Volleyball defeats Trinity, Amherst at home

Middle blockers Whitney Hitchcock ’10 and Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 leap above the net to block an Amherst spike.
Middle blockers Whitney Hitchcock ’10 and Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 leap above the net to block an Amherst spike.

Coming off its second place finish at the MIT Invitational tournament, volleyball (11-4, 3-0) looked to come out strong against NESCAC opponents Amherst and Trinity on Friday and Saturday following its defeat of Union on Wednesday. Thoroughly defending their home court, the Ephs were victorious in both of their matches to remain undefeated in the NESCAC.

The team struggled early on Saturday against Trinity and found the Bantams up 13-10 in the first set. Williams was able to battle back to tie the game at 15-15 before pushing hard to earn a 25-22 victory. In the second set, the Ephs leapt out to a quick 8-2 lead punctuated by a morale-boosting middle hit by Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11. After a brief Trinity rally, Williams locked the game down on cruise control, rolling to a 25-16 victory.

The Ephs continued their point scoring ways entering the third set, mixing it up offensively with the devastating combination of Ballon-Landa in the middle and Kate Anderson ’11 firing away on the outside. By keying in their blocking on Anderson (18 kills), however, the Bantams were able to keep the final game tight. Ultimately, the Ephs responded and rebalanced their attack to take a hard fought 25-23 victory.

The most emotionally charged match of the week was Friday night’s games against Amherst. Williams’ first-set woes arose again but through a series of scrappy defensive plays the team was able to rally to tie the score at 15-15. Ultimately, unforced errors proved the Ephs’ downfall, as they missed multiple serves down the stretch en route to a 23-25 defeat in the first set.

The second set looked to be more of the same, as both teams battled back and forth with neither side able to gain an advantage. The turning point in the set, and indeed in the entire match, occurred when captain Chelsea Kubal ’10 ran full speed off the court to save the ball and power the Ephs away from a 12-12 deadlock. The Ephs then steadily began to pull away, going on to take the set 25-15. Head Coach Christi Kelsey was particularly impressed with the play of her captain. “Chelsea’s been phenomenal for us right from the first day of practice,” Kelsey said. “She’s really stepped up her game and leadership on the court.”

In the third set the Ephs continued their momentum, running out to a 7-3 lead before the Jeffs came back to tie the score at 8-8. Williams’ middle attack was able to break the impasse, however, hitting with impunity to take the lead 14-10. Kelsey was pleased with the play of her middle hitters. “[They] did extremely well, they kept mixing up what they were running, and that was a credit to Emily [Avis ’11], whose decision making created a lot of one-on-one opportunities outside.” Avis finished the match with 58 assists.

One hitter taking advantage of these opportunities was Anderson, whose thunderous kill made it 17-12 as Williams cruised to another 25-15 victory. Anderson would tally a team high 26 kills during the match.

The fourth set went back and forth early before the Williams offense once again came alive, with monstrous kills by Ballon-Landa and Anderson taking the score to 14-12. Williams protected a slim lead as the game entered its final stage. Rallying behind clutch serving from Aly McKinnon ’12, the Ephs closed out the victory 25-20.

In the team’s home opener against Union on Wednesday Williams thoroughly overpowered its opponents en route to a dominant 3-0 victory (25-13, 25-17, 25-15). With their high-octane offense once again firing on all cylinders the Ephs were able to win two sets by double-digits, and at no point did the visitors threaten an upset. Kubal once again led the way for Williams, finishing the match with 12 kills and seven digs. The captain was named NESCAC player of the week.
With the Ephs currently leading the NESCAC, Kelsey seems upbeat yet cautious. “We have to continue to be consistent, as our conference [games] are battles night after night.” The women will face Wesleyan on Friday followed by Conn. College on Saturday. Both matches are away.

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