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Panther Cagers

Panther Cagers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Belmont Volleyball held back a feisty visiting Eastern Illinois on Saturday afternoon en route to recording its first Ohio Valley Conference win of the season. The Bruins (2-17, 1-3 OVC) defeated EIU (1-15, 0-4 OVC), 3-0, in the Curb Event Center.

After a slow start to the opening frame that saw the Panthers grab an early lead, Belmont rebounded and knotted the score at eight after kills by sophomore Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) and junior Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas). The teams traded points through the midpoint, including a pair on back-to-back kills by sophomore Taylor Floyd (Louisville, Ky.) and fell into six scoring stalemates before the Bruins began adding points to separate the teams. Eastern Illinois burned its first timeout after falling behind 19-17. After a handful of points that fell in BU's favor the Panthers called for their final huddle session, trailing 22-20. Using a 4-0 run in total, BU was able to reach set point and use a kill by junior Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) to seal the 25-22 win.

Belmont carried the momentum into the second set and jumped out to a 7-2 lead after a service ace by sophomore Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.). The deficit forced Eastern Illinois to call for a huddle session but BU did not let up after the break in the action. The Bruins soared behind a 4-0 scoring run that helped the team double up their points on its opponent, pulling ahead 14-7 before building to a double digit lead. Aided by another four straight points to close the stanza, Belmont easily pushed on to take a 25-11 win.

After another hot start, Belmont grabbed an early lead to start the third stanza. However, the Panthers worked hard to knot the score, 8-8. Eastern Illinois used an offensive flurry to capture the lead, 13-11. The Bruins surged and were able to tie the score at 14 after three consecutive Panther errors, forcing a stunned EIU bench to call for a timeout. After the break, EIU increased its point differential down the stretch, taking a 21-18 lead. This time it would be BU calling for a huddle session to strategize. Belmont came out of the break and dug in its collective heels and forced a scoring stalemate at 23. Back-to-back kills by Ball and newcomer MacKenzie Harless (Brownsburg, Ind.) helped the home team seal the 25-23 win for its first OVC win of the season.

For the match, Floyd led the Bruins with 10 kills, followed byBall with nine. Sophomore Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) posted 33 assists while Kelley finished with a match-high 15 digs. Harless and Van Poppel each added a pair of block assists.

Belmont returns to action on October 11 in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins host Tennessee Tech with first serve set for 6 p.m. Live stats will be available and the matchup can be seen live on ESPN+. Fans may also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.