The Belmont Abbey women's volleyball team rallied back from a two-sets-to-one deficit by outscoring Francis Marion 15-13 in the decisive set as the Crusaders extended their winning streak to 16 with a thrilling and key Southeast Regional 3-2 win over the visiting Patriots this evening before a raucous crowd of 300 at the Wheeler Center. Set scores were 25-21, 18-25, 13-25 and 15-13. The Crusaders improve to 22-3, while the Patriots fall to 18-6.
After taking the first set 25-21, the Patriots dominated sets two and three, jumping out to double digit leads and never looking back to grab a 2-1 lead in the match.
One set away from a loss, the Crusaders stormed ahead in the fourth set, racing out to a 20-9 lead, as the Abbey hit .229 for the set and holding Francis Marion to a .000. A kill by Hannah Schellenberg and a service ace from Dani Fortunato ended the frame, sending the two teams into a winner-take-all fifth set.
Before the fifth set, Brother Andrew Spivey, O.S.B. a member of the Belmont Abbey monastery, led the crowd with a thrilling display of dancing that rocked the house.
In the fifth, the Abbey kicked into a higher gear, as it never trailed and broke a 4-4 tie by winning the next three points, all coming on Francis Marion attack errors.
Leading 7-4, the Patriots won the next two points to close the gap to one, but a Lydia Schellenberg kill and a Patriots error moved the Crusaders lead back to 9-6. Fortuato's serve on the next play hit the net, however, but that pause did not do much damage to the momentum, as the Crusaders claimed the next four points on a pair of Lydia Schellenberg kills while Hankins and Hannah Schellenberg added one each, the last of which moved the Abbey's lead to 13-7.
Francis Marion mounted one final charge, as it cut the Abbey's lead to 13-12 as it blocked three straight Abbey attacks, followed by a blocking error on Hankins and a kill that cut the lead to 13-12.
Undeterred, Hankins finished off the match, as her tenth kill of the night set up match point, and after a Francis Marion kill closed the lead to 14-13, Hankins ended the match with her eleventh kill of the night, which gave the Crusaders a 3-2 win.
Hannah Schellenberg led all players with 18 kills while Lydia Schellenberg added 12. Hankins knocked down 11 on 26 attacks. Gabby Martinez handed out 30 assists and Abby Stine totaled 24 and seven digs. Fortunato finished with three service aces.
Defensively, Lydia Schellenberg led the way with 18 digs while Hannah Schellenberg finished with 16. Libero Ana Maria Pagan recorded 14.
Hankins totaled four blocks, two solo and two assisted, while Tori Jensen had three block assists and Fortunto registered a pair.