ETSU’s volleyball team won the Southern Conference Championship Sunday with a straight-set victory over No. 4 seed Wofford at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee, North Carolina. The Bucs won 25-21, 25-12, 26-24.
Sophomore Leah Clayton (Danville, Virginia) led the way for ETSU with 14 kills. Junior Alyssa Kvarta (Crown Point, Indiana) had 21 assists. Freshman Marija Popovic (Belgrade, Serbia) had 21 digs.
Back in September, when the summer heat still hung and the thrill of a new school year had yet to die down, the Bucs battled through a rough preseason. Seven of their eleven games ended in losses, but the pieces for success were there. Early season struggles continued, with ETSU going into October with a 2-2 record, losing to Furman and UNC-Greensboro, two teams that would also find themselves deep in the postseason. It seems the Bucs only needed some time to get in their groove, as they proceeded to tear through the SoCon, losing only two of their last 13 games. The Bucs ended the season ranked second in the SoCon.
The Bucs exacted a measure of revenge against a Wofford team that swept ETSU in a shocking end to the regular season. Wofford made quick work of the Bucs back in the regular season, starting sets strong and building early leads. The leadership of the team’s sole senior Rylee Milhorn (Kingsport, Tennessee) was a key factor as her performance during the tournament was a key part of the Bucs’ victories. Wofford’s Catie Cronister (Chicago, Illinois) put up a strong performance with 14 kills in the championship match.
The path to a championship is never an easy one, though. The Bucs first opponent was the Western Carolina Catamounts, a team that had beat them in their last meeting less than a month earlier. The Bucs rode their hot streak, and blazed past Western Carolina. They began the game with an 8-0 run, and that set the tone for the remaining sets. ETSU trailed only once the entire game, and ended with the sweep, beating the Catamounts 3-0. Western Carolina had no answer for ETSU’s attacks, while the Bucs racked up 11 blocks.
In the second round, ETSU met up with another team they had split the season series with: UNC-Greensboro. However, the Bucs came to play, and took care of business. The stats between the two teams were strikingly similar, but ETSU’s stellar defense stepped up and gave them the edge to beat UNC-Greensboro in a sweep, 3-0.
The Bucs will learn their NCAA Tournament opponent Sunday, Nov. 26, during the NCAA Selection Show. The NCAA Tournament begins Nov. 30.