Volleyball Wins Two, then Loses Two

By JAKE TURTEL

While the majority of Middlebury students were finishing unpacking and moving into their dorms, the volleyball team opened its 2017 season at the Union College Invitational. The Panthers started the invite strong with a straight-set win over Oneonta and a five-set nailbiter over Union, but dropped the second pair.

Middlebury started this season where it left off from last year with a straight-set victory over Oneonta (25–16, 25–17, 25–12). The Panthers started hot, going on an 8–1 run to open the weekend, and never trailed in the first two sets. They finished on a 9–2 tear to close the match. Co-captain Becca Raffel ’18 had a strong opener, netting a match-high 14 kills, while co-captain Sarah Staver ’19 converted 10 kills out of 11 opportunities. Gigi Alper ’20 contributed 11 digs and three service aces to help Middlebury blank Oneonta.

Middlebury dominated the stat sheet, winning the hitting percentage battle (.400 to .078), and recording more blocks (6–4), digs (37–27), and aces (9–4). With a total game time of just over an hour, the Panthers made quick work of their opponent.

Middlebury also took their second match of the day, beating host Union College by a margin of three sets to two (25–19, 25–22, 23–25, 20–25, 15–13). Middlebury went up two sets to none against Union before the hosts stormed back and won the next two sets; the Panthers were able to right the ship and put their opponents away in the fifth and final set. Once again, Raffel led the way with 20 kills to go along with 14 digs, while Alper pitched in 19 digs of her own. Eliana Schaefer ’18 and Isabel Sessions ’19 put up a dozen kills each. Although not as efficient as their first game’s mark, the Panthers once again obtained a higher hitting percentage than their opponent (.255 to .160). Both teams tied in digs with 71.

The second day, the script was flipped when the Panthers lost both matches by the same three-to-one score. The first time was against Stevens (24–26, 25–15, 26–24, 25–21). This time, Sessions led the squad in kills with 15, while Alper once again tallied a match high 19 digs. Co-captain Emily Kolodka ’18 finished just behind Alper, with 18 digs of her own. Chellsa Ferdinand ’20 was also a bright spot with 38 assists.

Against the College at Brockport later in the day, the Panthers fell in another tough match (25–20, 25–23, 23–25, 25–17). Continuing her dominant performance over the weekend, Raffel notched 12 each of kills and digs. When her second kill of the match hit the ground, she became the seventh Panther all-time to reach the 900-kill mark. Ferdinand finished the tournament strongly as well, contributing in every aspect (36 assists, eight digs, and three service aces). Although they couldn’t come away with the win, Middlebury has reason to be optimistic. They outperformed their opponents in hitting percentage (.252 to .243), blocks (nine to six), and digs (61 to 60).

While the tournament did not end as planned, the takeaways for the team were more positive than negative. Raffel, who was named to the all-tournament team after a 64-kill, 44-dig and five-service ace performance, had good things to say.

“The team showed a lot of really positive signs this weekend,” Raffel said. “Watching things come together for our first games of the season made us really excited for the season to come.”

What exactly is the goal?

A “repeat Nescac championship.”

The first steps come this Friday, Sept. 15, and Saturday, Sept. 16, as they travel to Amherst, Mass., to face the Mammoths, and then to New Haven, Conn., to face Trinity in their Nescac openers.

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.