NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Belmont University Volleyball took its team mantra of "leaning on faith" to a new level on Friday night in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins (2-17, 2-5 OVC) toppled Ohio Valley Conference leader Austin Peay (16-3, 6-1 OVC) and halted its undefeated streak in league play with a five-set victory, 3-2.
After a pair of quiet sets that fell APSU's way, 25-19, 25-14, to open the match, it appeared that the Govs would cruise through a third to extending its undefeated streak. However, the Bruins were able to refocus and flip the match on its head.
BU came out hot in the third frame, wasting little time in finding an offensive groove. Belmont surged to take a 10-6 lead, forcing the stunned Govs to burn their first timeout of the night. All told, the Bruins rolled off seven straight points to take a 15-7 lead, aided by a pair of aces by senior Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Tenn.). The home team continued to pack on the points, taking a commanding 21-9 lead that saw Austin Peay use its final timeout of the stanza. A pair of kills by freshman Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) helped lift the Bruins to set point before Mullins buried a kill deep on the floor to seal the 25-12 win.
The fourth set began with an intense back-and-forth battle between the Mid-State rivals. Down by two sets, Belmont refused to back down and powered through to a 13-8 advantage that forced Austin Peay to call a timeout to regroup. Kills from Mullins, Floyd and senior Tori Simmons (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) deepened the momentum through the midpoint of the frame as pulled away by as many as six, 20-14. However, APSU gave Belmont pause after rolling off three consecutive points to move within striking distance. The Bruins called for a huddle session but it would be the Govs that would add a point first after the break. Senior Alexa Nichols (Walton, Ky.) came to the rescue with a trio of kills that kept BU in front, 23-20, before resounding kills from Floyd and sophomore Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) pushed the Bruins to the 25-22 victory.
Back-to-back errors to open the fifth and final set appeared to be a stumbling block for Belmont but the home team quickly rallied to knot the score, 2-2. The set would be tied only once more before the Bruins surged, fueled by a pair of kills from Floyd. A kill down the center of floor by LePage put BU on top, 7-4, and forced the Governors to use a timeout to strategize. However, it did little to hold back the hot-handed Bruins. The league leader would inch to within three, 13-10, but Belmont turned on the afterburners to secure its second consecutive win of the season. Nichols blasted the back line with a strong kill before she and freshman Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) teamed up for a block assist to send the home crowd into a cheering frenzy with the 15-10 win.
The win preserves the win streak inside the Curb Event Center for Belmont over Austin Peay, dating back to 2005, and gives BU a slim 13-12 lead in the all-time series.
Floyd led the Bruins with 16 kills, followed by Nichols with 14 and LePage with 10. Mason tallied 30 assists in the effort while sophmore Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) posted 15 and a career-high four service aces. Freshman Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) notched a team-high 16 digs to lead four in the category. Mullins recorded 14 digs with Simmons and Mason each adding 11. Simmons, Mullins and Mason also each posted a solo block in the win.
Belmont returns to action on Saturday afternoon, concluding its longest homestand of the season in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins host Murray State with first serve set for 2 p.m. Live stats will be available and the contest can be seen live on the OVC Digital Network. Fans may also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.