One set away from a win, the Belmont volleyball team lost three straight sets and fell to a scrappy Tennessee State Tigers team in the Bruins’ conference home opener Tuesday night.
“It started off very well, we played with a high level of intensity, and mental discipline,” said head coach Deane Webb. “As the match went on, we thought they were mentally stronger than we were. So, give credit to TSU for being strong enough to change the way the match was going in the first half, and they certainly earned the win tonight.”
After several momentum shifts, the Bruins capitalized on the Tigers’ 12 early errors, winning the first set 25-20.
Belmont then took the second set 25-15 after the serves and defense of a now-healthy Jen Myer. After coming back from a rotation error that put the Bruins three points behind, Myer led Belmont on a 9-0 scoring run in the middle of the set.
“Jen did a nice job blocking, particularly early on,” Webb said. “We really defended well tonight. We out blocked and out dug the other team, out hit them by 80 points. Statistically speaking, it’s a win, but stats don’t mean much at the end of the day.”
At that point, the Bruins led statistically with an impressive 33 digs and 23 kills.
Tennessee State changed that in the third set. They turned the tables against an offensively struggling Belmont team that failed to score the points needed to put the match away. The Tigers would lead the Bruins by as many as 10 points in the third set, eventually defeating Belmont 25-19.
The fourth set proved to be as competitive as the first, with four lead changes and four tied points. The Tigers eventually took that set 25-22, sending a game that Webb said could start an intra-city rivalry into a decisive fifth set.
“It should, and hopefully will become our new local rival,” Webb said. “Obviously TSU finished second in the OVC last year, so we knew they were a great team, and they showed that ability to be successful tonight.”
The night’s final set was a battle to the end. As Tennessee State won 16-14, the crowd of Tiger fans who traveled across town to celebrate their team’s second conference win of the season.
“We blocked and dug balls at a pretty high rate most of the night,” Webb said. “It just came to the last five points of each game. They were clearly the better team.”
With the loss, the Bruins are now 5-12 overall and 1-2 in OVC action. They will continue their four-game conference home stand against SIU Edwardsville Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at the Curb Event Center.