LEBANON, Tenn. – Samantha Bellar recorded her first career double-double, while Kaysi Arnold and Angelyn Stanton combined for 28 kills, but the trio’s effort couldn’t stop a Union University comeback as Cumberland University dropped its regular season finale to the TranSouth Conference champions, 3-2 (25-17, 25-15, 12-25, 22-25, 8-15), Thursday night at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.
Cumberland (22-11, 8-6) finishes the regular season tied for fourth in the TranSouth league and will be the fifth seed in the TranSouth Championships, which begin Monday in Henderson. The Bulldogs face Martin Methodist at 9 a.m.
It was a tale of two halves against Union (22-7, 13-1) as CU dominated the first two sets, winning both easily before the visiting Bulldogs showed exactly why they are the top seed heading into the conference tournament.
Trailing early in the first set, Cumberland strung together three straight points to go up 5-2 and the homestanding Bulldogs never looked back, eventually using a 4-1 run to stretch their lead to five points. During the run, CU got kills from Laura DeGear and Arnold – both off Meghan Gass assists – and a service ace from Brooke Bowers.
After the visitors answered with a stretch of 5-1, Cumberland exploded for four straight points and six of the next seven to create some distance. CU closed out the set on Arnold’s third kill of the set. Stanton, who closed out the night with 13 kills, had a team-leading five in the opening set.
Cumberland hit .344 in the first period and came out even stronger in the second. CU started with Taylor Denney assisting on an Arnold kill and after Union tied the set at two apiece, Arnold put Cumberland on top for good with another kill. The sophomore from Greenbrier, Tenn., totaled a team-high 15 kills.
Holding onto a two-point lead, CU started a stretch of eight of 10 points, including the first five. Union ended the stretch with a kill but never got any closer than seven points as the home team continued building to the lead.
Cumberland’s first double-digit advantage came at 22-12 on a kill by Bellar, who finished with 13 kills and 10 digs. The senior was named the Music City Star of the Game.
The third set saw CU make a complete 180 from the unit that hit .517 in the second period as the Bulldogs committed 11 attack errors and hit negative .027.
Trying to quickly halt any momentum that Union was building in the third set, Cumberland head coach Dwayne Deering took a timeout when the visitors took a 2-0 lead. The move didn’t work out as UU kept Cumberland at bay, stretching the set-opening lead out to 10-3.
From there CU scored three straight points, starting with a kill from Bellar and ending with Jessica Gericke’s kill. That stretch, however, was the only time during the period that Cumberland was able to string together more than one point in a row.
CU looked to have the match back under control as it won the first three points of the fourth set and led 4-1 before Union forced ties at 4-4 and 5-5. The visitors took the lead on the next point and Cumberland turned around to tie the set again before Union ripped off four straight points to take the lead for good.
Cumberland rallied toward the end of the period, but a six-point lead was too much to overcome. CU trailed 23-17 before scoring five of the next six to shrink the deficit to two, but a Union kill forced a fifth set.
In the final period, Union scored first and jumped out to a 5-2 lead, forcing CU to take a timeout. Out of the break, Mackenzie Gass recorded one of her five kills before Union scored again. Back-to-back points – on kills by Mackenzie Gass and Bellar – made it a one-point game until Union tallied two points to make it 8-5 when the teams switched sides.
CU got within a point two more times – at 8-7 and 9-8 – but the visitors powered their way to the victory with six straight points to close it out.
Denney recorded 26 assists, while Meghan Gass totaled 23. Jaclyn Rodriguez collected a game-high 18 digs, while Brooke Bowers added 10.