HENDERSON, Tenn. – The Cumberland University volleyball team came from behind on Tuesday night at the FHU Sports Center to defeat Freed-Hardeman University, 3-2 (25-18, 14-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-10), downing the Lions for the first time in more than five years.
The Bulldogs’ last victory over FHU came at home on October 3, 2005 with a sweep. Since that victory, Cumberland, which improved to 19-6 overall and 6-1 in the TSAC, had lost 10 straight to the team that has won the last three regular season conference titles. Freed-Hardeman, which was the preseason favorite to win the conference, fell to 5-3 in the conference and 6-7 overall.
After Cumberland forced a fifth set, the Bulldogs scored the first point of the deciding period before giving up back-to-back points. CU then won six of the next eight points and caused Freed-Hardeman to take a timeout in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Jaclyn Rodriguez ended that hope with a kill off a Meghan Gass assist.
The teams swapped sides with Cumberland leading 8-4 and the Bulldogs added two more points to the lead with the first coming on a Brooke Bowers ace. FHU made an attempt at the comeback, but four Bulldog kills and a Lion attack error gave CU the match victory. Ten of Cumberland’s 15 points in the fifth set came on kills with five different Bulldogs recording at least one.
Cumberland hit .303 with 10 kills and no errors in the opening period, winning a set on Smith-Kirk Court for the first time since 2007, snapping a skid of seven straight sets. The Bulldogs scored the first two points before a questionable call started a 3-0 run to give the Lions their only lead of the set.
CU responded with four straight points forcing Freed-Hardeman to take its first timeout. The Bulldogs didn’t let the stoppage end the stretch, scoring four more points after the break to build a seven-point lead. The home team came right back, posting seven of the next nine tallies and making it a two-point game. From there the Bulldogs started to pull away, eventually taking the set victory by seven points.
The Bulldogs were unable to carry the momentum into the second set as FHU won nine of the first 11 points, including the five straight to end the stretch, which caused Cumberland head coach Dwayne Deering to take a timeout. Following the break, the Volleydawgs got as close as four points at 12-8, but Freed was too strong down the stretch, building a double-digit lead at 19-9 and cruising the rest of the way to even the match at a game apiece.
CU was unable to continue its error-free play in the second, hitting just .094 in the set with four errors to seven kills.
Cumberland continued to play sloppy early in the third set, committing three hitting errors and letting several balls fall uncontested on the Bulldogs half of the court. Freed-Hardeman jumped out to a 19-6 lead before CU began to claw its way back into the set with six straight points. A Lion timeout temporarily stopped the stretch as the home team won the first point back on the court, but CU took the next four to cut the deficit to five points.
After the Lions got to set point, a kill by Jaclyn Jordan and a block by the Red Boiling Springs, Tenn., native and Kaysi Arnold kept FHU at bay briefly, but the home team was able to close out the Bulldogs and headed to the fourth set with a 2-1 lead.
The fourth set was a back-and-forth affair with four lead changes and nine ties. The Bulldogs effectively used a timeout after giving up four straight points and falling behind 4-2. Following the break CU scored five of the next six, but FHU came back to take an 11-10 lead. Three straight points gave Cumberland the lead for good, although the Lions forced two other ties, the latest coming at 16-16.
Arnold paced the Bulldogs with a dozen kills, while Angelyn Stanton added 10. Rodriguez and Bowers had 14 and 12 digs, respectively. Taylor Denney contributed 24 assists and Gass finished with 18. Cumberland totaled 14 blocks, including seven solo. Stanton finished with six, while Arnold and Laura DeGear each added five.
The Bulldogs return to action Thursday as they continue conference play at Martin Methodist. CU also plays on the road next Tuesday at Union University before hosting rival Trevecca Nazarene a week from Thursday.