year in the Southeastern Conference, Stephanie Kiefot, and a first-team all-conference performer in outside hitter Whitney Billings.
“Kentucky is a great team, an SEC team,” said Megan Devine. “But we’re hoping we’re going to play our best match of the season.”

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