EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- Belmont Volleyball forced extra sets but was unable to pull off a win on the road Saturday. The Bruins (2-28, 1-12 OVC) fell to SIUE (12-13, 7-6 OVC), 3-1.
The teams traded points at the start of the first frame as Belmont collected points off from juniors Mackenzie LePage (Franklin, Tenn.) and Halee Van Poppel (Argyle, Texas) with the aid of a service ace by freshman Kailee Bass (Aurora, Ill.). The Cougars were the first to put distance between the teams, using a 5-0 run to pull ahead, 8-4. The Bruins called for a huddle session after the flurry to settle down, coming out of the brief break with kills by Van Poppel, LePage, and sophomore Mary Catherine Ball (Hendersonville, N.C.) to knot the score, 9-9. SIUE surged to regain the lead but BU battled back to force a scoring stalemate at 17 with the help of kills from newcomer MacKenzie Harless (Brownsburg Ind.). Belmont was the first to cross the 20-point threshold, after another kill by Harless. The Cougars caught up with a 4-0 run to take a slim, 23-21, lead. BU called for its final timeout of the set.
SIUE opened the second set with an 8-1 run. Belmont slowly clawed its way out of the deficit, using kills from Van Poppel, freshman Lauren Walsh (Torrance, Calif.), and senior Huntir Bass (Mobile, Ala.). By the midpoint of the frame, the Bruins surged behind a 3-0 run to close the point differential to four points, 14-10. The rally forced a stunned Cougar bench to call for a timeout. SIUE emerged from the break barely able to hold onto its lead as Belmont continued to push. BU began to surge late and used kills by Harless and Van Poppel to close the scoring gap. However, it was not enough in the waning points, as SIUE was able to hold on for the 25-18 win.
The third stanza opened with a 3-0 run by the Bruins and the visitor continued to build on its early lead. Using kills from LePage and Van Poppel, Belmont continued to build on its lead as the set approached its midpoint. The Cougars moved to within three points, 17-14, before a kill by freshman Lauren Walsh (Torrance, Calif.) gave BU some breathing room. However, SIUE continued to threaten down the stretch before knotting the score at 19. The home team was able to grab a one-point lead, 20-19, on the next play and Belmont called for its first huddle session of the frame. After the break, the Bruins were able to regain the lead by one point after a 3-0 run, capped by a crosscourt kill by Ball. Belmont expanded its run to four straight points in all, going up 24-22. SIUE was forced to burn both its timeouts during the flurry of points in hopes of slowing down BU. The Cougars were able to knot the score three times but the Bruins dug in their heels. Using a pair of SIUE errors, Belmont was able to take the frame, 28-26.
Belmont was the first to reach double digits in the fourth set, thanks to kills by LePage, Van Poppel and Walsh. SIUE chipped away at the Bruin lead until it was within one, 12-11. Belmont unleashed a 3-0 flurry to grow its lead to four, 17-13, forcing the Cougars to call for a timeout. After the pause, SIUE was able to close the point differential to just one point, 21-20, and this time it would be BU calling for a huddle session. The Cougars were able to put together a 5-0 run after the brief break to take the lead, 23-21. All told, SIUE gobbled up seven points in a row to earn the 25-21 set win.
For the match, Van Poppel finished with a match-high 17 kills. In assists, sophomore Carly Mason (Forsyth, Ill.) and senior Akia Warrior (Fort Worth, Texas) contributed 23 and 22, respectively. Sophomore Peyton Kelley (Normal, Ill.) recorded a match-high 19 digs. Senior Huntir Bass (Mobile, Ala.) matched her career best of five total blocks, including the team's lone solo block.
Belmont returns to action next weekend for its final contests of the 2019 campaign. The Bruins travel to Jacksonville State for a matchup on November 15. First serve is set for 6 p.m. Live stats will be available. Fans may also follow the team's Twitter account (@BelmontVB) for live, in-game updates.