Updated: Sep 20
Four sets of highly physical, sacrificing play set a 3-1 volleyball victory against crosstown rival Tennessee State University at home Tuesday.
Following some heavy losses on the road, the Bruins returned to the Curb Event Center looking to justify their game against a competitive team — and they did, bringing home a decisive victory.
“That’s a really good team that we just took care of business with,” head coach Katelyn Harrison said. And a win against the Tigers made for an ideal premiere to Belmont volleyball’s Ohio Valley Conference run as well.
Winning the first set 26-24 but falling short 24-26 in the second, the Bruins ended up with the advantage after a 30-point third set and kept the Tigers under control in the fourth and final frame to come out on top.
“One thing we really talked about after Auburn was having a next play mentality and moving on from a mistake a lot faster,” Harrison said. “I thought tonight they did a really good job of doing that, and I think it showed a much more in-control, confident team because of it.”
Outside hitters Taylor Floyd and Lauren Walsh banked big numbers for the Bruins with 18.5 points each, dominating on the court.
Floyd led the team with 17 kills while Walsh collected a career-high 16.
“Lauren has always had the ability to play like that and it has been a matter of one, getting her a ball that she could hit and then two, just having her believe in those shots,” Harrison said. “I thought she did a really great job, she made some really smart decisions at crucial moments for us, and Taylor too.”
Going out with an early lead in the first set, diving saves and favorable long plays were not enough to shut out the TSU team, who caught up for an equalizer at 19 and took the lead by reaching 20 points before the Bruins.
But Belmont bounced back with flying saves from sophomore Izzy Schauer and a sharp kill by junior Kailee Bass, and Walsh wrapped up the set with a service ace.
TSU clinched the second set by a thread, but nothing could compare to the third-set drama between Bruins and Tigers.
With close calls and razor-thin margins forcing point-by-point play, Belmont kept one step ahead, recording 24-19. However, TSU refused to give in and showed up with five straight balls to equalize, forcing the game above the usual 25-point close.
In need of a 2-point lead for victory, the teams scored back and forth, increasing tension in the arena as fans from both ends of Nashville made efforts to support their school to draw the longest straw.
The open game caused some nerves, but coach Harrison and her team stood their ground for every point.
“We have to believe in the next ball and our ability to score,” Harrison said.
Rallying up to 28-all, a kill from Walsh and an attack error by the Tigers finally resulted in another set going to the Bruins.
Despite putting up a good fight in the fourth and final set, Tennessee State stood no chance once Belmont found momentum in their lead, stealing a 25-20 and an overall 3-1 result.
Belmont’s OVC rematch versus TSU will take place across the city Oct. 12, but this week isn’t over yet for the Bruins as they await showdowns with UT Martin in the Curb Event Center on Friday and Saturday.
PHOTO: Lauren Walsh leaps for one of her 16 kills of the night. Belmont Vision / Jessica Mattsson.
This article was written by Jessica Mattsson.