NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Despite convincing rallies in each set, Belmont Volleyball was unable to take the match away from visiting Eastern Kentucky on Friday night. The Bruins (2-24, 1-10 OVC) fell to the Colonels (9-16, 3-7 OVC), 3-0, in the Curb Event Center.
The Bruins jumped out to a hot start, thanks to kills by juniors Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) and Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.), sophomore Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) and freshman Lauren Walsh (Torrance, Calif.) to open set one before the Colonels were able to knot the score, 6-6. Eastern Kentucky used a scoring flurry to pull ahead. However, by the media timeout, Belmont had moved to within two, 15-13, with some strong defensive efforts. EKU pulled ahead once again, 19-15, with the help of a 3-0 run. The series of points saw the Bruins call for a huddle session. After the brief break, BU began chipping away at the Eastern Kentucky lead and closed the scoring differential to just two points, 23-21, behind three consecutive kills from Ball. Eastern Kentucky was able to recover after calling a timeout, going on to take the frame, 25-21.
Belmont opened the second stanza rolling off three straight points, including back-to-back kills by Van Poppel and Ball, before its opponent posted its first point. The Bruins built a slim two point lead and were able to hold onto it through the midpoint of the frame, lifted by kills by newcomer MacKenzie Harless (Brownsburg, Ind.), LePage and Walsh. A 3-0 run gave BU its biggest lead to that point in the set, four points, 14-10. However, the Colonels slowly whittled that lead down and went on to force a stalemate at 19. Belmont battled back and surged ahead to take the lead once again, this time, 22-20. However, it was short lived as the Colonels knotted the score once more, this time at 23. The tie was enough for Belmont call for its first timeout of the set, in hopes of slowing the rally. Unfortunately, EKU was able to close the set with a 4-0 run to push for the 25-23 set victory.
The Colonels broke open the third set with eight consecutive points to start. BU called for a huddle session in the midst but was unable to find an answer early. By the midpoint, Belmont began chipping away at the sizeable lead and rolled off three points in a row to cut the Eastern Kentucky lead down to five, 12-7. However, the Colonels surged once again, building a nine-point advantage, 20-11. Belmont surged late and inched to within five, 23-18, following a kill by Van Poppel and several Colonel attack errors but that would be as close as BU would get down the stretch. EKU went on to take the final stanza, 25-18.
For the match, Ball led the Bruins with 12 kills, followed by Van Poppel, who notched a double-double with 10 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) finished with 19 assists and senior Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) tallied 10. Sophomore Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) tallied 11 digs. Harless and Van Poppel each posted a solo block while LePage finished with a pair of block assists.
Belmont returns to action on Saturday afternoon in the Curb Event Center. The Bruins host Morehead State for a contest starting at 2 p.m. Prior to first serve, BU will honor seniors Huntir Bass (Mobile, Ala.) and Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas). 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.