NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Against seemingly impossible odds once again, the Belmont University Volleyball team bounced back to win a match in five sets. On Friday evening, the Bruins (5-20, 5-8 OVC) toppled Jacksonville State (14-13, 6-7 OVC), 3-2, extending its win streak to three matches that breathe a deeper breath into the team's chance at advancing to the Ohio Valley Conference.
Early in the first set, the Gamecocks used a 3-0 run to pull ahead, 8-4, and forcing the Bruins to call their first huddle session of the frame. Belmont rebounded and was able to close the gap to three points. JSU surged once more, going up, 16-10, and BU was forced to call its final timeout of the set. After the brief break, back-to-back service aces for sophomore Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) moved the Bruins to within five, 22-17, but that would be as close as the home team could come down the stretch as Jacksonville State took the set, 25-18.
Belmont opened the second stanza with a stunning 9-1 run that pushed the Gamecocks back on their collective heels. Even a timeout called in the midst of the flurry could not slow the hot-handed Bruins. BU surged to a 15-5 advantage that saw JSU burn its final timeout of the frame. The Gamecocks chipped away steadily at the Belmont point differential but crucial kills from LePage, and freshmen Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) and Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) helped maintain the distance. JSU creeped to within four points but a series of attack errors in the waning points handed Belmont the 25-20 victory.
Senior Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Tenn.) opened the third set with a service ace to get things rolling for the Bruins. However, the early portion of the set turned into a back-and-forth battle with the teams having the score tied six times before the Gamecocks used a 4-0 run to take a 10-6 lead. Belmont called for its second huddle session to regroup, trailing 18-12. Unfortunately, JSU did not ease up down the stretch. BU was only able to move as close as five points before the Gamecocks clenched the third frame, 25-19.
Lifted by a service ace from freshman Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.), Belmont cracked open the fourth set with a 4-0 run. The Gamecocks quickly knotted the score at 4-4 but the Bruins were able to regain control of the score. BU rolled off a series of points, thanks to kills from Floyd, Mullins, and LePage to force JSU to call for a timeout as Belmont pulled ahead, 14-10. Jacksonville State threatened to within two points, 18-16, but a 5-0 run, punctuated with another kill by Floyd, saw JSU call for its final timeout. BU would only allow the Gamecocks to add three more points as it went on to take the set, 25-19.
Belmont carried their fourth set momentum over into the fifth and final frame, rolling off three unanswered points to start. Jacksonville State called timeout to strategize but BU refused to let up. At the break, the Bruins led 8-6, despite a furious 3-0 run by the Gamecocks. The intensity of the set was ramped up as JSU inched closer and closer to the home team and finally knotted the score, 13-13. Belmont burned both of its timeouts along the way but suddenly found itself with match point in sight after a deep kill by LePage. Belmont rallied defensively for the final point and saw an attack error hand it the 15-13 win to close the match.
Three Bruins reached double digits in kills, led by LePage, who tallied a match-high 16. Floyd and Mullins rounded out the list, adding 12 and 10 kills, respectively. Freshman Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) recorded a season-high 43 assists. Four Bruins posted double digit digs, led by senior Haley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill.), who finished with 16, and Kelley, who contributed 15. Floyd added 14 and Mason finished with 10 digs to round out the category.
Belmont returns to action on Saturday afternoon in the Curb Event Center for its regular season home finale match against Tennessee Tech. Match time is set for 2 p.m. and the 2018 senior class will be honored in a ceremony before first serve. 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.