From Belmont Athletics
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Belmont Volleyball battled down to the wire to pull out a win over crosstown rival Tennessee State in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins (8-6, 3-0 OVC) held on for the 3-1 win over the Tigers (5-11, 1-2 OVC) on Tuesday night to remain undefeated in OVC play.
An even start quickly gave way to a Bruin surge in the opening set. Belmont rolled off eight unanswered points to take a 10-3 lead and force the Lady Tiger bench to call timeout. The Bruins continued to press in all aspects of the game, expanding their lead to as many as eight points, 20-12. Tennessee State burned its second timeout of the frame but it did little to quell the Bruin offensive fire. A trio of kills from senior Brie Lewis (Stillwell, Kan.) and one from junior Alexa Nichols (Walton, Ky.) handed the set to Belmont, 25-16.
BU opened the second stanza hot as graduate student Jessica Vestal (Concord, Calif.) knocked down a service ace for the team’s first point. Back-to-back kills by senior Arianna Person (Lenexa, Kan.) gave Belmont a 3-0 advantage before TSU could get set. The Lady Tigers were able to tighten up the set, knotting the score, 12-12, before the Bruins pulled away once again. This time, BU grew its lead to five, 20-15, after a kill by freshman Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.). A frustrated TSU bench called a second timeout but Belmont was able to roll to the 25-18 win.
The Lady Tigers came out hot in the third frame, jumping out to an 8-3 lead, fueled by a 5-0 run. The Bruins called timeout to regroup but that only seemed to slow TSU momentarily. Tennessee State cruised for most of the set, holding BU at arms’ length for long stretches. The Bruins hustled to close the gap to one point, 20-19, and this time, it was TSU to call a timeout. However, Belmont could not sustain its late rally and fell, 25-21.
The Bruins jumped out to a 4-1 lead in its effort to put away TSU for good in the fourth frame. However, the Lady Tigers fired back with a 6-0 run to regain the lead, 6-5. The teams quickly fell into a ferocious back and forth, built on long rallies on both sides of the net. After knotting the score at 10-10, Belmont narrowly pulled ahead 12-11 and Tennessee State quickly called timeout to not let the set get away. The teams battled through three more score stalemates before Belmont used a 4-0 run to take a 19-16 lead, thanks to a Person service ace and a solo block by Nichols. The Lady Tigers threatened again down the stretch, closing the gap to three points, 23-20, but BU stood strong in the face of the offensive threat. BU added one more point on a TSU error but was held to match point for a spell as the Lady Tigers continued to claw down the stretch. Finally, a kill from LePage sealed the hard-fought set, 25-22, with TSU threatening until the final point.
Three Bruins reached double figures in kills, led by Person with 15. She was followed by Nichols and LePage, who contributed 11 and 10 kills, respectively. Three BU players also reached double digits in digs, led by senior Ellie Ivancich (Naperville, Ill.) with 14. She was followed by Lewis and Vestal, who added 11 and 10 digs, respectively. Junior Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Tenn.) notched a match and career-high 43 assists. Vestal also finished with a match-high four service aces to mirror her career-best output.
Belmont returns to action on Saturday, September 30 on the road at SIUE. Match time is set for 2 p.m. Live stats will be available. Fans may follow the team’s Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.