Volleyball subdues Bowdoin, falls to Tufts

Melissa Pun '10 and Nicole Ballon-Landa '11 rise up for a block in the team's win over Bowdoin.
Melissa Pun ’10 and Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 rise up for a block in the team’s win over Bowdoin.

In a busy week and a half of action, volleyball (13-7, 5-2 in the NESCAC ) went 2-3 against some of the strongest competition the team has faced this year. Ranked No. 2 in New England at press time, the women appear poised to close out the regular season strongly and drive deep into postseason play.

On Saturday the team looked to avenge its early season loss to regional powerhouse Tufts, currently ranked No. 1 in New England. The Ephs previously fell to the Jumbos in the finals of the MIT Invitational and were again unable to claim victory Saturday, despite taking a competitive first set from their opponents.

The team was driven offensively by Kate Anderson ’11 and Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11, who threw down 19 and 11 kills respectively. At the same time, however, Tufts was able to register 8.5 team blocks and had an astonishing 98 digs en route to their four set victory, limiting the effectiveness of the potent Williams offense. Tufts ended up winning 16-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-13.

The setback came after an important conference win over Bowdoin (15-8, 4-4) earlier on Saturday. The scrappy Polar Bears clawed the first set away from the Ephs 25-17 before the women were able to refocus and pull off three successive set victories, 25-18, 25-19, 25-17. Anderson once again proved a force to be reckoned with, leading the team with 25 kills. Averaging over 4.5 kills per set, she currently leads both her team and the NESCAC in that category.

Williams has enjoyed much success due to its balanced attack philosophy that allows multiple hitters to have the opportunity to contribute. This was evident on Oct. 14 against SUNY New Paltz, when the Ephs had three hitters register double digit kills: Anderson, Ballon-Landa and Eleanor Levine ’11. Despite battling hard, however, Williams lost the match 3-1 (21-25, 25-19, 19-25, 23-25). Setter Emily Avis ’11 dished out 46 assists in the match, in addition to chipping in 17 digs, second only to the 18 posted by captain Chelsea Kubal ’10.

On Oct. 10, the team knocked off Conn. College, currently ranked No. 6 in the region, in three sets to go 25-20, 25-18, 25-15. Seven different players registered kills in the match, showcasing the tremendous depth that Williams has along its front line. Aly McKinnon ’12 further led the way to victory for the Ephs by serving six aces, while Avis added three.

The result against Conn. College came on the heels of a heartbreaking five-set loss to Wesleyan the day before (24-26, 25-16, 18-25, 25-21, 14-16).

Despite the setbacks of the past week, Head Coach Christi Kelsey remains optimistic about the team’s future. “Our goal each and every day is to continuously improve and raise our game to another level,” she said. “While we are all competitors and don’t like losing, sometimes the most important lessons you can learn as a team come from a loss. We have to regroup and go forward.”

The Ephs, with their talent-loaded roster, appear eager to continue and hit back the teams that have beaten them. Kubal is quick to note how the team has yet to reach their full potential, stating, “Our best is yet to come . . . We have no limit.”

With emotions certain to run high, Kubal insists that the team is committed to the principles and work ethic that have gotten them this far. “The harder we continue to work on our game and our system, the better we will become,” she said.

“I am confident in our team that we have the mental toughness to learn from these losses and turn them into a growth opportunity for us for the future,” Kelsey added.

The Ephs will certainly be provided with an opportunity to turn the tables on their opponents as they travel next weekend to the Hall of Fame Invitational at Smith College, where the top eight teams in New England will be present to compete.

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