ARLINGTON, Texas -- The first victory of the season remains in reach for Belmont Volleyball after another compelling performance on Saturday afternoon to wrap the weekend at the Maverick Invitational. The Bruins (0-12) were held off, 3-0, by host UT-Arlington (6-3).
The Bruins rolled off four straight points to take an 8-3 lead over the Mavericks, forcing the home team to burn a timeout. Belmont maintained distance between the programs until UTA hustled to inch within two, 12-10. BU cautiously called a huddle session to remain grounded. UT Arlington surged to knot the score at 15 before the Mavs grabbed their first lead of the set, 18-17. Suddenly, it was the Mavericks who had grabbed a three-point lead, 21-18, but the Bruins continued to battle in the waning points. BU narrowed the game to one point, 21-20, thanks to a kill by sophomore Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.). BU kept it tight down the stretch but the Mavericks were able to eke out the 25-22 win.
UT Arlington grabbed an early 8-2 lead in the second frame even with a Bruin timeout thrown into the mix. Suddenly, senior Haley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill.) opened up a 5-0 run with her back-to-back service aces that knotted the score, 7-7. A stunned Maverick bench called for a timeout. After the brief break, UTA returned the favor with its own 9-1 run to go up, 18-10. The Bruins saw kills come from seniors Maggie Mullins (Nashville, Tenn.) and Alexa Nichols (Walton, Ky.) and freshman Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) down the stretch but BU was unable to rebound and was held off, 25-16, in the stanza.
BU exploded for a 4-1 run to open the third set, sparked by a service ace from sophomore Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas). Belmont continued to roll along even getting a call overturned on replay to stay ahead of the Mavs. The score was stalemated briefly at 10-10 as the teams began trading the lead, never letting the opposing team get more than two points ahead. A pair of monster kills by Nichols moved Belmont to within one, 15-14, as the team continued to keep pace with the home team. The Bruins put together a 3-0 run to close the gap to just one point, 21-20, forcing UT Arlington to burn a timeout. The Mavericks came out of the brief break with the hot hand and was able to push to reach set point by capitalizing on untimely errors by BU. Belmont called timeout, trailing 24-21, and seemed poised to push for an extra set after an UTA service error. However, the Mavs were able to hold on to their slim lead and take the set, 25-22.
"From the start of the weekend to the finish, we are two complete different teams," said Head Coach Tony Howell. "As you look at our record, don't take it at face value. There has been a lot of growth from the start of season until now.
"Being in this position, nobody enjoys it. However, the ladies are strong, focused and determined to keep fighting to take that next step to accomplish something special."
Nichols led the Bruins with a match-high 13 kills, followed by Mullins, who added 12 in the effort as both hit over .400 for the match. Senior Haley Sullivan (Lemont, Ill.) tallied 17 digs while Van Poppel finished with 13. Freshman Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) posted 18 assists while sophomore Akia Warrior (Ft. Worth, Texas) contributed 12.
Belmont returns to action on Tuesday, September 18 opening Ohio Valley Conference play on the road at crosstown rival Tennessee State. Match time is set for 6 p.m. Live stats will be available and the contest can be seen live on the OVC Digital Network. Fans can also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.