A combined effort of youth and experience sent the Belmont volleyball senior class out victorious with a sweep over the SIUE Cougars at the Curb Event Center on Saturday.
Belmont extended its winning streak to four consecutive sweeps but SIUE proved to be one of its toughest opponents yet.
“They were just a really scrappy, aggressive, transition team,” said Belmont coach Tony Howell. “We have a lot of really good defensive teams in the OVC, but SIUE is by far one of the better ones.”
Freshman Brie Lewis led the team with nine kills while Emma Price added 23 assists. The four seniors combined for nearly 59 percent of kills for Belmont in their last regular season outing.
“It’s a huge deal to win senior night. I think it was the first time all four seniors were on the court together. That was also a really big deal,” said senior Scarlet Gable.
The Cougars took command of the first set early with three straight points to open the match. The Bruins rallied behind the play from their seniors to take their first lead of the afternoon, 4-3.
Belmont’s physical presence in front of the net allowed the team to build a 10-6 lead. Several attacking errors by SIUE forced the Cougars to call a timeout after allowing Belmont to pull ahead 19-18.
Neither team could build a comfortable margin toward the ends of the set until Belmont scored six of the final 11 points to take the set. The Bruins capitalized off 12 attacking errors from the Cougars in the first set alone.
The momentum carried over into the second set for Belmont as the Bruins took an early 6-1 lead.
Although the Cougars pulled within three points, Price assisted kills by Alex Martin, Lewis and Dean to push Belmont ahead 16-9.
“Emma went to a different level on the setting standpoint as far as moving all the hitters around and throwing in some attacks of her own,” said Howell.
SIUE capitalized on a pair of service aces to force Belmont to call its first timeout of the set. The Cougars entered the match second in the nation on service aces.
Right after the timeout, Belmont surged on a 5-0 run to push the set 22-15. Back-to-back net violations allowed the team to reach set point and a kill from senior Scarlet Gable finished the set 25-16.
The Bruins tripled their hitting percentage in the second set from .091 to .310 percent.
Despite being down two sets, the Cougars responded to the adversity and gave the Bruins a fight in the third set.
Although a frontline miscommunication allowed the Bruins to pull ahead 8-5, the Cougars rallied to take their first lead of the set, 12-11.
The Cougars continued mixing up their looks and scored three straight points to take a 19-17 lead, forcing Howell to call yet another timeout to talk with his Bruins squad.
The timeout paid off once again as the Bruins strung together a six-point run capped off by a service ace from Ellie Ivancich.
After the kill from Martin push the set to match-point, classmate Kelsi Dean finished the Cougars off to complete the 3-0 sweep.
Belmont will compete in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament as the No. 2 seed beginning Nov. 20. The tournament will be hosted by No. 1 seed Murray State.