NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Flashes of greatness was not enough to sustain Belmont University Volleyball (0-2) on the first day of the Bruiser Showcase. The Bruins battled to force a fourth set before falling to North Alabama (1-1), 3-1. In the nightcap, BU was held off 3-0 by first-time opponent Milwaukee (2-0).
After a tight exchange to open the first set, the Lions used a brief burst to pull ahead, 16-9. Belmont rallied through the midpoint of the set and was able to close the gap to four points, 18-14, forcing North Alabama to call for a timeout. UNA pulled away again down the stretch, unfortunately, going on to take the frame, 25-20.
The second stanza was all Belmont after a 5-5 stalemate. A kill by junior Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) combined with a Lion attack error put the Bruins ahead by five, 12-7, and saw the visitors call for a break in the action. BU did not let up, using a service ace by sophomore Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) to keep the streak going. In the waning points, North Alabama was only able to get as close as six points as BU cruised to the 25-16 set victory to tie up the match.
Set three was a complete back and forth battle from the first whistle with neither team able to pull away by more than a handful of points. Midway through, Belmont took advantage of three consecutive errors by the Lions to inch within two points, 19-17. A stunned UNA bench called for a timeout. After being threatened, North Alabama fired back and this time, it would be Belmont calling for a break, trailing, 22-18. BU pulled within two points, 23-21 but it would not be enough in the end. The Lions went on to take the set, 25-22.
The fourth set saw UNA break it open early, forcing the Bruins to burn an early timeout after falling behind 5-1. Tenacious work down the stretch saw Belmont inch to within three points with back-to-back kills from Van Poppel helping to knot the score, 19-19. BU remained within striking distance in the waning points. A kill by sophomore Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) saw Belmont close to within one point but North Alabama was able to hold out for the 26-24 win.
For the match, Van Poppel led the Bruins with 16 kills, followed by Ball, who recorded her first double-double of the season with 12 digs. Also notching a double-double was Mason with 23 assists and 13 digs.
In the nightcap, the Bruins went to battle with first time opponent Milwaukee from the start. After feeling each other out for the first few points, the Panthers were the first to make a move, pulling ahead by as many as four points, 20-16, before Belmont finally called for a timeout. BU attempted to surge behind kills from junior MacKenzie Harless (Brownsburg, Ind.) and Van Poppel but was unable to make up the difference down the stretch, falling 25-19.
Milwaukee jumped out to a hot start to open the second frame, causing BU to burn a timeout early to regroup. The Bruins struggled to fall back into its earlier offensive rhythm and the Panthers easily rolled to a 25-10. However, Belmont had its collective eye on rebounding in the third frame. After forcing three scoring stalemates, BU grabbed the lead, 13-10, sending the Bruin fans to their feet. Belmont led the way through the midpoint of the set, thanks to kills by Van Poppel, Ball and sophomore Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.).
The Panthers were able to knot the score 17-17 before taking their first lead on the following play. Belmont battled back and used a service ace by Mason to send the set to its sixth tie, this time at 20-20. The score would be tied up only once more as Milwaukee was able to string together a series of attacks to eventually secure the 26-24 victory.
For the match, both Ball and Van Poppel finished with 10 kills apiece. Mason and junior Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) contributed 19 and 10 assists, respectively, while sophomore Faith Cobaugh (Union, Ky.) collected a team-high 12 digs.