NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A valiant comeback effort in the third set was not enough for Belmont Volleyball to take away a match from a nationally ranked opponent in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins (5-3) were held off by No. 24 WKU (6-2), 3-0, on Tuesday evening.
The Hilltoppers outpaced BU early, forcing the Bruins to call timeout, trailing 6-1. Belmont struggled to find an offensive rhythm for most of the stanza and miscues allowed WKU to grow a 16-8 lead. Even after using their second timeout, the Bruins couldn't find an answer down the stretch as Western Kentucky handily took the set, 25-16.
The Bruins had settled into the second frame and battled back early to stay in the set. BU began a rally behind a dual block by senior Brie Lewis (Stillwell, Kan.) and freshman Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) and used kills by Lewis and junior Alexa Nichols (Walton, Ky.) to keep the team within striking distance. The Hilltoppers called their first timeout of the match as the Bruins narrowed the scoring gap, 11-7. BU kept surging and used an ace by senior Emily Richards (Penfield, N.Y.) and a kill by Nichols to make it a one-point set, 14-13. The Bruins kept the set tight through the midsection, pushing the contest into three ties. Suddenly, WKU rolled off five consecutive points to pull away, 22-17. Even with a called timeout, the Bruins were unable to slow the point roll. Belmont closed the gap to three points but was edged, 25-22.
BU opened the third stanza with a long rally to win the first point, eventually going up 3-0 before the Hilltoppers could get into the gear. However, the Bruins remained strong in all elements of the game, holding onto a slim one point advantage for the first half of the set. Belmont held on to its lead until it was forced into a 14-14 stalemate. WKU unleashed a 6-2 flurry to pull ahead, 20-16, pushing BU to call a timeout. The Bruins went down swinging in the waning points, earning points from kills by senior Arianna Person (Lenexa, Kan.) and Lewis but it was not enough as WKU took the final set, 25-19.
Lewis led the Bruins with 11 kills and two service aces while Person led the team with 11 digs. LePage and Person each added seven kills in the effort. Freshman Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) finished with 27 assists.
Belmont returns to the road this weekend, making a trip to Kansas to participate in the Kansas Invitational. The Bruins will see action against Creighton, Purdue and host-Kansas. All matches will have live stats available. A video stream will be available for the match versus the Jayhawks. Fans may also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.