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Heartbreak at the Wire

Heartbreak at the Wire

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After rallying for a comeback and forcing a fifth and deciding set, Belmont Volleyball was unable to secure the final points to notch its first OVC victory of the season. The Bruins (1-17, 0-3 OVC) fell at crosstown rival Tennessee State, 3-2.

Tennessee State grabbed a 9-3 lead early in the opening frame that forced BU to burn a timeout early to regroup. The Tigers continued to build on their lead, expanding to 10, 18-8. The home team was able to maintain its double digit advantage down the stretch and handily took the stanza, 25-15.

Tennessee State jumped out to a 3-0 lead the start the second frame but the Bruins were able to settle in, quickly knot the score and take the lead. TSU was able to surge behind a 6-0 run to take a 14-10 lead, forcing the BU bench to call for a huddle session. After the brief break, Belmont used kills from sophomores Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) and Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) and junior Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) to remain within striking distance down the stretch. However, Tennessee State pushed ahead and used a late flurry of points to take the set, 25-20.

The longtime foes opened the third set with a back and forth battle before BU exploded for a 5-0 run to pull ahead, 7-3, after back-to-back kills by Ball. After watching their opponent add two more successive points thanks to Ball and Van Poppel, Tennessee State burned one of its timeouts. The Tigers clawed their way back into the stanza and knot the score at 10. The teams fell into three scoring stalemates through the midpoint of the set before Belmont rolled off four points in a row, including a solo block by newcomer MacKenzie Harless (Brownsburg, Ind.). The sudden flurry saw TSU use its final timeout of the set in hopes of slowing down the Bruins. BU continued to pick up steam down the stretch and put the set away, 25-20, as it began to build late momentum.

Another back and forth battle marked the top of the fourth frame, including seven ties. Suddenly, Belmont exploded on a 5-0 run to take a 13-10 lead. A pair of service aces for sophomore Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) sandwiched a frantic timeout called by a stunned TSU bench as the tide continued to turn in BU's favor. BU stretched its scoring run to 10 points to just one for TSU to take a 19-11 lead and forced Tennessee State to call for its final timeout opportunity of the set. Finally, in an offensive groove, the Bruins refused to let up and quickly secured the 25-13 win to force.

Both teams came into the fifth stanza hot and eager to grab points early. There were six scoring stalemates before Belmont won the eighth point at the switchover after kills from Van Poppel, sophomore Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) and Ball. The back-and-forth battle continued until the score was knotted again, this time at 13. TSU was able to add one more point and the Bruin bench called for a timeout. A long rally ensued but it was Tennessee State who was able to record the final point for the 15-13 win.

For the match, junior Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) matched her career-high of 24 points. She also logged a double-double with 13 digs. Sophomore Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) posted 17 points and her first solo block of the season. Sophomore Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) finished with a match-high 33 assists. Four Bruins reached double figures in digs, led by sophomore Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) with 17, followed by classmate Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) with 15 and Mason and Van Poppel with 13 digs apiece. Newcomer MacKenzie Harless (Browsburg, Ind.) finished with a match-high five block assists.

Belmont returns to action on Saturday at the Curb Event Center. The Bruins host Eastern Illinois for their OVC home opener. First serve is set for 2 p.m. Live stats will be available and the contest can be seen live on ESPN+. Fans may also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.