RENO, Nev. - - Belmont closed out the Nevada Invitational with a five-set win over Weber State to move to 3-4 on the season. The win also gave Head Coach Deane Webb his 300th career win.
The Bruins needed a fifth set to knock off the Wildcats after dropping the fourth set, 23-25. Belmont entered set four with a 2-1 lead and ultimately took the deciding set 15-4 behind strong performances by its upperclassmen. Junior Maggie Johnson (Naperville, Ill.), led the Bruins with 19 kills. She also added 12 digs and three service aces. Senior Kayla Albritton (Gainesville, Fla.) added a season and career high 18 kills, plus four blocks and a service ace to go along with her team high .378 hitting percentage, while fellow senior Tara Blood (Boise, Idaho) led the Bruins with five blocks and also added 11 kills. Freshman setter Hannah Miranda (Covington, La.) turned in a season and career high 59 assists, the most by any Bruin this season. Danielle Prochaska (Middelton, Wisc.), freshman middle hitter, made her Belmont debut in the win tonight. All five Bruin freshman have now played at least one set this season.
Albritton was again solid for the Bruins, turning in 15 plus kills in every match of the Invitational. For the weekend, Albritton averaged 17 kills per match and nearly four kills per set. In the Nevada Invitational, Albritton turned in a .399 hitting percentage and accumulated two service aces, 13 digs, and 12 blocks.
"Kayla was incredible this weekend," Webb said. "Because we didn't win as many matches as we would have liked this weekend, it's unlikely she'll receive the MVP of the tournament. She led the tourney in kills per game and was second in hitting percentage. She's transformed herself from a very average freshman to an outstanding player as a senior. Truly a tribute to the hard work she puts in every spring and summer in the weight room. She deserves anything good that comes her way."
Overall, the Nevada Invitational provided Webb and his staff additional opportunities to evaluate their team and mark areas for improvement, especially against tough competition from teams like Notre Dame and Nevada. Both teams were aggressive and athletic, something Webb hopes will help his team when the conference season rolls around. The success the Bruins had against difficult competition showed they have what it takes to compete with good teams.
"It was a very interesting weekend, to say the least," Webb said. "We've done a good job being prepared mentally and emotionally to play good teams this season, but we've lacked focus and intensity when playing teams that weren't considered as strong. That's something I need to improve on as a coach, and hopefully we'll address that very soon. With glimpses of potential come an understanding of expectations and being accountable for our actions. If the glimpses of potential we showed this weekend can become our standard level of play, I'm excited for what we can become."
Webb now has a career record of 300-166. Already the winningest coach in school history, Webb has amassed 138 wins as the head coach of the Bruins, including five consecutive 20-win seasons from 2004 to 2008. Twice named the Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year (2004 and 2006), Webb has led Belmont to two A-Sun Championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances. When asked about his success and reaching the career milestone, Webb attributed his 300 career wins to the players and assistant coaches who helped make them possible.
"There's a coaching saying that I agree with that says 'Good players make good coaches', and seeing a 300th win as a college coach reminds me how fortunate I've been to coach all the wonderful players that earned all of these victories," Webb said. "Along with the players, I'm thankful for the assistant coaches that have coached our teams to these victories. Whether it's Jeff Wismer, who just started here and has coached our team to three wins, to Embrey Brannon who has been here four years and is doing a great job with our players, to Tony Howell and Ken Carver, coaches that worked alongside me for years and each coached teams to over a hundred wins, they're as much responsible for those successes as anyone."
Belmont returns home to face Chattanooga on Tuesday, Sept. 7. First serve is set for 7 p.m. in the Curb Event Center.
"We are looking forward to getting in front of our outstanding fans on Tuesday as we play a good Chattanooga team," Webb said. "They are always a scrappy, defensive minded team, and we'll need to match their intensity to find success."