BELMONT, N.C. -- Liam Maxwell tallied 27 kills and Belmont Abbey saved a match point, capping a furious rally for a 3-2 (25-22, 21-25, 16-25, 25-19, 20-18) men's volleyball victory over Erskine Saturday night. The win was the Crusaders' fifth in a row, one shy of the school record.
Seniors Gavin Schaffer and Rob Valentine, who were honored in a pre-match ceremony, registered 12 kills and 11 digs, respectively, in their final home action at the Wheeler Center. Brennan Davis registered 37 assists and four digs, while Pierce Pliapol also reached double figures in digs with 10. As a team, The Abbey had 14.5 blocks, despite being outhit .188 to .175.
The fifth set saw 14 ties and seven lead changes. Erskine (7-19, 4-11) started out with the first two points, but Belmont Abbey (12-14, 8-7) responded with three in a row. The Crusaders led 8-6, but the Flying Fleet once again pulled even with back-to-back points. The run continued to 5-1 as Erskine lad 11-9, but The Abbey responded with four straight for a 13-11 lead. Three straight by Erskine set up match point, but the Crusaders were able to fight it off with back-to-back points. Erskine then saved four straight match points before Maxwell had back-to-back kills after an 18-18 tie.
In the opening set, Belmont Abbey led 5-4, but Erskine used four straight points to take an 8-5 lead. The Flying Fleet stretched the lead to 18-10 before the Crusaders gained some steam. They scored three straight, then answered an Erskine kill with two more to trail 19-15. Another EC kill pushed the lead back to five when The Abbey scored two of the next three points to trail 21-17. But Brian Long engineered five straight points with his serve to switch the momentum again, resulting in a 22-21 lead. The Flying Fleet tied the score at 22 before the Crusaders tallied the last three points of the set for a 25-22 win. Davis served his only ace of the match as the clincher.
Erskine took the second and third sets for a 2-1 lead. Belmont Abbey had led 14-10 and 17-13, but the Flying Fleet rallied with an 8-2 run to lead 21-19. The Abbey tallied the next point, but visitors scored three in a row en route to the 25-21 win. The momentum continued into the third as they scored seven straight points after a service error and were never threatened in a 25-16 decision.
The fourth set saw Belmont Abbey start with a 2-0 lead that extended to 7-2. With the score 10-8, the Crusaders scored nine of the next 13 points to pull away, 19-12. The Flying Fleet cut the margin to five late, but could never get closer, setting up the dramatic fifth set.
With the win, the Crusaders clinched the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament and will host an opponent to be determined in the quarterfinals on April 17.
Belmont Abbey closes out the regular season on Wednesday at North Greenville.