In the final tune-up before the end of conference play, volleyball (15-8, 5-2 in NESCAC) took second place at the Hall of Fame Invitational held last weekend at Smith College. The team would defeat cross-state foes Wellesley and Amherst in the quarter- and semi-finals before falling in the championship match to Tufts. With all of their opponents ranked in the top 25 in New England, the Ephs proved once again that they are a force to be reckoned with in the region.
The loss to Tufts (No. 1 in New England) on Saturday was particularly heart-wrenching as it marked the third time this season that the Ephs have failed to defeat the Jumbos. What was shaping up to become one of the greatest perennial NESCAC rivalries has now become fairly one-sided with the most recent defeat.
Williams was powered by Kate Anderson ’11 and her 11 kills, although with the lion’s share of balls going to their strong outside hitter, the Ephs’ attack became dangerously unbalanced. Whitney Hitchcock ’10 chipped in seven kills, while captain Chelsea Kubal ’10 was held to a season low of three. Despite fighting hard the team fell 3-0 (20-25, 21-25, 19-25).
Head Coach Christi Kelsey recognized how this loss hurt her team. “Obviously losing to Tufts again was disappointing,” she said. “We feel that we haven’t played our best yet against them. They are a tough team and you have got to respect how they play, but hopefully we will have another opportunity to battle with them again.”
Kubal echoed the view of her coach. “Our largest obstacle is ourselves, and it really doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the net as long as we are playing good volleyball on our side,” she said. “It is likely that we will play Tufts in the conference championship, but . . . after this weekend and our third loss to them this season, we are excited to come back and really play our best in the NESCAC tournament.”
By contrast, the team’s battles against traditional foe Amherst have turned into similarly one-sided affairs, but this time in favor of Williams. With their lopsided 3-0 victory (25-19, 25-16, 25-10) in the semifinals on Saturday, the Ephs have now beaten the Jeffs in four straight matches, including last year’s NESCAC Championship. The most recent victory came following Amherst’s quarterfinal upset over Springfield.
In the Amherst match, Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 led the team with an attack percentage of .500 on nine kills, while Anderson led the team with 13. Kubal proved her versatility by adding seven kills and a team leading 22 digs.
On Friday evening, Williams opened up the tournament with a routine drubbing of Wellesley, currently ranked No. 12 in New England. The match, a rematch of last season’s NCAA regional championship victory for the Ephs, saw Williams fly out to an early lead, winning the first set 25-11 before closing out the 3-0 win with two further set victories, 25-18 and 25-22.
The dominant win was driven nearly unilaterally by Williams’ ferocious offense, with Eleanor Levine ’11 posting a superior .778 attack percentage while throwing down seven kills. Anderson would once again lead the team with 12 kills while hitting .571. Andrea Scioscia ’10 added two service aces into the mix of offensive play. Anderson was recognized for her outstanding performances in all three matches by being named to the All-Tournament Team.
Although the team is excited for the future, it remains grounded in a mindset of patience and hard work. “We know we have a very talented group of players, and it is just a matter of fitting all of the pieces together and staying focused in the long haul that will really determine our success,” Kubal said. “Our goal is to play our best volleyball, and we know that along with that the wins will come.”
Volleyball will return to conference action against Middlebury at home today before traveling to Hamilton this weekend to close out the regular season against Bates and Colby.