The Lady Bisons, the defending Atlantic Sun Champions, will face arch-rival Belmont Saturday night at 5 at the University Center on the Mercer University campus. Belmont, the No. 2 seed, advanced to the title game with a 3-2 win over No.3-seeded Jacksonville.
ETSU, the No. 5-seed, was the only team playing in the semifinals that had not won the A-Sun Tournament Championship. The Lady Bisons managed to prevail with a 25-21 set one win, a 25-15 advantage in set two and a 25-22 win in set three. it was the 21st match win of the season for the Lady Bisons, a new record for the program.
“It was good to get the first one out of the way,” said Lady Bisons coach Brandon Rosenthal. “Being the No. 1 seed you have the luxury of not playing in the first round. But sitting around does kind of wear on you.”
The third set was a struggle with the Lady Bisons watching a 17-15 lead disappear into a 19-17 deficit.
“At that point it became a matter of saying, `relax',” said Rosenthal. “We have been here before. It has to be one point at a time and all of the other things we talk about.
“I thought at that point that our serving did a nice job of just putting the pressure on them and allowing them to make mistakes, ETSU shanked one, then hit one out and another into the net.“
The Lady Bisons, who earned a bye with the No. 1 seed, struggled to find a flow in the game. There were questions to be answered by officials about some of their calls, but much of match was also played with the sound of fireworks booming in the background as Mercer celebrates its homecoming this weekend.
“Good teams try to eliminate the compounding off errors,” said Rosenthal. “We did a nice job of just relaxing and letting the game come to us there at the end of the third set.
“It is hard to do, especially when you don't have a flow of the game like we normally do. I was glad to see us push through that.”
Middle blocker Alex Kelly, the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, made a match-high 14 kills. Opposite Erin Pierce made 10 digs and added seven kills, including one over-the-back play as she headed toward her own bench, that barely cleared the net. Libero Jessica Turner made a team-leading 12 digs.
“We made a couple of real good defensive plays,” said Rosenthal. “One of the things we stress is playing all of the way through the whistle. I thought we did a very good job of that.
“In the end playing like that is going to win you some matches. I don't know if it directly affected us, but it definitely helps as far as the momentum goes.”
Desiree Dyck led ETSU with 10 kills. Jan Neice made a match-high 17 digs.
The Lady Bisons raised their record to 21-10. ETSU finished the season 12-19.