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Volleyball’s Win Streak Is Snapped

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Middlebury Volleyball Team

Middlebury Volleyball Team

Middlebury Athletics Communications

Middlebury Athletics Communications

Middlebury Volleyball Team

By JAKE TURTEL

This past weekend, the Middlebury volleyball vanquished Connecticut College on Friday, Oct. 6, before falling to Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 7, snapping a 10-match winning streak. The Panthers (12–3, 4–1) now sit at fourth in the Nescac standings.

In the weekend opener, the Camels did not provide a challenge, losing to the hosts in straight sets (25–13, 25–13, 25–10), which pushed Middlebury’s win streak was pushed to double digits.

In the first set, an attack error by the Panthers provided the Camels with the first point — the Panthers never trailed after that. After the Camels tied the set at 9, the Panthers went on a 14–2 run behind a plethora of kills courtesy of Eliana Schaefer ’18, Alice Roberts ’18, Sarah Staver ’19 and Isabel Sessions ’19.

The second set developed in a similar fashion, with the Camels winning the initial point, losing the lead, then knotting the score up at 9 only to have the Panthers go on a big run propelled by a barrage of kills.

With the last set underway, the Panthers no longer had any interest in making it seem like they might let the Camels hang around for another set. Middlebury quickly jumped out to an 8–3 lead behind two kills by Sessions and a couple of service aces by Gigi Alper ’20. The Camels won the next point, but it proved to be their real gasp of competitiveness of the day. Middlebury tacked on another long scoring streak (12–3) before Staver closed out the victory with a block.

Middlebury dominated the whole way, especially on defense, tallying 11 blocks, while the visitors could not manage to notch a single one. Staver led the way in the category with a phenomenal eight-block effort — Sessions tacked on four while Schaefer added three.

Becca Raffel ’18 led the offense with a match-high nine kills while Sessions put four shots away. Alper, with 10 digs, also added a match-high four service aces.

On Saturday, the team celebrated senior day, honoring Raffel, Schaefer, Roberts and Emily Kolodka ’18. However, team on the other side of the net was a hot Wesleyan team who came in 13–1 and undefeated in Nescac play. Middlebury’s 10-game win streak was snapped by the Cardinals, but not without a fight from the Panthers who let a 2–0 set advantage slip away. The Cardinals clawed their way back into the match after dropping the first two sets 25–19 and 25–11, winning a pair of 25–19 do-or-die victories before narrowly escaped Pepin with a 16–14 win in the rubber-match fifth set.

In a tight first set, tied at 13, the hosts put together a 5–1 run. The Cardinals managed to close the gap though to 21–19, but four straight home-team points that was capped by a Roberts kill down the line gave the Panthers a one-set-to-zero advantage.

The second set was not nearly as tight as the first. The hosts bounded out to an 8–4 lead and then won the next nine points. During the run, Staver and Roberts both recorded a pair of kills. Middlebury ended up winning handily, posting a sparkling .483 hitting percentage in the process.

The third set saw another mid-set tie, this time at 14. It was Wesleyan, however, that strung together the points this time, and the Panthers found themselves in a 21–15 hole, a point from which they never seemed to recover for the rest of the match. The fourth and fifth stanzas were not as close, despite what the scores indicate, as the Cardinals jumped out to early leads, held off Middlebury advances, ultimately handing the Panthers a loss.

Despite the loss, Raffel continued to dominate Nescac foes as she posted a season-best 21 kills. Schaefer, Roberts and Staver were also instrumental on the offensive, posting kill totals of 11, 11 and 12, respectively. Emma Walsh ’21, thriving when she is given playing time and opportunities, dished out a career-best 55 assists while also adding seven digs.

Even in a losing effort, the Panthers outhit the Cardinals .283 to .208 and managed to pile up more blocks, with 11 to Wesleyan’s seven.

With a weekend of mixed results, Raffel remains confident.

“This weekend was full of highs and lows,” Raffel said. “Connecticut College is a good team and we were able to stay focused and execute efficiently against them. The loss to Wesleyan was obviously disappointing, but I’m so proud of our composure throughout the match and we will hope to see them again down the road.”

The Panthers have a big couple of days ahead, as they travel to Medford, Maine, tomorrow to take on the Nescac front-running Tufts Jumbos in a rematch of last seasons Nescac tournament championship before heading to Brunswick, Maine, to face Bowdoin on Saturday.

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