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Belles Fall in Five-Set Heartbreaker to Brits

Nicole Lukens tips the volleyball over the net.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Saint Mary's volleyball team battled back for force a fifth set but fell in a 3-2 (25-19, 21-25, 25-21, 11-25, 15-11) final against Albion in both teams' MIAA opener on Tuesday evening.

Albion surged to an 8-2 lead early in the opening set, but Saint Mary's responded with a five-point run a few points later to get right back into the thick of things while trailing 10-8. A four-point run saw the Belles turn a 15-12 deficit into a 16-15 lead as Laura Keating put down a kill, Alyssa Chong had back-to-back points with a block and a kill, and Nola Wallace terminated an attack to put Saint Mary's up for the first time since 2-1 in the set. The Brits, however, responded with an 8-1 run to gain a 23-17 lead before taking the set 25-19.

The second set again saw Saint Mary's fight back from a deficit before pushing ahead 18-16. Albion took a point back with a kill, but three quick points by the Belles led to a 21-17 advantage and an Albion timeout. The two sides closed out the set by trading points back-and-forth with Saint Mary's drawing even overall in the match after a Lindsey Pelletier kill gave the Belles the 25-21 second set.

The Belles broke a 12-12 tie in the third set with kills by Wallace and Hannah Stacy for a 14-12 lead, but the Brits took the next five points to swing the momentum to their side while gaining a 17-14 advantage. Saint Mary's kept close to Albion down the stretch and edged within two points after a kill by Pelletier and an Albion attack error made it 23-21, but consecutive attack errors on the Saint Mary's side gave the Brits the 25-21 third-set win.

Saint Mary's broke the fourth set wide open. With the Belles clinging to an 8-7 lead, the home side went on an 8-2 run to establish a 16-9 advantage. Albion was unable to string consecutive points together while the Belles continued to fire on all cylinders. Leading 19-11, Nicole Lukens but down consecutive kills, Alyssa Chong had a solo block in the middle, and Lukens added two more kills to put the Belles ahead 24-11. Brittney Tarkanyi capped off the set with an ace as Saint Mary's hit a staggering .560 with 14 kills and no errors on 25 attempts in the set.

In the fifth set, however, Albion was able to gain some early momentum while also taking the lead and never relinquishing it. The Brits took an 8-6 lead as the teams switched sides of the court before extending the lead to 12-8. Saint Mary's tried to make a late run, but the Brits took the set by a 15-11 score to clinch the match.

Nicole Lukens led all players with 24 kills and added 25 digs to pace the Saint Mary's efforts. Lindsey Pelletier registered 10 kills and four blocks. Nola Wallace had eight kills and four blocks, and Hannah Stacy added eight kills of her own. Morgan VanderWey tallied 49 assists and 14 digs, and Audrey Shannon had a match-high 26 digs. Alyssa Chong collected five blocks, and Brittney Tarkanyi served up three aces on the night.

The Belles (5-6, 0-1 MIAA) travel to Chicago this weekend for the North Park Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The first match for Saint Mary's comes against host North Park at 4:00 p.m. CDT on Friday.