BELMONT, N.C. -- Liam Maxwell tallied 17 kills and a .395 hitting percentage as Belmont Abbey battled league-leader Barton to the wire before falling 3-1 (25-27, 25016, 25-15, 25-23) in Conference Carolinas men's volleyball action on Saturday afternoon. The Crusaders became one of only three league teams to take a set from the Bulldogs in nine matches this year.
Belmont Abbey (6-10, 4-6) hit a respectable .200 in the contest, but Barton countered at .379, the third-highest total by an opponent this year. Brian Long added nine kills and a .389 percentage, while Brennan Davis dished out 32 assists. Rob Valentine and Davis added 13 and nine digs, respectively.
The opening set was tightly contested as there were 21 ties and 10 lead changes. Belmont Abbey led by two several times in the early going, the last at 6-4. Three straight points put Barton up 7-6, then the teams were tied at every point from 8-8 until 25-25, when a kill by William Morris and a Bulldog attack error put the Crusaders in the win column, 27-25. The Abbey outhit Barton .281 to .200 in the period, converting 75 percent of its sideout chances.
In the second and third sets, Barton showed why it was picked to repeat as conference champions, holding The Abbey to 16 and 15 points. The Bulldogs hit .516 in the second, then held the Crusaders to -.130 in the third. But the home team never quit despite trailing 10-6 early in the fourth. It tallied three of four points to cut a 16-12 deficit to 17-15, then later scored four in a row to tie the set at 21. The teams were tied at 22 when Barton used back-to-back kills to set up the first of two match points. Maxwell saved one, but the Bulldogs called timeout and answer for the 25-23 decision.
Belmont Abbey returns to action on Tuesday when it travels to Coker for a non-conference matchup.