Belmont Beats Jacksonville State in Three to End Invitational 2-1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - - Belmont (2-1) came out strong in the first set and used that momentum en route to a 3-0 victory over Jacksonville State (1-2) in the final match of the Belmont Invitational at the Curb Event Center on Saturday. The win over the Gamecocks gave the Bruins second place in the invitational behind Memphis.
The Bruins started out strong and never wavered, defeating the Gamecocks 25-18 in set one, 25-19 in the second set, and 25-22 in the final set. After errors proved costly in the first match of the day against Memphis, Belmont bounced back, decreasing the number of errors from 40 against Memphis, including 20 service errors compared to 10 aces, to 27 team errors against Jacksonville State. The Bruins used seven service aces compared to only nine service errors to power their way past the Gamecocks.
The win was only the second ever for Belmont over Jacksonville State. JSU now leads the series 8-2. The victory was a testament to Belmont's improvement as they knock off a team that finished first in the Ohio Valley Conference last season and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. The way the Bruins finished the tournament also showed improvement from the season's opening game last night.
"That's a really good team (Jacksonville State)," Head Coach Deane Webb said. "That's a team that beat Memphis pretty handily last night. I think we just got better throughout the tournament. We had a little bit of a letdown this morning, which is unfortunate, but as long as we're learning, as long as we're getting better, then it's good. I think we saw that today."
Providing much of the Bruin power over the weekend were seniors Tara Blood (Boise, Idaho) and Kayla Albritton (Gainesville, Fla.). Blood proved a force to be reckoned for opposing hitters along the front line, recording a team-high 14 blocks for the weekend, including six in the final match. It was Albritton, however, who provided most of the punch for the Belmont offense as she registered 36 kills (3.27k/s), a solid .354 hitting percentage, seven aces and seven blocks over the weekend's three matches.
"Kayla (Albritton) was very, very dominant and very athletic," Webb said. "We got her into pretty good situations with serve receive and then Hannah (Miranda) got her the ball in some pretty good locations. Overall, I think she was very, very dynamic. Tara (Blood), throughout the tournament, it was just great to see how far she has come. She's a kid who came in as a freshman and didn't know a lot about the game and was one of the more dominant defenders here (in the tournament) as far as front row. I think they were both very deserving of the all-tournament team."
Junior Maggie Johnson also turned in another solid performance for the Bruins. Johnson finished with 12 kills and 11 digs for the final match. Her tournament total was 36 kills, tying Albritton for team-high honors. Allison Miranda finished with 35 assists, bringing her total to 95 over three games.
Belmont goes on the road for the first time Tuesday, Aug. 31st, when they travel to Cookeville, Tenn., to take on Tennessee Tech. First serve is set for 7 p.m. Webb hopes the road trip will give him additional opportunities to evaluate his young team.
"I think it's great to be home and great to be in front of our fans, but it's also good to see how we handle someone else's fans and see what that looks like," Webb said. "We haven't seen much on Tennessee Tech, so we don't really know a whole lot about them. I know we've had some good matches with them in the past. For us, this time of the year, these are non-conference matches, they matter because they're a chance to get better. As long as we go into each match with the understanding that we're trying to get better and we go after the match with that intent, then we're going to be fine."
The Tennessee Tech match is the first in a four-game road swing for the Bruins. Belmont will travel to Reno, Nevada, at the end of the week (Sept. 3-4) to participate in the Nevada Invitational. The Bruins open play against Notre Dame, a team that was receiving votes in the first AVCA Coaches' Poll. Belmont will also face Weber State and host Nevada over the weekend. The next home action for the Bruins is Tuesday, Sept. 7, against Chattanooga.
2010 Belmont Invitational All-Tournament Team
Cassie Farrell (Jr., Miami(OH))
Kara Slater (Sr., Jacksonville State)
Tara Blood (Sr., Belmont)
Kayla Albritton (Sr., Belmont)
Marija Jovanovic (So., Memphis)
Christine Bach (Sr., Memphis)
Altrese Hawkins (So., Memphis)--Tournament MVP