There was a brief moment during her post-match interview with the Atlantic Sun Conference, just as she began to answer the opening question, when it sank in.
There it was. Megan Devine realized what had just happened — what her team had accomplished, and what it meant.
For those few seconds, Devine was overcome with emotion. She clasped her hands together, looking up in the process, and offered as authentic a “sorry” as you are likely to see on camera.
She then proceeded.
“... And I just love them so much,” Devine said.
Them, in this case, is everyone involved in East Tennessee State volleyball. Teammates, coaching staff, fans, managers — every single one of them.
Without them, Devine says, the Lady Bucs wouldn’t have scaled the lofty heights — historic, actually — they did this season. They wouldn’t have come close.
Those historic heights? Well, for one, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.
How’d the Bucs get there? By winning the A-Sun championship. For, wouldn’t you know it, the first time.
That finally sank in for Devine as she gave her first interview after not only winning the A-Sun title but also being named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“It was just an amazing accomplishment for the team and I was a bit overwhelmed,” Devine said last Wednesday. “We have worked so hard to get to this point. We’re not done, though. There is a lot left to do.
“We’re ready to go down to UK and play our brand of volleyball.”
That’s right. ETSU met Kentucky in the opening round of the NCAAs. ETSU found out on Nov. 23 that it would be traveling to Lexington to face the No. 16 Lady Wildcats on Friday.
The Bucs’ brand of volleyball was certainly on display inside Memorial Coliseum, but it wasn’t enough. Kentucky won 25-9, 25-17, 25-15 to end ETSU’s season.
UK and ETSU had met only once prior to Friday’s match, during a tournament at Purdue University in 2004. The Lady Bucs were swept on that day as well.
The program has made immense strides since, according to coach Lindsey Devine, who was at the helm for both defeats.
“We may have lost, but we learned a lot that day,” said Devine, in her 10th year as the Bucs’ coach. “Since then, we have really stepped up as a program.”
The ETSU program isn’t the only thing that has stepped up in the past few years.
Megan Devine — yes, she is the coach’s daughter — has elevated her game to new levels since enrolling at ETSU following a majestic career at Dobyns-Bennett, during which she led the Lady Indians to a state championship in 2009.
For instance, here’s just some of the hardware the 5-foot-11 outside hitter has received in three seasons with the Bucs:
• 2010: A-Sun Freshman of the Year
• 2011: All-A-Sun First Team selection, both regular season and tournament.
• 2012: A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year, Player of the Year, and tournament MVP.
Impressive. Most impressive.
And that’s not all.
Devine broke four conference records this season — for double-doubles (25), double-doubles in conference matches (15), attack attempts (1,432), and attack attempts in conference matches (839).
She has a lot of kills (1,402) and a lot of digs (1,093) in her career, and is 11 kills shy of eclipsing Callie Kiselich’s school record for career kills (839 from 2004-07) in conference matches.
“(Megan) sets such high expectations for her self,” Lindsey Devine said. “We tried to teach our children to get everything they could out of life. To have no regrets.
“Give Megan credit. She took hold of that and has really matured since coming to ETSU.”
Lindsey Devine was quick to note that Megan would not likely be where she is today without the great players she has had around her during her career.
Megan didn’t need mom to tell her that. She is well-aware of the impact her teammates have had on her success.
“It’s all about the team,” Megan Devine said. “I couldn’t achieve any of this without my teammates.
“We have a great defense and great setters delivering the ball. It’s an all-around team effort. I’m thankful to have them behind me and helping me achieve what I’ve been able to achieve.
Like mother, like daughter.
This season’s edition of the Lady Bucs, in particular, was a joy to coach for Lindsey Devine.
She said she had a feeling prior to the season that this crop had the potential, like the 2008 team that won the program’s first A-Sun Championship game, to be special. Turns out she was right. And then some.
“I think it’s about the genuine love these girls have for each other,” said Lindsey Devine when asked what made this particular group special to her. “There is a sincerity, a humbleness about them. They are such a great group of people to be around.”
That group, of course, includes Megan. Then again, coach/mom is around her pretty much all the time.
They hoped to be around each other (in a player-coach capacity that is) for a few more weeks. The Wildcats derailed that possibility, but only temporarily. There’s always next season.
And with the Devines back in the mix, there’s no doubt the Lady Bucs will be setting the bar extremely high.