Volleyball goes 3-0 to tie for first in conference

In a packed week of action, volleyball (18-8, 8-2 in NESCAC) beat NESCAC foes Middlebury, Bates and Colby en route to tying for first in the NESCAC and wrapping up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming conference tournament. Tufts garnered the No. 1 seed on tiebreakers.

On Saturday the women steamrolled Colby in an old-fashioned NESCAC beat-down, 25-9, 25-11 and 25-13. Many role players showed what they are capable of during the impressive victory. While Kate Anderson ’11 dominated per usual with 14 kills, rookie Haley Eagon ’13 tied three other Ephs for the second highest kill total with six, Brooke Johnson ’13 added two kills, and Lauren Agoubi ’13 and Mika Nagashike ’13 added two digs each.

“The freshmen were outstanding in the game against Colby,” captain Chelsea Kubal ’10 said. “They do represent the future, and this weekend was a glimpse of how promising that future is.”

The day before slaughtering the Mules, Williams competed against Bates, but the Bobcats never threatened an upset as the Ephs cruised to a 3-0 victory (25-15, 25-15, 25-18). The mental focus of the team was essential to avoid any hang-ups on their drive towards the tournament. Head Coach Christi Kelsey was proud of the way her team performed. “Our team as a whole did a great job of staying focused this weekend on the task at hand and respecting the play of both Bates and Colby,” she said. That respect, of course, translated into dominant wins for the Ephs. The team was lead offensively by Anderson’s 16 kills, followed by the 12 from Whitney Hitchcock ’10. Defensively Kubal and Andrea Scioscia ’10 each had 15 digs.

Last Wednesday before its game against Middlebury, volleyball held its Senior Night in Chandler Gymnasium, and friends and family came to celebrate the achievements of the Williams’ four seniors. Melissa Pun ’10, along with Hitchcock, Scioscia and Kubal, represent a class that has been one of the most successful in the history of the College. The seniors have picked up 99 wins and two NESCAC championships in their careers.

Against Middlebury, however, Williams struggled to find offensive consistency, allowing the Panthers to jump out to a 7-1 lead in the first set. They trailed for much of the match, and only were able to take the lead at 20-19 after the score had been tied. Anderson had three of her team leading 25 kills in a row to wrench control from the visitors, and, with the home crowd fired up, would then plant the ball off the face of a helpless Middlebury defender for set point, 25-22.
Williams attempted to keep the momentum going in set two, but struggled until Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 froze the Middlebury defense with two monstrous kills that blew the game wide open. Her efforts gave the Ephs an 11-5 lead and the team never looked back. A Middlebury rally closed the gap to five points at 20-15, but the Panthers would get no closer as the Ephs closed out the win 25-18.

With Anderson swinging hard on the outside Williams ran out to a 7-4 lead in the third set. Middlebury responded by keying in its blocking on the dual threat of Anderson and Ballon-Landa, limiting the potency of the Williams offense. Middlebury took its first lead of the set at 15-13.

Looking for an offensive answer the Ephs turned to Ballon-Landa, who shook off her earlier struggles to fire in three crucial kills. It would not be enough, however, as Middlebury pulled out a 25-22 victory. “Middlebury did a nice job of changing their matchup. . .they kept fighting throughout the entire match,” Kelsey said.
In the fourth set the Ephs stopped messing around, and Ballon-Landa was a defensive force in the middle with her blocking ability, stifling the Panthers’ attack. She led the team with five total blocks. Williams opened up a seven-point lead 21-14, and fittingly it was emotional leader Kubal who fired in the final kill to close out the win 25-16.

Up next on the women’s schedule is the NESCAC championships, and while both Kelsey and Kubal profess that the Ephs considers themselves the underdog going into the tournament, as Kelsey gamely states: “People still have to stop us.” Clearly the team fears no one as they head into their first round matchup against Bowdoin at Tufts this Friday. The championship will be Sunday.