ARLINGTON, Texas -- Strong surges fell just shy of lifting Belmont Volleyball to a win in the opening contest of the UTA Maverick Invitational on Friday morning. The Bruins (0-10) fell to first-time opponent Grand Canyon (7-3), 3-0.
BU jumped out to a hot 3-0 start with freshman Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) behind the service line. GCU quickly caught up and the teams fell into a back-and-forth battle. Grand Canyon went on to use a 4-0 run to break the scoring stalemate for good and take an 11-8 lead, forcing Belmont to call a timeout. The Bruins used the break to settle down and close the gap to three points, 15-12, before the Lopes surged again and BU called its second huddle session. Despite late kills from senior Alexa Nichols (Walton, Ky.), sophomore Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) and Mullins, the Bruins were unable to get closer down the stretch and fell, 25-16.
The second set saw the Bruins jump out to another hot start, going up 8-6 with kills from Mullins, Ball and Van Poppel. The Lopes used a 4-0 streak to take an 11-9 lead before BU got hot once again offensively. Belmont used a3-0 run to knot the score 11-11, forcing Grand Canyon to burn its first timeout of the match. The teams fell into a hearty back-and-forth battle trading points through the midpoint before Belmont called a timeout after falling behind, 19-15. The Lopes continued to build and expanded its lead on a 6-1 run before the Bruins fired back. Grand Canyon was put back on its heels as BU used a 3-0 run to close the gap to 22-19. Unfortunately, GCU was able to hold on for the 25-19 win.
After a slow start to the third frame, the Bruins got back into their offensive groove of the earlier two sets. However, Grand Canyon was able to add a flurry of points and grab a 12-6 lead that saw BU call its first timeout of the set. The Bruins looked to surge with sophomore Akia Warrior (Ft. Worth, Texas) behind the service line who delivered a crucial ace deep inside the line. GCU was able to build a seven-point differential, 17-10, but Belmont continued to fight down the stretch. The Bruins began to chip away with kills coming from freshman Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.), senior Tori Simmons (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Mullins but they were not enough to steal the set. GCU went on to take the final set, 25-19.
"This was one of our better matches so far this season," said Head Coach Tony Howell. "We did a lot of very good things and we are making good progress. We need to keep them focused and believing that that (result) is about to change."
Mullins, Nichols and Van Poppel each recorded seven kills in the effort. Warrior posted 15 assists and a team-high three service aces while senior Haley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill.) finished with 12 digs.
Belmont returns to action later on Friday for its second match of the Maverick Invitational. The Bruins take on first-time opponent Sam Houston State beginning at 4 p.m. Live stats will be available. Fans can also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.