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Bruins swept by the Norse in straight sets

In its first match of the day in the Bruin Classic, the Belmont volleyball team could not find its rhythm in a three-set sweep to Northern Kentucky on Saturday morning at the Curb Event Center.

The Bruins managed to complete a low .050 hitting percentage in the match compared to the .211 hitting percentage for the Norse overall.

“It was a difficult one for us in a sense that we know we didn’t play our A game. Northern Kentucky was able to get us out of sync. We’re disappointed that we didn’t put up a bigger effort,” said Belmont coach Tony Howell. “But we’ll regroup and play Liberty this evening and see where that goes.”

In the opening moments of the first set, Belmont raced off to a 5-1 start including a service ace from Alex Martin.

Behind the physical play in the front row, NKU battled back to tie the set, and a pair of blocks gave the Norse a 13-6 lead midway through the set.

While the Bruins managed to pull within one at the 17-16 mark, NKU captured the set 25-19 on consecutive attacking errors from Belmont.

At the start of the second set, both teams exchanged the opening 11 points back and forth as neither team could produce a commanding run.

The Norse finally found its rhythm midway through the second to take a 12-7 lead and forced Belmont to burn a timeout.

The Bruins used another one of their timeouts several plays later after the Norse extended the lead 18-10.

Belmont created a four-point run capped off by a service ace from Jessica Vestal and powerful strike from Martin to cut the deficit down 22-17. However, another attacking error allowed NKU to take the set once again.

“Both teams are very dynamic on the front row. Northern Kentucky was just able to capitalize on that, whereas we weren’t able to do that as much as we had hoped,” Howell said.

Despite being down 2-0 in the match, Belmont would not go down without a fight in the third set. After the Norse built an early 11-6 lead, the Bruins strung together a versatile attack with a 7-1 run to retake the lead.

While a pair of Norse attacking errors extended the Belmont lead 16-14, NKU rallied with five straight points to regain control of the match. Although the Bruins tied the set again, the Norse completed the sweep after winning five of the last six points in the match.

“That third set they came out a lot better. We just tried to make those adjustments mentally,” Howell said. “When you’re playing a good opponent like Northern Kentucky and we get out of sync, it’s kind of hard to get back into sync real quick. But we’re working on it.”

Junior Jocelyn Youngdahl led the Bruins with eight kills, while freshman Brie Lewis compiled a match-best .462 hitting percentage. Libero Ellie Ivancich finished the match with 15 digs.

Belmont concludes the 2014 Bruin Classic tonight against Liberty. The match is set for 6 p.m. at the Curb Event Center.

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