JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After battling back to force a fifth set on Saturday afternoon in Historic Swisher Gynmasium, Belmont Volleyball was held off at the wire at Jacksonville in the finale of the River City Rumble. The Bruins (1-10) fell to the Dolphins (2-7), 3-2.
Belmont jumped out to an early lead to start the first set but soon the Dolphins were able to knot the score, 6-6. The Bruins remained within striking distance as Jacksonville searched for a way to build on its slim lead. After a JU service ace extended the lead to six, 18-12, BU called its final timeout of the frame. However, Jacksonville exploded and used a 5-0 run to go up, 23-14. Belmont would add two more points, thanks to a kill by freshman Kailee Bass (Aurora, Ill.) and a JU error but it would not be enough as the Dolphins held on for the 25-16 win.
The second stanza began with the teams trading points, falling into four scoring stalemates before the Dolphins started pulling away. The Bruin bench called timeout after watching the point differential grow to three points, 8-5. BU came out of the break, quickly knotted the score and taking the lead behind a 5-0 run, with kills coming from senior Huntir Bass (Mobile, Ala.) and juniors Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) and Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.). Belmont continued battling back through the midpoint of the set, even using solo blocks from Kailee Bass and Huntir Bass to remain within striking distance. The Dolphins used a 5-0 run of their own to take a 15-12 lead. BU pushed back to knot the score at 18 but Jacksonville wrestled the chance at the lead away from the visitors down the stretch. JU went on to hold off another late Belmont surge to take the set, 25-21.
The Bruins opened the third frame with a 5-0 run that put them ahead, 6-3, with the help of a pair of service aces by Kailee Bass and kills from sophomore Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) and Van Poppel. JU was able to pull within one point, 10-9, and Belmont called for a huddle session to stay on track. BU continued to roll, maintaining its lead through the midpoint of the set. A pair of service aces by Van Poppel was enough to put BU ahead, 17-12. The Dolphins pushed back to trim the lead down to three points and the Bruins called for its final timeout to strategize. After the brief break, Belmont was able to hold onto its two-point lead. JU inched as close as one point before knotting the score at 21. The teams fell into an intense back and forth battle before Belmont pulled ahead 25-24 after a block by Ball and Kailee Bass. The Dolphins would not give up easily and pushed the Bruins to their highest set point tally of the season so far. Despite their efforts, it would be three consecutive kills from Van Poppel that would seal the Belmont set win, 29-27.
BU was able to maintain its offensive momentum at the start of the fourth set. Kills from junior Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) Ball, Van Poppel and Kailee Bass helped BU stay ahead by as many as six, 16-10. A stunned Dolphin bench called for a timeout to regroup but Belmont refused to relent down the stretch. With Bruin fans on their feet, the visitors punched it into overtime to grab the 25-17 set win and force a fifth and deciding set.
Belmont came out swinging in the fifth set and took a two-point lead, 6-4, behind kills by Van Poppel. The Dolphins notched a point and the Bruins called a precautionary timeout to stay settled. It was just enough as kills from Ball and Van Poppel put Belmont ahead at the switch, 8-7. Suddenly, Jacksonville added four consecutive points to take the lead, 11-8, and BU was forced to burn its final timeout of the frame. The Dolphins continued to build space between the teams down the stretch. A reversed call lifted JU to set point before a Bruin service error handed the home team the 15-10 set win.
For the match, junior Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) finished with a career and match-high 24 kills. She also collected a double-double with 13 digs and a trio of service aces. Classmate Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) posted 47 assists to match her career-best outing. Sophomore Faith Cobugh (Union, Ky.) led BU in digs with 15.
For her efforts over the weekend, Van Poppel was named to the River City Rumble All-Tournament Team.
Belmont returns to action on Tuesday evening in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins host regional rival Western Kentucky for a match with first serve set for 5 p.m. The contest can be seen live on ESPN+ and live stats will be available. Fans may also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.