Volleyball sweeps 3 conference foes

Volleyball’s win over Middlebury last Wednesday made Head Coach Fran Vandermeer the winningest volleyball coach in Williams College history with 219 wins. After surpassing former volleyball coach Pat Manning, Vandermeer then led the Ephs to conclude their regular season with a string of victories against conference opponents. Volleyball (24-7, 9-1 in the NESCAC) beat Wesleyan, Conn. College and Trinity during NESCAC weekend, increasing Vandermeer’s record to 222-59 in her eight years as head coach.

The Ephs ended their regular season and their sweep of the Connecticut NESCAC schools with a 3-0 (30-25, 30-27, 30-19) win over the Bantams on Saturday. The Ephs took control of the match from the start, jump-started by the confident quarterbacking of setter Emily Avis ’11 (45 assists, 11 digs). Alisha Cahlan ’10 (15 kills, two blocks) and Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 (13 kills, five blocks) were instrumental to the offensive attack. Melissa Pun ’10 (12 kills, 20 digs) and Whitney Hitchcock ’10 (five kills, three blocks) pitched in as well. Contributing valiant defensive efforts were Chelsea Kubal ’10 (19 digs) and co-captain Riki McDermott ’09 (12 digs).

“I thought we were consistent, and when Trinity would make a run, we would regroup. We were confident in each other,” Vandermeer said. “All our players served tough and gave us a lot of free ball opportunities, which we took advantage of.”

Earlier on Saturday Williams topped tournament host Conn. College. Conn. College, who handed top-ranked Amherst its only conference lost this season, were no match for the Williams squad. The Ephs dealt the Camels their first home loss, 3-0 (30-25, 30-17, 32-30). Strong blocking was key to the win, with Hitchcock (five blocks, seven kills), Cahlan (five blocks, 13 kills) and Ballon-Landa (two blocks, seven kills) sealing the front-row. Andrea Scioscia ’10 (two service aces, 10 digs), Pun (four service aces, 15 digs, eight kills) and Kubal (two service aces, 15 digs) unhinged the Camels with tough serving.

“This was a good match to start the day,” Vandermeer said. “Conn. College is a strong team on their home court, but we played with the intensity we’ve been expecting and played aggressive offensively.”

Williams began their final weekend of regular season play with a decisive win over Little Three rival Wesleyan, 3-0 (30-25, 30-19, 30-22). Cahlan recorded a team-high 16 kills and two blocks, while Pun produced an all-around effort (14 digs, nine kills) against the Cardinals. Ballon-Landa used her height effectively, putting up an impressive five blocks to go with her five kills. Kubal (14 digs) and Elle Levine ’11 (12 digs, five kills) again led the way on defense. “The blocking was consistent and we played good defense around our block,” said Vandermeer.

The Ephs’ successful week began with an exciting win at home Wednesday night against the Panthers, 3-1 (26-30, 33-31, 30-26, 30-19). Decked out in pink hair ribbons, pink shoelaces and pink armbands, the Ephs showed their support for the fight against breast cancer as part of their campaign “Williams Volleyball Aces for the Cure.” During October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Ephs have raised $3740 for the cause thanks to the donations of family, friends and fans.

“Knowing that our team was able to work together to raise money for a cause that affects so many relatives, friends and even teammates is an incredible feeling, and the response we have received is more than we could have asked for,” said Scioscia, who spearheaded the campaign. “This is a tradition we hope to carry on for many years.”

Despite the energy of the enthusiastic home crowd, which included many fans clad in pink apparel to show their support for the breast cancer campaign, the Ephs were stunned when the Panthers took the first game of the match 30-26. Williams regrouped and battled through a tough second game. Having established a rhythm on both offense and defense, the Ephs took the third and fourth games convincingly for the match victory.

During the match, the first-year tandem of Avis and Ballon-Landa stole the show. Ballon-Landa racked up a team-high 22 kills, while Avis recorded a season-high 60 assists and 17 digs. Cahlan contributed a breakthrough performance with 14 kills, while Hitchcock (17 digs, 11 kills), Pun (18 digs, 12 kills) and Kubal (13 digs, 11 kills) were strong all-around.

The successful late-season run has positioned Williams as second in the NESCAC standings, outranked only by Amherst (25-3, 9-1). With their top ranking, Amherst has received the number one seed and the honor of hosting the 2007 NESCAC championship. Williams’ No. 2 seed pits them against No. 7 Middlebury in the quarterfinal round, scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.

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