The Stetson University volleyball team (17-12, 8-6 A-Sun) made a valiant effort to upend first-place ETSU Saturday evening, but the Bucs (19-7, 13-1 A-Sun) held off a late Hatters rally and held on for a 3-2 Atlantic Sun Conference victory at the Edmunds Center.
The Hatters fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the match to force a fifth set, and battled back in the deciding frame after trailing 9-3 to pull within two at 12-10. The Bucs tallied three of the final four points, however, to escape with the victory.
"I was real proud of everybody giving a team effort," Stetson head coach Tim Loesch said. "We had one little blip in one of the games where we didn't play very well to start, but the other games were all very close and could have gone either way. I told the girls we could have won it four if we pulled out the first game, which was very tight down until the end."
The intense, two-hour and 23-minute match featured 27 ties and 13 lead changes as both teams picked up incredible digs and battled through extended rallies to try an earn every point.
"ETSU played well, but I was proud of our girls for increasing their level of play," Loesch said. "(The effort) was led by our seniors, with leadership in the huddles during timeouts, during pregame, and even postgame after a very tough loss. They kept us focused on our goals and moving forward, and I was real happy with that."
The Hatters honored their seniors and captains Ellen Hawks and Kaley Melville, who were playing in the final home match of their careers. Melville finished with her second straight double-double (10 kills, 10 digs) while Hawks added 12 kills and six blocks. However, it was freshman Tiffany Creamer who had a banner night with a career-high 22 kills and a .373 attack percentage.
"It gives us unbelievable confidence to play this well against ETSU," Creamer said about the Hatters' performance. "I could not have more trust in my team that we are going to come out stronger than that from here on out, and it just let us know how good we can play. I love our seniors and I can't wait to keep playing with them even more."
One night after collecting a season-high 15 blocks, the Hatters recorded 12 more on Saturday, including five each from Melville and Erika White. Michelle Kastner led four players in double-digit digs with 17, and Kayla Weller dished out 46 assists.
The loss spoiled an opportunity for Stetson to lock up a berth in the Atlantic Sun Championship. The Hatters can still clinch with a win in any of their final four matches. Their next opportunity will be at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night at UNF.
Notes: Hawks and Melville have played 118 consecutive matches each without missing any (in their careers) ... Melville now has 61 career double-doubles ... Kayla Weller became the third Hatter all-time and first since 2002 (Tanner Kennedy) to go over 1000 assists in a single-season.