KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Belmont Volleyball was unable to find an offensive rhythm early and was held off in its opening contest of the second day of the Tennessee Classic. The Bruins (0-2) fell to host-Tennessee (2-0), 3-0, before being edged in the nightcap, 3-1, by No. 22 Michigan State (2-1).
BU won the first point of set one but Tennessee quickly found a groove and built a double digit differential by the midpoint of the frame. Services aces by sophomore Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) and senior Tori Simmons (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) only narrowed the gap to six points as Tennessee continued to roll down the stretch and take the set, 25-16. In the second stanza, the tune was nearly identical. A series of UT attack errors allowed Belmont to move to within three, 12-9, but the Volunteers powered down the stretch to take the second set, 25-14.
In the final stanza, BU stayed tight with the Vols through the midpoint of the frame. Unfortunately, a 7-1 run put too much distance between the teams and Tennessee took the last set, 25-11.
Senior Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Ten.) led BU with five kills while freshman Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) tallied 16 assists in the match. Freshman Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) finished with nine digs.
The second match of the day had a slow start but the Bruins gave No. 22 Michigan State several scares. Belmont grabbed an early and aggressive lead over the preseason ranked No. 22 Spartans in the first set. Propelled by back-to-back kills by sophomore Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas), BU pulled ahead 11-8, forcing MSU to burn an early timeout to regroup. The teams fell into a back-and-forth battle before the Spartans eked out the 25-20 win at the end. The second frame was all Michigan State as they easily rolled to a 25-11 set win.
However, the third stanza was a different story for both squads. MSU built an 14-6 advantage before the Bruins began whittling away at the differential. A kill by Mullins pushed the Spartans to call timeout. BU came out swinigng out of the brief break and surged to make it a two-point set, 19-17. The scrappy Bruins put together a 4-0 run to knot the score at 23 after a kill by freshman Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.). BU refused to let up off the gas, using kills by Mullins and Simmons, to take its first set of the match, 27-25. MSU came firing back in the fourth set and quickly rebounded. The same rhythm from the previous set remained elusive for the Bruins through the fourth frame. Belmont could only get as close as nine before Michigan State took the stanza, 25-10.
Belmont returns to action on Sunday with its 2018 home opener. The Bruins host Iowa in the Curb Event Center beginning at 3 p.m. Live stats will be available and the contest can be seen live on the OVC Digital Network. Fans can also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.