MOREHEAD, Ky. – Belmont volleyball defeated top-seeded Morehead State in the OVC title match in four sets, earning the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"Unbelievable. Truly unbelievable. I can't put into words how much respect I have for our team," said head coach Deane Webb. "I've never seen a team play this hard. We were physically outmatched at almost every position, but our players just competed incredibly hard. Our team won the mental game, and executed our game plan at a high level."
"You're just not supposed to win a conference title without seniors. You're just not supposed to win a conference title in your first year moving up in conference level," said Webb. "You're just not supposed to win a conference title when your best all-around player severely sprains her ankle in the semifinals. But, this was a win that defied logic. I guess all I can say is that God is good. We believe every good and perfect gift comes from Him, and we were quick to give thanks as soon as we won the championship. It is such an honor to win an OVC title in our first year in the league. I have been so impressed with the level of play in the league, and particularly the ball control. Teams are well coached, and players play with passion."
In the opening match, the set remained close until after a 3-all tie, the Eagles went on a 5-1 run to take a 8-4 lead. The top-seeded Morehead State scored five unanswered points before Jocelyn Youngdahl (Stillwater, Minn.) silence their run. Belmont's run was short-lived as the Eagles continued to extend their lead, eventually winning the set, 25-13.
"Morehead was a great opponent today, and I look forward to many great competitions with them in the future," said Webb. "They play the right way, not just technically, but with class. Numerous Morehead parents and players walked over to congratulate us after the match. Having been on the losing side of a final on more than one occasion, I know how hard it is to watch someone else celebrate. I have a much greater level of respect for the Morehead volleyball and athletic family now than I did before the match."
The second set opened much like the first, with both teams exchanging points. Behind a kill from Scarlet Gable (Munford, Tenn.), the Bruins scored four unanswered points to take an 8-6 lead and force the Eagles to take a timeout.
Morehead State battled back and tied the set at 8-all before a Youngdahl kill and a service ace from Jamie Lundstrom (La Grange, Ill.) allowed Belmont to regain the lead. The set was tied at 10-all with a kill from Allison McCoy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) before Youngdahl broke the tie, letting the Bruins take a 11-10 lead.
Both teams went on short runs, exchanging points. A kill from McCoy followed by a block by her and teammate Gable allowed the Bruins to tie the set at 20-all before the Eagles responded with two consecutive points to take a 22-20 lead.
Belmont responded with a 3-0 run to take a one-point lead over the Eagles. Kills from Gable and Jen Myer (New Braunfels, Texas) closed out the set, 25-23.
Morehead State got on the board first after the break, but it didn't take long for the Bruins to score five unanswered points, forcing the Eagles to take a timeout. Belmont continued to extend its lead putting together short runs.
The Eagles tried to close the gap, but a run sparked by Myer gave the Bruins a 21-14 lead, forcing MSU to take a timeout. The Bruins won the third set, 25-18 to take a 2-1 advantage.
In the fourth set, Belmont jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before Morehead State tied the set at 3-all. The Bruins responded with a pair of kills and an MSU attack errors to regain a three-point lead. Both teams then went back-and-forth exchanging points.
Belmont went on a 3-1 run, sparked by Maddison Croft (Edwardsville, Ill.) to take four-point lead over the Eagles, 19-15. MSU battled back to close the gap, but it wasn't enough as kills from McCoy and Myer closed out the set, 25-22 and won the match, snapping Morehead State's 25 match win streak.
"This truly was a team win," said Webb. "Every player on our roster helped prepare us for this moment. Some players prepared us in our practice gym and didn't get to receive the accolades of the public, but they were just as important as those who receive other awards."
"I can't say enough about the leadership of our team," said Webb. "After suffering many injuries early in the season and playing a great deal of our season down multiple starters, to end the year on a 14-3 run in matches is impressive. It is so hard emotionally to dig out of that deep of a hole, and our captains never lost their focus. Hannah and Allison are impressive leaders, they've grown throughout the year, and they deserve as much credit as anyone."
McCoy paced the Bruins with 16 kills and .556 hitting percentage. Youngdahl recorded a double-double with 12 kills and 13 digs while Myer added 10 kills. Hannah Miranda (Covington, La.) dished out 47 assists, while Jamie Lundstrom (La Grange, Ill.) paced the defense with 25 digs.
McCoy was named the OVC Tournament MVP. McCoy, along with Hannah Miranda and Lundstrom were named to the All-Tournament team.
"We are looking forward to getting back in the gym. Most of the year you practice so you can play, and this is the time of year that you play so you have the opportunity to practice," said Webb.
With the championship victory, the Bruins earn the OVC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA selection show will be Sunday, November 25 at 3:00 p.m. on ESPNU.