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Getting Closer

Getting Closer

JACKSONVILLE, Tenn. -- Despite strong rallying efforts in both contests of the opening day of the River City Rumble, Belmont Volleyball was held off in both outings. The Bruins (1-9) fell to co-host North Florida (3-5), 3-0, before seeing a late rally fall shy against first-time opponent Charleston Southern (4-5), 3-1.

The first set saw the former conference foes square up for a back and forth battle early as the teams split a two-point differential until a 4-0 run by North Florida put the home team ahead, 16-11. The Bruins called for a break in the action but it did little to slow the Ospreys. UNF continued to surge down the stretch, exploding behind another flurry of points that secured the 25-16 win.

Junior Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) helped the Bruins get on the board with back-to-back service aces at the top of the second frame. The teams slipped into another back and forth battle with the score knotted 15 times before Belmont pulled ahead by two, 20-18, after kills by Warrior, sophomore Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) and junior MacKenzie Harless (Brownsburg, Ind.). A stunned Osprey bench called for a huddle session. After the quick break, UNF used three consecutive service aces to take the lead, forcing BU to call for its own break in the action to regroup, trailing 23-21. Belmont attempted to surge behind a pair of kills by junior Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) and sophomore Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.). but North Florida collected the final points to hold on for the 25-23 win.

Belmont came out hot to start the third set but the Ospreys fired back and grabbed a slim 8-6 lead, pushing the Bruins to call for a timeout. North Florida used a 4-0 flurry to expand its lead and BU called for its final timeout of the frame, trailing by six, 16-10. BU used a 3-0 run to push back against the Ospreys and trim the point differential to just four points, 21-17. UNF burned a timeout in hopes of slowing down the Bruins. It proved to be just enough of a pause as a kill by junior Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) handed Belmont its last point as the Ospreys went on to take the set, 25-18.

For the match, Van Poppel led the Bruins with a match-high 10 kills. Warrior posted a match-high 31 assists while sophomore Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) finished with 12 digs. Freshman Kailee Bass (Aurora, Ill.) picked up her third solo block of the season.

Belmont came out streaking for its second match of the day, opening with a 5-0 run before the Buccaneers called an early timeout. The Bruins added one more point before Charleston Southern was able to add its first of the contest. CSU battled back to knot the score 12-12 and wrestled the lead away from the Bruins during the midpoint of the set. Belmont hustled to close a scoring gap to just one point, 17-16, but Charleston Southern found a way to cross the 20-point threshold. BU hoped another timeout would be of assistance but the Buccaneers kept pushing and went on to take the set, 25-20.

The Buccaneers stayed motivated through the start of the second stanza, taking a 5-2 lead before Belmont called a timeout. CSU continued to pile on the points despite a series of short offensive spurts by the Bruins. The Buccaneers blew their lead up to double digits for the first time in the contest, going up 18-7, forcing Belmont to call for a huddle session. The Bruins began methodically chipping away at the lead that had grown to as many as 11 points. With the help of kills from Floyd, Van Poppel, Ball and an explosive solo block for senior Huntir Bass (Mobile, Ala.), Belmont clawed back into the set and trimmed the point differential down to just two points, 24-22, with the help of a service ace by freshman Lauren Walsh (Torrance, Calif.). Unfortunately, the Buccaneers were able to record the gamewinner and took the set, 25-22.

The patience of the previous frame carried over into set three for BU. Three kills in a row by Ball put Belmont on a 5-1 run that saw the team take a 9-5 lead. Slowly, CSU whittled down the Bruin lead and went on to tie the score, 13-13. The score would go on to be stalemated twice more before the Buccaneers pushed ahead on a 3-0 run, 18-15. BU battled back to knot the score at 19, following kills by Floyd and Van Poppel. Belmont continued to push in the waning points and went on to tie to score two more times before it hovered on the verge of set point, 24-23. Ball put the ball away deep on the right side to secure the set victory.

Charleston Southern came out determined to fight back against the surging Bruins in the fourth set.  After ties in the opening points, the Buccaneers pushed to take a 10-5 lead. BU burned through both of its huddle sessions, looking for an answer. CSU blew its lead up to as many as seven points, 17-10, before BU began effectively chipping away. Belmont inched as close as three points, 23-20, thanks to back-to-back balls that went out of bounds by the Buccaneers. However, Charleston Southern was able to find the last two points to hold out for the 25-20 win.

For the contest, Van Poppel logged a match-high 19 kills. Warrior finished with 39 assists while Kelley recorded 14 digs. Kailee and Huntir Bass each notched a solo block while Kailee Bass tallied a match-high five block assists.

Belmont returns to action on Saturday for the final day of the River City Rumble. The Bruins face off against co-host Jacksonville beginning at 1 p.m. CT. Live stats will be available.