FLORENCE, Ala.—The old sports cliché, “it’s not how you start; it’s how you finish” certainly rang true for the Bellarmine volleyball team Friday night.
In a highly dramatic finish, the Knights escaped with a 3-2 win over North Alabama as setter Emily Arnold capped a career night by delivering a “walk-off” service ace to give Bellarmine an 18-16 set five victory on their third match point. The win also delivered BU’s first ASUN Conference win of the season.
As euphoric as the finish was for the Knights, the match’s start was quite the opposite for the visitors.
The host UNA Lions roared out of the gates, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in the first set. The Knights couldn’t overcome that shaky start, as North Alabama went on to a 25-17 first win, but Bellarmine responded with 25-22, 25-21 wins in sets two and three to take a 2-1 lead. In the fourth, UNA crept out to a four-point lead, but the Knights fought back to tie it at 18 before the Lions pulled out the 25-22 win to force the fifth set.
In the decisive set, it was the Knights jumping out to a four-point lead only to see UNA claw its way back to even the score at 14 apiece. Bellarmine and North Alabama then each squandered match point opportunities before Bailey Venard notched a kill and Arnold delivered the knock-out blow with her ace.
“I absolutely loved how resilient we were throughout that match,” said Bellarmine Coach rick nold. “I thought we played unbelievable defense throughout and stayed really aggressive from the serving line.”
Bellarmine had no shortage of standout individual performances. In addition to Arnold’s clutch serving, the senior also dished out a career-high 62 assists on the night. Meanwhile, Jayme Scott racked up 25 kills—the fourth time this season she’s eclipsed the 20-plateau this season. Her second kill of the night gave her 1,000 for her career, and she is the first player in the D1 era to reach that milestone and just the 11th in program history.
“Jayme has been unreal throughout her career and tonight was no different,” said Nold. “I’m excited to see her continue to add to that total.”
The Bellarmine coach also heaped praise on Arnold. “(Reaching a new career high) is a great milestone for Emily.” Nold said. “I thought she was a difference maker for us tonight in a lot of ways. We started out rough, and I thought her feisty attitude de ella really got everyone going.”
In addition to Arnold’s and Scott’s outstanding performances several more players recorded impressive numbers. Defensively, five different Knights collected double-digit digs, led by Anna Lococo’s match-high 25. Emily Ernst added 17 and Carissa Reyes chipped in 12. Scott and Arnold, meanwhile, chalked up double-doubles with 14 and 13 digs respectively.
On the offensive side, Venard turned in a season-best 16 kills while Jayda Harris registered 12 kills to match her career best.
Both teams had strong defensive efforts. While Bellarmine enjoyed a 93-78 advantage in digs, North Alabama did its defensive damage at the net where the Lions held a 15-3 edge in blocks.
Offensively, Bellarmine totaled 72 kills compared to 57 for UNA, but the Lions outhit the Knights .233 to .154
Bellarmine improves to 7-8 on the season with a 1-2 ASUN mark. North Alabama falls to 10-5, 0-3 ASUN.
The Knights return to action Sunday when they travel to Conway, Arkansas to face the Sugar Bears of Central Arkansas. First serve is scheduled for 1 pm (noon CT).
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