KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A dramatic surge in the third set was not enough to lift Belmont Volleyball (0-1) over in-state rival Chattanooga (1-0) on the opening day of the Tennessee Classic. The Bruins were held off, 3-0.
The Mocs got off to a hot start in the first stanza, pulling ahead 13-7, before BU called its first timeout. The Bruins moved to within four points, 16-12, thanks to back-to-back aces by senior Haley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill.). Chattanooga rebounded and rolled off three straight points forcing BU to burn its final timeout of the set. The break was unable to get Belmont back into the groove down the stretch and it fell 25-19.
Bruins start the second set was much stronger, rallying once behind the efforts behind the serving line by Sullivan. A service ace by freshman Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) narrowed the scoring gap to three points, 11-8, but UTC got hot once again. The Mocs rolled off nine consecutive points, despite a timeout being called by BU in the midst. A kill by sophomore Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) hoped to spark BU late in the set but it was not enough as Chattanooga pushed to the 25-14 set win.
The third stanza saw the Bruins once again open with a promising start, making a mark on the scoreboard first, thanks to a kill by rookie Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.). Kills by sophomore Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) helped the team fall into a tight back and forth battle through the midpoint of the set. The score was knotted seven times before Chattanooga pulled ahead by four, 18-14. However, LePage rolled off back-to-back aces to fuel a 4-0 run that knotted the score, 19-19. The flurry forced UTC to burn its first timeout of the day.
BU continued to fight down the stretch, forcing ties at nearly every point. At 23-23, the Bruins called their first timeout but the trend continued with ties at 24 and 25. With both groups of fans on their feet, the teams battled to the finish with the Mocs collecting the last two points to take the set, 27-25.
Senior Maggie Mullins finished with a match-high nine kills. Mason collected 22 assists and a solo block in her collegiate debut. Sophomore Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) and Mason wrapped the match with seven digs apiece.
Belmont returns to action for day two of the Tennessee Classic on Saturday. The Bruins face off against host-Tennessee at Noon and No. 22 Michigan State at 4:30 p.m. Both times are Central. Live stats will be available for both matches. The contest with the Volunteers can be seen live on WATCHESPN.