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Coach Brittney Ezell’s first victory at East Tennessee State came the hard way.
Her women’s basketball team defeated old nemesis Appalachian State 81-72 Tuesday night in Boone, N.C., without Destiny Mitchell. The star forward injured a knee in the season opener at Memphis and could be lost for up to a month.
Sophomore guard Brianna McQueen, another starter, and freshman guard Shamauria Bridges also sat out after being suspended for breaking team rules.
“We’re going to be revisiting that with the two this afternoon,” Ezell said Wednesday, adding that they could be reinstated for the next game. “Destiny is going to the doctor tomorrow. I think we’re looking at three to four weeks without her. The good news is it’s not a major ligament; it’s more like a bone bruise.”
The loss of Mitchell, a senior from Bluffton, Ga., and the undisputed leader of this team, is a significant blow. She’s a two-time All-Atlantic Sun Conference pick and carries career averages of more than 12 points and eight rebounds.
Mitchell has battled injuries before but had an outstanding camp and appeared poised for a big finish to her college career. She had 15 points and 10 rebounds in the 77-74 overtime loss at Memphis.
“We’re better with Destiny, clearly,” said Ezell. “She’s such a presence on the court … I know she was miserable sitting on the bench last night.”
Mitchell’s teammates were able to pick up the slack and defeat an App State team that drubbed them 85-57 in the Dome last season.
Cara Bowling of Elizabethton and Chandler Christopher of Greeneville scored 17 points apiece to lead the way. Serena Clark turned in a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Maria Bond and Tiana Burley each had 10 points.
“We got contributions from everybody,” said Ezell, “and I was thrilled for Chandler and Cara. You always like to see the local products do well.”
Bowling, a junior guard, has scored 17 in both games so far.
Meanwhile, Clark continues to impress with her energy, if not her shooting. The athletic 6-2 junior got to the free throw line 16 times at App State; she made just eight and was 1 of 5 from the field.
“I think she got tired at the end,” said Ezell. “We had her chasing their best player all night, and she got to the glass hard. She’s capable of a double-double every night.”
Ezell has been preaching toughness and defense since coming to ETSU after three seasons as Belmont’s head coach. She likes the effort she’s seen so far.
“Memphis was a good gauge of who we are and who we’re capable of being,” she said. “And I think we took another good step last night. Someone stopped me over there after the game and said, ‘How did you do that? This is the same team that we beat by 30 last year.’ I said, ‘We’re wearing the same jerseys, but this is a different team.’”
The Lady Bucs have a little time to rest before facing Morehead State on Nov. 21. It’s the opening game of a double-header with the ETSU men at Freedom Hall.
The men’s soccer team was in Florida on Wednesday, with the luxury of a first-round bye in the A-Sun tournament.
Seeded second, the Bucs will face Lipscomb in a semifinal match Friday in Fort Myers. The third-seeded Bison defeated Jacksonville 1-0 on Wednesday afternoon.
“Getting the bye is key,” said ETSU coach Scott Calabrese. “It really gives you a much better chance to be successful. We haven’t played since last Tuesday, and now we have a couple more days of rest before playing a team that was out there today.”
Regular-season champion Florida Gulf Coast is the host team and was awaiting the North Florida-Mercer winner.
The Bucs (8-5-4) had to settle for a scoreless tie against Lipscomb to end their conference schedule in Johnson City on Nov. 2. That left them at 5-2-1, with one-goal losses to FGCU and Northern Kentucky.
“We played well last time against Lipscomb,” said Calabrese, “but I think maybe the emotion of senior night had an effect. We didn’t cash in on our chances.
“I think our guys are excited about the tournament and the opportunity we have down here. We’re playing our best soccer of the season.”
The Bucs went 6-2-1 in their last nine matches.
The volleyball team is preparing for a festive weekend in which it can claim the A-Sun regular-season championship.
The Bucs (21-7) host North Florida on Friday night, then Jacksonville on Saturday in a much-anticipated rematch. They are 15-1 in the league, with the lone loss being a five-setter at Jacksonville on Oct. 18.
The Dolphins (25-3) are 14-2 and can claim the No. 1 seed for the tournament with a win in Brooks Gym. ETSU has won its last 14 matches there.
The Bucs have designated Saturday as Fan Appreciation Day, with cash giveaways of up to $100 awarded to those with winning tickets. Match time is 3 o’clock.