With conference play well underway, it is time to check in on how Bruin volleyball has stacked up this season.
Headed into this season, the Bruins were predicted to finish 10th in the Ohio Valley Conference with 66 points. They’re currently tied for 12th with Eastern Illinois University, with a record of 0-3 in the conference.
But that will change as Belmont and Eastern Illinois play Saturday to decide who moves up in conference standings.
They closed out non-conference play against University of Pacific on Sept. 21, ending with a 1-14 record. The hardest matches are now behind them since they’ve taken on opponents like rivals Lipscomb University, Western Kentucky University and Oakland University.
This volleyball season has been centered around the growth of a team that only features one senior.
One of these areas of growth is limiting mistakes on the court. They tracked their errors throughout the preseason and realized they were much higher than fellow conference rivals.
“It’s just been about lowering our errors, but continuing to stay aggressive in scoring,” said head coach Katelyn Harrison.
Though on paper they may have a 1-17 overall record, that doesn’t speak to the Bruins’ competitiveness.
Players such as Halee Van Poppel, Mary Catherine Ball and Kailee Bass have been integral to providing the foundation for the Bruins as they continue into conference play.
Van Poppel is currently leading the Bruins in hit percentage at 208, digs with 147, kills with 214 and service aces at 17.
Harrison spoke on Van Poppel’s play during the season by pointing out her consistency and leadership on the court.
“During the season, so for, Halee has shown herself as someone we can rely on for 3 or more kills a game.”
And on the other end of the game, Kailee Bass has anchored much of the Bruins defense as she has led the team in total blocks at 61, with 54 block assists. It has been her communication in that part of the game that has been crucial for the Bruins.
And in another aspect of the game, Taylor Floyd has been an emotional lightning rod for the Bruins amidst the ups and downs of the season.
“It has been great having Taylor Floyd be the emotional leader. She is one of those people that can get on her teammates and they respond accordingly.” said Harrison.
This team has an opportunity to stand out in the OVC, and their last game against Tennessee State University proved that. They were able to rally back from a 2-0 match deficit to force a fifth set, but Tennessee closed the door on them late in the final frame.
Closing the deal has been a struggle for the Bruins in matches that have gone to five sets — they hold an 0-3 record.
Some marquee matchups within conference play for the Bruins are Eastern Kentucky University on Nov. 1, Morehead State University on Nov. 2 and TSU on Nov. 5
All three of these games are opportunities for the Bruins to earn wins against the teams that beat them earlier in the season, and they’ll have a home advantage at their side.
The final three games of the regular season will be played on away courts against SIU Edwards, Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech.
The OVC takes the top eight teams into the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, and although they have an uphill battle ahead of them, things may bounce back for Harrison and this Bruins team.
This article written by Ian Kayanja. Photo by Chloe Eberhardt.