Eastern Kentucky University volleyball

Colonels will face No.1 seed Austin Peay tomorrow at 6 pm

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The Eastern Kentucky University volleyball team scored six unanswered points in the final set to fight off the Belmont University match point, 14-10, and edge the Bruins, advancing to the 2017 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament semifinals.

After a pair of kills from Cassie Knutson and a solo block from Celina Sanks Eastern Kentucky jumped out to an early 4-1 lead to open the fifth stanza. The Bruins fought back to tie it at four all. The teams took turns exchanging blows down the stretch, but Arianna Person came up with a lethal putaway to tie it at 10-10 and spark a 5-0 Belmont run to put the squad at set point, 14-10.

Knutson then put a ball down, 14-11, and went back to the service line for EKU. The junior retained the serve for five straight points. A wall of Kaylin Johnson, Sanks and Ciera Koons played strong defense at the net to reject another attack from Person, ending the set and match 16-14.

“Resiliency has been the theme this season with all the injuries we have faced,” explained stated Head Coach Lori Duncan. “Coming into this, the ups and downs, if you are watching the matches this is the only one that has gone into five sets. Everyone is playing to extend their season and you have to stay gritty. You have to have the ability to bounce back. Most importantly, you have to believe this is your year, your opportunity, and these kids believe that.”

EKU won the first two sets by scores of 25-18, 25-18. The Bruins came out of the half to take the next two sets 25-17, 25-20.

Knutson had ice water in her veins, coming up with a triple-double line after just three sets. The San Diego, California native finished with 16 kills, 21 assists, 15 digs, one block, three service aces and hit .297.

The EKU hitting corps came up huge. Sanks pounded in 17 kills and racked up 10 digs for her 14th double-double of the season, she added three blocks. Senior Nikki Drost contributed 12 putaways to round out the Colonels in double-digits. Eastern Kentucky hit .237 for the match compared to the Belmont .221.

Grittiness seemed to be the word of the night for the Eastern defensive effort. Rojas dug out 24 balls while Mallory Maxwell and Maria Ferragonio had 12 apiece. Johnson tied for the match-high with five blocks.

The Colonels will be back in action tomorrow at 6 p.m. ET as they take on the winner of the No. 1 Austin Peay State/No. 8 Southeast Missouri matchup.