Volleyball Gets First Conference Win Over Kennesaw State
KENNESAW, Ga. - - Belmont (10-6, 1-0) got their 10th win and first of the conference season with a 3-1 victory on the road at Kennesaw State (5-11, 0-1) Friday evening. The Bruins rallied from an 0-1 start to dominate the second half of the match, overpowering Kennesaw State 25-11 in the final set to take the win and start conference play 1-0.
The Bruins started slow, dropping the first set to the Owls, 15-19. Belmont battled back and took control midway through set two and never gave it up, winning the set 25-19 to square the match heading into intermission. Out of the break, the Bruins jumped out to an early lead and took a 25-17 win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
"The first set just included too many unforced errors for our side," Head Coach Deane Webb said. "We had five attack errors in game one and then only had seven the rest of the match. That was just a challenging beginning, giving away so many points. I looked up at the scoreboard at one point and I believe they had eight and we had scored six of their first eight and maybe eight of their first fourteen (on errors). Once we settled that down, it turned in our favor."
Belmont was led by senior Maggie Johnson who recorded 22 kills on the night, the sixth time this season she has turned in at least 20 kills. Johnson currently leads the conference in kills and points. She also hit a very strong .367 on the night. While Johnson's stats were impressive, she was matched nearly point for point by Kennesaw's Justine Young. Jen Myer, the Bruins' second leading attacker, turned in 11 kills and hit .270 for the night, but was also matched by a Kennesaw State player. With the two teams stars breaking even across the board, the Bruins needed an x factor, which they got in the form of sophomore middle hitter Allison McCoy, who turned in nine kills on 14 attempts for a team high .571 attack percentage, and freshman Scarlet Gable who also had nine kills and hit a solid .333. In her first Atlantic Sun match, Gable overcame nerves and contributed to Belmont's success.
"It's interesting looking at the stat sheet and seeing that our two top attackers went 22 (kills) and 11 (kills) and their two top attackers went 21 (kills) and 11 (kills)," Webb said. "What's different on our side is that we were able to get those at different locations. Theirs were from their outside hitters, they had two-thirds of their kills for the night. Justine Young is just an incredible athlete, an incredible attacker and she really had it going early on and we were fortunate to slow her down. Maggie had a great night tonight, she defended well and attacked well. Scarlet, with nine kills, attacked at a high percentage and Allison attacked at a high percentage. When you have four attackers with nearly double digit kills and who are attacking at a high percentage, it's generally going to be a good night."
Credit to slowing Young and the rest of the Owls down goes to the Bruin defense as a whole, who turned in 60 digs on the night, paced by Gable's 14. While Belmont didn't register a tremendous number of blocks, the team as a whole managed to get a hand on several balls and give passers time to make a play. Playing a big role in the defensive success was sophomore Danielle Prochaska who came in during the second set and made an immediate impact.
"Danielle is a physical blocker and did get out there and give them a different look," Webb said. "I think that helped challenge their outside hitters on the other side. Even though Danielle didn't record a block statistically, she slowed down a couple of balls, made a couple of hustle plays, made a coverage play at a critical time in the match, and again, those never show up on a stat sheet, but they extend rallies. At some point she even set a ball for a kill, so I really think she played a nice all around match for the three games that she was in."
Belmont will need another complete match and an evenly intensive effort to earn a second conference win at Mercer on Saturday. The Bruins have taken the last two meetings from the Bears, both coming last season, as Belmont won at home in the Curb Event Center, 3-0, and on a neutral court in Fort Myers, Fla., during the conference tournament. Belmont lost during their last visit to Mercer and will face another challenge in Macon on Saturday.
"Mercer is a very different team than what we saw tonight," Webb said. "They're a little smaller but a team that we know we're going to have to play well (to beat) because they don't give away much, they don't give away very many free points. Different offense in terms that they run a 6-2, so we'll always be facing three attackers in all six rotations, but we'll also have the opportunity to attack their setters. We know we'll need to play well. We've gone in there before and won and we've gone in there before and lost, so it's really just a matter of how focused we are. Hopefully we can get some rest tonight and have another good result tomorrow."
Live stats for the match will be available at www.belmontbruins.com. First serve for Belmont at Mercer is set for 2 p.m.