Volleyball (23-9) looked to keep its dream season alive as the women traveled once again to Tufts University for the NCAA regional finals. Despite convincing wins over Emerson and UMass Boston in the quarter and semifinals respectively, the Ephs were unable to pull out of the Sweet 16 in the championship match, falling to the Jumbos for the fourth time this year 3-0 (13-25, 16-25, 23-25).
The Ephs struggled defensively early on against their archrivals, as the Jumbos were able to run out to an 8-3 lead. The Tufts offense relied on mostly short tips to catch the Williams defense in transition; in contrast the Ephs’ high-powered offense was severely blunted by Tufts’ scrappy defense and tough block.
Offensive leader Kate Anderson ’11 was held to only 13 kills in the match, as the Eph offense hit at a rate of only .061 in the first set, well below the season’s average of .233. With their offense floundering and defense struggling to find an answer to the Tufts attack, the women would limp to a 13-25 defeat.
In set two, the Ephs looked to turn the tables, and although they adjusted somewhat defensively, they still found themselves trailing throughout the early stages. Despite showing brief glimpses of the brilliance that got them to this stage in the tournament, by the time Tufts had opened up a 17-11 lead it was a case of too little too late as the Jumbos scored a 25-16 victory.
The Ephs dug in for a battle in set three. The team was able to jump out to its first lead of the match in the opening few points and knotted the score at 13-13 following a Tufts rally.
A long service run by Tufts libero Audrey Kuan would seem to put the game out of reach, but Williams once again fought back, displaying the tenacity and commitment that garnered the team the NESCAC championship a week earlier. Back-to-back kills by Anderson would bring the Ephs to within one point at 22-23, although Tufts then sealed off the 25-23 victory.
“Tufts played a mistake free match and we were one step off our game for most of the night,” said Head Coach Christi Kelsey. “We kept fighting but could never really turn the table and get ourselves completely back into it.”
One day earlier, the Ephs had exacted a measure of revenge against UMass Boston, avenging an early season loss by dominating the Beacons 3-1 (25-16, 15-25, 25-21, 25-22). Anderson lead the team in kills once again with 17, while Whitney Hitchcock ’10 added in another nine as well as five blocks. Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 had eight kills to go along with five blocks. Defensively, captain Chelsea Kubal ’10 had 17 digs, while Andrea Scioscia ’10 had 15.
Williams outplayed the overmatched Emerson team to a quick 3-0 victory (25-22, 25-14, 25-16) in the quarterfinals. In total, five Ephs had over five kills, showcasing once again the tremendous depth along their offensive front. Anderson and Ballon-Landa each had four blocks in the victory.
While the loss to Tufts may have been disheartening, it does not take away from the tremendous success that the team has enjoyed this season.
In their final season the four Williams seniors, Melissa Pun ’10, along with Hitchcock, Scioscia and Kubal, all stepped up to represent one of the top graduating classes at Williams. All four were selected to the NEWVA Senior Classic, held at UMass Boston on Sunday.
This set off a veritable slew of postseason awards for the team, as Anderson and Ballon-Landa were named to the NEWVA All New England first team while Emily Avis ’11 was named to the second team. Anderson and Ballon-Landa were also named to the NESCAC All Conference first team, with Avis named to the second team. Both Avis and Ballon-Landa were named to the AVCA all region team.
In the end, the team can look back on a successful season, one marked by adversity that they gamely faced, and beat, in winning NESCACs. “I am very proud of our team for the . . . season. You can’t take for granted being in the NCAA tournament and playing in our conference championship,” said Kelsey. “Those are special moments that this year’s team earned and fought for.”