Columbia, Ky. – The Southeastern Challenge, a NAIA event showcasing talent from varying conferences throughout the Southeast, lived up to its name as the Bryan Lions Volleyball Team closed out the two-day outing (Sept. 1-2) without a win. On Friday, the Lions saw talented sides in The Sun Conference foe Webber University (Fla.) and Mid-South Conference powerhouse, 19th-ranked Georgetown College (Ky.). The Lions battled but came up short against the Warriors 11-25, 18-25, and 16-25 before falling to the Tigers in straight sets 14-25, 7-25, and 14-25. Bryan hoped to bounce back on the last day of the challenge, but Southern States Athletic Conference opponents Martin Methodist College (Tenn.) (18-25, 11-25, 16-25) and Bethel University (Tenn.) (20-25, 23-25, 17-25) kept the Lions without a set win with two sweeps. The four losses through both days dropped Bryan's overall record to 1-8. The lone win came in their season opener at home on Aug. 25 during the first day of the Bryan Bash when the Lions downed Bethel in a thrilling five-set victory.
Webber currently owns a 5-2 record with their only loss of the challenge coming against Campbellsville University (Ky.) when the Tigers recorded the sweep. As Bryan and Webber got underway in the first match of the Southeastern Challenge, the first set remained close until midway through. Jennifer Keck (SO/Knoxville, Tenn.) assisted Hope Burnett (SR/Asheville, N.C.) to bring the Lions within three points at 10-7, but the Warriors responded with a 7-0 run to go ahead 17-7. A kill by Mariah Dunlop (JR/Bradenton, Fla. ) broke up the run, but Bryan could only produce three more points coming off a combined block by Janie Smith (SO/Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Burnett, attack error by Webber, and a kill by Emalie Hicks (SO/Calhoun, Ga.) as the Warriors took set one 25-11. Tied 13-13 in the second set, an attack error by Webber and a two-person stuff from Burnett and Smith gave the Lions a 15-13 edge. The Warriors were not thrown off their game as they pieced together six unanswered points and never looked back, cruising to a 25-18 second set win. The third set was all Webber as the team from the Sunshine State gained a comfortable 21-7 advantage. Bryan was able to rally late, but the comeback effort wasn't enough as the Warriors got the sweep with a final set score of 25-16.
Bryan hit .101 for the match and compiled 21 kills, while Webber registered a .233 and 43 kills. Dunlop led the way for the Lions with six kills and Hicks followed with five. Bryan's assists leader was Veronica Salas (JR/Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) with 11, and Keck aided with six. The Lions had two finish with double-digit digs; Rheagan Kean (FR/Chattanooga, Tenn.) scooped up a team-high 14 and Salas ended with 12.
To end play on the first day of the challenge for Bryan, the Lions went head-to-head with the No. 19 team in the country, Georgetown Tigers. Bryan hoped to use the experience already gained this season to their advantage against Georgetown since the Tigers had yet to see regular-season action, but the top-ranked opponent showed their abilities with a 7-0 run to get the first set underway. Bryan settled down and began to chip away at the deficit, eventually slimming the margin to 14-10, but the Lions would be allowed to score only four more points as Georgetown went ahead 1-0 with a first set win 25-14. The second set went the Tiger's way early with a 10-2 difference, and the Lions were able to notch only five more scores as Georgetown held Bryan to their only single-digit set of the season so far, 25-7. The Lions were fazed by the second set and couldn't keep focus in the third set as the Tigers turned in the sweep with a last score of 25-14.
Georgetown began their season with a statement, hitting 48 kills and a .429 compared to Bryan's 14 kills and negative attack percentage. Burnett led Bryan with four kills, both Brooke Stowell (SR/Knoxville, Tenn.) and Salas set up for six assists apiece, and Kean had a team-high 10 digs. The Tigers also won the block count 7-1.
Dating back to 2005, the RedHawks of Martin Methodist and the Lions have met only a total of five times on the volleyball court. Unfortunately for Bryan, the RedHawks got the advantage in the record with a sweep of the Lions at the challenge, moving the overall record between the two to 2-3 in favor of Martin Methodist. 20 ties proves how close the first set between the two went, but at 16-16 the RedHawks soared away with the win following a 9-2 run for a 25-18 final. Martin Methodist kept Bryan at bay in the second set, going up by as much as 21-9. The Lions managed to secure double-digits with the help of a ball handling error by the RedHawks and a kill by Hicks as Martin Methodist took the second set 25-11. Bryan looked to force the match into four sets as the third set unfolded, but the Lions lost momentum as the RedHawks went up 19-9 and finished Bryan off 25-16 for the win.
Bryan's numbers improved against Martin Methodist as they amassed 27 kills and a .099 attack percentage. The RedHawks were able to complete 37 kills and a .303, which proved the difference maker. Hicks landed in double-digit kills with 11, Dunlop trailed with six, and Burnett slid in with five. Salas led in assists with 10, and Keck aided with nine. The team's leader in digs was Kean with 16, while Dunlop also helped with digs totaling 10.
The Lions were set on bettering Bethel for the second time this year, but the Wildcat's Jessyca Watson helped hand Bryan their fourth loss via sweep in a row as she put away 17 kills and hit a blistering .361. Burnett led the Lions in kills during the last match with seven while Dunlop, Hicks, and Stowell all registered six kills, respectively. Salas helped successfully assist on 14 of those kills, and Kean notched the most digs on the team with 20. Salas turned in a notable performance by adding 16 digs.
Bryan led Bethel 20-19 in the first set, but a kill by the Wildcats leveled the score 20-20. Bethel's Brooke Burress handled the pressure and helped the Wildcats to two of their most significant points of the match with back-to-back aces. The serves rattled the Lions as Bethel went up early 1-0 with a first set final 25-20. Bryan fell behind 7-1 to start the second set, but the Lions were patient and managed to get their only tie of the set at 23-23. A kill by the Wildcats and attack error by the Lions was all it took for Bethel to take a 2-0 edge with a 25-23 second set win. The third set looked like a repeat of the second set as Bethel battled for an early 7-1 advantage, but this time Bryan was unable to construct a few runs and lost the set 3-0 with a third set score of 25-17.
The Lions will not focus on the testing start to the season, but instead will turn their attention to Sept. 7 when they open up Appalachian Athletic Conference play at Tennessee Wesleyan University at 6:30pm.
To view the full 2017 volleyball schedule, click here.