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Five Set Thriller

Five Set Thriller

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A match that left the entire Curb Event Center breathless from its intensive back-and-forth battle saw Belmont Volleyball fall just shy of picking up a win.  The Bruins (0-6) were held off in a five-set thriller by first-time opponent UMBC (2-2), 3-2, on the first day of the Bruiser Showcase.

The opening stanza was hotly contested form the opening whistle with neither team able to build and sustain a lead of more than three points at a time.   Belmont was forced to burn its second timeout as the Retrievers went up, 21-18.  The teams battled down to the wire before UMBC edged out the 25-23 win.

Set two was more of the same as the teams traded points often and early.  BU used a 6-0 run to pull ahead, 13-10, even with a called timeout by the Retrievers.  The Bruins continued to surge, going up 18-14 as UMBC burned its final timeout of the set.  The intensity went through the roof of the Curb as the teams battled to a 22-22 stalemate.  BU dug in its heels and used a pair of kills by sophomore Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) to seal the 25-23 win.

With both teams jockeying hard for control of the match, the third set was another intense back and forth battle.  By the midpoint of the set, there had been five ties.  Fueled by freshman Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) behind the serving line, BU pulled ahead by three and was able to expand the lead to 19-14 after a kill by senior Tori Simmons (Murfreesboro, Tenn.).  UMBC called timeout and came out of the break on fire, rolling off enough points to knot the score 19-19 before taking the lead on a Bruin attack error.  Belmont forced stalemates at 21 and 22 before the Retrievers took the set, 25-23.

UMBC opened the fourth frame with a 4-0 run before the Bruins got settled in.  Once they did, BU fired off a 5-0 run to take a 7-4 lead and force the Retrievers to burn a timeout.  Belmont refused to let up on the gas and built an 18-13 lead that forced its first-time opponent to use its final timeout of the stanza.  However, it was not enough to stop the streaking Bruins as they cruised to take the set, 25-19.

UMBC came out fast and furious to start the fifth and final set, taking a 6-3 lead before the Bruins called a timeout.  BU kept the score tight but at the switch, it found itself behind by three, 8-5.  The Bruins worked hard to stay within striking distance, calling its lone timeout of the frame, trailing by three once again, 13-10.  Unfortunately, a pair of attack errors put the set out of reach as UMBC won it, 15-10.

Four Bruins finished in double-digit kills in the effort, led by sophomore Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) tally of a career and match-high 15. Senior Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Tenn.) and sophomore Mackenzie Lepage (Franklin, Tenn.) each added 11 kills while freshman Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) finished with 10. Mullins picked up her first double-double of the season with 10 digs.  Freshman Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) finished with a career and match-high 42 assists and notched her second double-double of the season with 17 digs.  Senior Haley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill.) finished with a team-high 18 digs.

Belmont closes the first day of the Bruiser Showcase, taking on Tulsa at 6 p.m. on Friday.  Live stats will be available and the contest can be seen live on the OVC Digital Network.