COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Belmont University Volleyball forced its Friday night Ohio Valley Conference duel to a fifth and deciding set in one of its strongest performances of the season. The Bruins (0-15, 0-3 OVC) were narrowly edged, 3-2, at Tennessee Tech (7-10, 1-2 OVC).
After falling behind early, the Bruins called an early huddle session to regroup and came out swinging. The Bruins rolled to within one, 8-7, and used a 4-0 run to take the lead, 12-10, after kills by seniors Tori Simmons (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) and Alexa Nichols (Walton, Ky.). Pushed back on their heels, this time it was the Golden Eagle turn to call a timeout. BU continued to pile on the points, taking advantage of TTU miscues through the midpoint of the frame. All told, Belmont rolled off seven straight points to take a five-point lead, 15-10. Tennessee Tech rallied to close the gap to five points, 23-18, but the Bruins continued to roll and used a block by sophomores Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) and Akia Warrior (Ft. Worth, Texas) to seal the 25-21 win.
The second stanza saw Tennessee Tech come out hotter, taking an early 10-4 lead before the Bruins got settled in. It looked like TTU was going to run away with the set but BU dug in its heels. The Golden Eagles were forced to burn a timeout as Belmont inched to within four, 17-13. The Bruins continued to fight down the stretch and used a trio of kills from Nichols, LePage and freshman Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) to maintain the four-point differential but the Golden Eagles held on for the 25-20 win.
TTU opened the third frame with a 4-0 run before the Bruins called timeout to regroup. The Golden Eagles did not let up after the brief break and went on to expand their lead to 12-4, forcing Belmont to call for another huddle session. The Bruins came out hot and rolled out five straight points to close the gap to six, 16-10, and force a stunned TTU to call a timeout. Belmont continued to battle back but soon the Golden Eagles used an 8-0 run to pull away down the stretch and take the set, 25-11.
It was all Belmont early in the fourth frame, with a quick 6-2 lead, thanks to kills by seniors Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Tenn.) and Nichols plus a service ace by classmate Haley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill.). The Golden Eagles used a 3-0 run to regain ground but the Bruins fired back with five consecutive points to take an 11-5 lead. TTU was forced to burn a timeout in hopes of stopping the streaking visitors from Nashville. Belmont pushed and used a 4-0 run to take a 22-12 lead. Tennessee Tech dug deep, surging late with a 3-0 run to threaten but the Bruins held them back en route to the 25-18 win.
The teams traded points early in the fifth set until Belmont clenched the eighth point with a service ace from Simmons. The electricity in the arena began to build as the teams began to trade points once again. Tennessee Tech took advantage of a wide attack to take a slim, 10-9, lead that forced Belmont to call a huddle session to strategize. The Golden Eagles quickly added two more points and BU called its final timeout of the extra period, down 12-9. Belmont was only able to add one more in the waning points as TTU went on to take the set, 15-10.
Three Bruins reached double digits in kills, led by LePage with 13. Nichols and Floyd each added 12 kills in the effort. Warrior finished with 38 assists and a service ace. Freshman Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) tallied a match-high 19 digs to lead a trio of Bruins in double digits in the category. Simmons contributed 16 digs and Mullins finished with 14. Kelley also notched a career and match-high two service aces.
Belmont returns to action on Saturday night, wrapping the road swing at Jacksonville State. Match time is set for 8 p.m. and live stats will be available. Fans may also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.