ETSU racks up with SoCon awards

Jeff Birchfield • Nov 16, 2016 at 5:31 PM

The East Tennessee State University volleyball team was recognized in a major way on Wednesday, just days before the Bucs go into the Southern Conference tournament as the No. 1 seed.

Senior Briana Allmon was named the league’s player of the year and Lindsey Devine was honored as the coach of the year. In addition, sophomore A.J. Lux was named first team all-conference and Kaela Massey was part of the all-freshman team.

Devine led the Bucs to a 21-7 overall record and 13-3 in the Southern Conference for their first SoCon regular season title since 1991. Devine talked about the honors including being named the coach of the year in her 14th season.

“To be recognized by your peers, it’s very humbling,” Devine said. “It’s a testament to our whole staff, in that we were all coaches of the year. We’ve worked hard together to stay the course and we have a bigger picture in mind.”

Allmon, an outside hitter, was the first from ETSU named player of the year since Megan Devine was so honored by the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2012.

Allmon has a team-best 397 kills and has recorded double-digit kills in 23 of the 28 matches this season. Her coach has seen a steady progression from the Dallas-area native over her four years at ETSU.

“Each year, there has been maturity, growth in her game and leadership,” Devine said. “Last year, she had a very solid year. I told her before this season what I thought she was capable of. Bri is a hard working young woman and she set her mind to be that good. She also knows it’s a lot of the people around her who have created those opportunities for her.”

Besides the passer and setters, Allmon has benefited from the emergence of Lux. The sophomore outside hitter has 289 kills, reaching double digits in half of the Bucs’ matches.

“You want to see growth in your players and A.J. would be the first to recognize how much she has matured as a person, a player and as a leader,” Devine said. “She has developed so much more to her game, a tool box which allows us to spread our offense. We have opponents guessing who is going to get the ball.”

Adding to the imposing front, Massey leads the Southern Conference with 123 blocks and has 21 matches with at least four blocks. It included a breakout match at Clemson when she finished with 13 kills and four blocks, and two matches where she tallied seven blocks.

“As a freshman coming in, there are tough moments,” Devine said. “But Kaela has become a huge force on the front row. I thought she would be solid, but she has surpassed where I thought she would be.”

The team as a whole surpassed where many thought it would be.

The Bucs won 12 of their last 13 matches and ended with an 11-0 record at home inside Brooks Gym. Devine goes back to a meeting with team’s captains in January, months before the start of the season, as a major reason for the team’s success.

The key word from the meeting was trust.

“We told them, they had to trust the process, trust the coaches, trust their teammates and trust themselves,” she said. “We went to Furman and lost the first conference match on the road. But, we went to Samford on that road trip and rebounded and won in five sets. Then, we made a change in our lineup and changed to a 6-2 and we worked through it. It goes back to trusting what we can do and these young ladies being motivated. It’s a testament to the hard work and expectations they place upon themselves.”

The Bucs now head into the Southern Conference tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, with plenty of expectations as the top seed. They are scheduled to play the winner of a match between Furman and The Citadel in the tournament quarterfinals on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

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