Lady Bucs fire back with win over Western Carolina

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY-- The ETSU volleyball players can be accused of losing their minds. It seems like they forgot about losing Saturday.
   The Lady Buccaneers (14-2, 10-2 in league play) avenged a key Southern Conference loss to Georgia Southern by defeating the Western Carolina Catamounts 30-23, 25-30, 32-30, 30-20 Monday night at Brooks Gym.
   The win was big for the Lady Bucs considering they were coming off the loss to the Eagles, and the fact the Western Carolina series is a big volleyball rivalry.
   "This win was huge," Lady Buc Jessica Miller said. "We showed a lot of character tonight."
   ETSU head volleyball coach Deane Webb also thought this was a big win for his talented team.
   "Volleyball is a game of momentum and streaks," Webb said. "We had the winning streak that everybody was talking about, we definitely don't want to have a losing streak that people talk about. It's definitely important to come out and play well.
   "I thought we started a little slow in game one, but I thought they picked it up. It definitely was an important win, as every match is in the conference."
   The Lady Bucs looked like they were in for a long night early, as they were down 9-3. But the trademark of the ETSU volleyball team is coming from behind, and 19 points later, the home team had taken the lead 16-15 en route to the first game win.
   The Lady Catamounts bounced back to win game two, but then the Bucs took control in games three and four.
   Webb thought his team played better as the game went on.
   "I agree," Webb said when asked if his team improved throughout the match." Katie Steidle made a lot of good plays defensively, and I think our passing picked up as the match went on as well."
   ETSU showed that come-from-behind attitude in game three. Down 30-29, the Bucs rallied to win two straight points to go up 30-29, then eventually won the game to give them enough momentum to pull of the victory in frame four.
   The Lady Bucs leader on this night was sort of a surprise. It was Rachel Shifflet, who netted 13 kills against the Catamounts.
   Shifflet has seen limited action this season, so Webb was glad to see her breakout performance.
   "It was nice that Rachel had a chance to get in," Webb said. "It's something she's been looking forward to, and we had the opportunity to put her in. She really did a nice job. She delivered a lot of nice swings from the left side.
   The reason Shifflet had been out was due to an injury, but she definitely made up for it with this performance.
   Shifflet had shown in the past she was capable, and Webb knew that.
   "Last year she was the team's leader in kills per game," Webb said. "In the preseason she suffered a knee injury, and she missed four weeks. She's only been healthy for about a week-and-a-half. She's slowly been working into it in practice, so it's wonderful that we had the opportunity to bring somebody in the game that as skilled and as gifted of a player as she is. I'm really proud of the way she produced tonight."
   Karen Freeburg 26 digs to lead the Lady Bucs, while Carey Cavanaugh had 24 digs for ETSU.
   Cavanaugh, a Southern Conference Player-of-the-Year candidate, took a hard fall in the third game. But after being down for a minute, she got back up and played very courageously.
   "She turned around and landed, and everything but her mouth hit the floor I think," Webb said. "She hit a lot of different places all at once."
   As ETSU continues to roll, Webb is very proud of his team for the way they have played.
   "I think they've really done a good job," Webb said. "We give the credit to the players because they're the ones spending the time in the gym and time in the weight room. They've worked really, really hard. We're really pleased with the effort they've put in to it this year, and I hope for their sake that things work out really well because they have definitely earned it."