Story by Keenan Hall, Staff writer
Murray State volleyball won three-straight sets and beat the Belmont Bruins in five sets 19- 25, 23-25, 25-15, 30-28 and 17-15.
Racers’ sophomore outside hitter Rachel Giustino notched another double-double with 14 kills and 23 digs. Belmont senior outside hitter Arianna Person led all players in kills with 21 and 18 digs. Murray State freshman setter Ashley McBee dished 20 assists, but Bruin’s senior setter Emma Price had a game-high 59 assists.
The Racers opened the match neck-and-neck with the Bruins. Murray State had 11 kills out of 44 attempts in the first, and ended the set hitting at .091 percent. Belmont began the match with 15 kills on a .268 hitting percentage.
The Bruins closed the first set on a 16-10 run after the score was tied at nine. Person scored seven kills in the first set. Belmont had an efficient first set, while the Racers committed seven errors and lost 25-19.
The second set was no different for the Bruins. Murray State scored 11 kills and two less errors than in the first set and raised their hitting percentage to .150 in the second set but Belmont stayed consistent, scoring 12 kills and only five errors in the second.
Murray State controlled a majority of the set until the Bruins ended the set on a 13-6 run to claim a 25-23 set win.
Murray State Head Coach David Schwepker said he wanted his team to be resilient and to compete from start to finish.
“The whole theme of yesterday was just about fighting,” Schwepker said. “You just fight until the end and then whatever happens, happens.”
The Racers bounced back to claim their first set win of the match after posting 11 kills and raising their hitting percentage to .182 percent in the third set. Murray State also held the Bruins to a -.083 hitting percentage and forced them to committ 13 errors.
The Racers won the third set by a double digit margin 25-15. Murray State used a balanced attack and group defensive effort to take momentum of the match from Belmont. Five different Racers scored at least one kill in the set. Murray State won the third set.
It was a shoot-out in the fourth set as Murray State recorded 16 kills out of 62 attempts, and the Bruins scored 15 kills out of 61 shots. Belmont opened the set on a 5-2 run after the Racers started giving up a kill and committed four straight errors. Murray State climbed back in the set and regained the lead at 17-14.
There were 11 lead changes and eight ties, but neither team could stretch out to a sizeable lead. Giustino had five kills, while junior outside hitter Dacia Brown and McBee had three kills a piece.
The Bruins posted eight blocks in the fourth set, but fell to close the match after being up two sets to zero. The Racers won the fourth set 30-28.
Schwepker took notice of his team’s poise down the stretch, and said the win served as a major milestone for his young team.
“That was a big step in maturing for this team, to go through that much pressure in the heart of the game is huge,” Schwepker said. “They were up a lot and had several game points, but we kept coming back at them. To be able to do that under that kind of pressure is what the maturity process is all about.”
Murray State closed the fifth set after defending multiple match-point attempts by Belmont. The Bruins scored 11 kills, but it wasn’t enough to stop Murray State’s momentum; the Racers pulled off the comeback and won the fifth set 17-15.
Murray State volleyball swept Tennessee State on Saturday for their fifth home win out of six matches this season in a game that ended 28-26, 25-21 and 25-18.
The Racers’ sophomore right-side hitter Rachel Holthaus lead all players by scoring 13 kills. Murray State also had sophomore outside hitter Rachel Giustino score 11 kills and freshman middle blocker Katirah Johnson score 10 kills. Callie Anderton nearly had a double-double with nine digs and a game-high 41 assists for the Racers.
The Tigers finished the opening set scoring 15 kills out of 43 attempts, but had 10 errors. Murray State had 16 kills and only committed six errors in the first set. Tennessee State came out in the lead at 9-5.
After the score reached 13-12, the Racers pulled off a 12-9 run to take the lead at 24-22. Following the run, there were two kills from Murray State and two errors from Tennessee State gave the Racers their first set win 28-26.
Prior to Saturday’s match, Schwepker told his team to forget about their comeback performance from the night before and solely focus on their current matchup.
“Before today’s match we talked about not trying to duplicate last night’s game,” Schwepker said. “This is a new match, a new team, and we have to figure this team out.
The Racers finished the second set with 14 kills and a .268 hitting percentage. The Tigers raised their hitting percentage from .116 to .212 percent in the second set. Tennessee State opened the set rolling again, grabbing the lead at 9-5, but the Racers stayed within distance thanks to four errors from the Tigers.
After the Racers took the lead at 12-11, they reeled off a 13-10 scoring run to win the set 25-21. Tennessee State committed five of their six errors during the run. Johnson scored three of her 10 kills and Holthaus notched two of her 13 kills down the stretch. Murray State junior outside hitter Dacia Brown also scored two kills to seal the second set win.
To start third set, the navy and gold took a page out of the Tigers’ book and stormed out to a 10-5 lead in the final set.
Murray State played nearly error-free in the third set, committing only two service errors but added 16 kills. Tennessee State scored 10 kills but tallied eight errors on a .050 hitting percentage. The Racers completed the sweep after a 25-18 win in the third set.
Schwepker was proud of the way his team fared in the two matches amidst the volleyball program’s alumni weekend. Players from last season’s conference-winning volleyball team were in attendance to watch their alma-mater in action. Because of the nostalgia circling the team, Schwepker said he had to stress playing with composure.
“Last night was so emotional for everybody, so it would have been easy to come out flat against Tennessee State,” Schwepker said. “I thought they did a really nice job getting themselves ready to play.”
Murray State improved to 15-7 (7-3). The Racers are 4-4 on the road this season and will play away from Racer Arena for their next two matches. Murray State will face SIUE at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, in Edwardsville, Illinois.