Volleyball Gets Sixth-Seed in Nescacs

By JAKE TURTEL

The volleyball team dropped their final two contests of their regular-season slate last Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27 and 28, falling short in two close calls on the road against Hamilton and Williams. With the pair of losses that went to five sets, the Panthers dropped to 16–8 (5–5) and grabbed the sixth-seed in next weekend’s Nescac Championships.

Against the Continentals, the Panthers snatched a 2–1 set lead but were eventually defeated (20–25, 25–22, 25–21, 12–25, 10–15) in five sets. In the opening set, the Panthers quickly jumped out to a 5-0 lead, which included two kills by Isabel Sessions ’19 (both assisted on by Gigi Alper ’20). On a service ace, Hamilton was able to even the set at 10 before Middlebury put together a run; down 13–17, Hamilton clawed their way back and, after knotting the score at 20 apiece, took the first set by rattling off the last five points.

In the second set, the Panthers again knocked off the first five points en route to an 11-3 advantage. The hosts came back to make it 14–10, but two Becca Raffel ’18 kills sparked another run. When Hamilton once again cut the deficit to four, a joint block by Eliana Schaefer ’18 and Sarah Staver ’19 earned Middlebury the set.

The third set was a back and forth affair, seeing Hamilton jump out to an early lead but the Panthers, showing their grit, stole the lead at 14–13 and never looked back. Down 9-13, Raffel killed a shot and the visitors earned the next seven points. Up 16–13, the Continentals again dwindled the lead to one, but kills by Schaefer, Staver, and Sessions prevented a comeback, and a Raffel kill gave Midd the set.

During the fourth and fifth sets, however, Middlebury made a strong showing but was unable to pull through with a victory. Schaefer saw a career-high 15 kills, Raffel recorded her 11th double-double on the year (14 kills, 15 digs) along with three service aces, and Alper dug out 29 balls. Nonetheless, the Continentals took the victory in the end.

The following day, Middlebury ended their regular season at Williams College, falling 3–2 (21–25, 25–11, 21–25, 25–16, 10–15).

In the opening set, the Ephs gained control after a 5–5 tie. The Panthers were able to tie the game at 21, but Williams took the next four points and the game.

In the second, however, the Panthers gained control early behind a ten-point run to open the set. The Ephs cut the lead to seven but Middlebury responded with another run of their own.

Up 23–10, Williams won the next point before the Panthers won the next two to even the match.

The third saw a close match until 19–15, advantage Middlebury, at which point Williams stormed back to take control and win the game. Subsequently, the Panthers forced a deciding set in a back and forth affair. At 13–13 Middlebury pulled away, going on a 12–3 run to win the set and even the match.

The ultimate set was once again a battle until Williams eventually took control and clinched the match. While the results were not ideal, there were bright spots. In a closely fought battle, Middlebury out-hit Williams (.257 to .178) and blocked more shots (9-to-2). Sessions was splendid, racking up a career high 23 kills while hitting .413. Emma Walsh ’21 pitched in 44 assists and 17 digs.

Even with the losses, the Panthers are not fazed. Emily Kolodka ’18 says, “We’re going to work on making smarter shots, giving maximum effort every point, and showing up ready to play for each game. We knew at the beginning of the season that there were multiple pathways to achieve our goal of Conference Champions, so our seed doesn’t worry us right now.”

As the sixth seed, Middlebury draws the tough opponent No. 3-seeded Bowdoin next weekend in the first step on their way to, hopefully, another conference title crown.

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