Volleyball opens NESCAC play 2-1

Volleyball (5-3, 2-1 in the NESCAC) endured a gut-check of a weekend as the team traveled to Conn. College for its first NESCAC matchup of the year. The mental strength that the women hope will become their trademark this year was in play as Williams battled hard to come back and defeat Trinity and Wesleyan on Saturday after falling to host Conn. College in a heartbreaker the previous night.

Williams fought hard to dig itself out of a deficit after spotting Trinity a one set lead, falling 19-25 in the first set. The women took the next two sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-17, respectively. The Ephs depended on the strong swings of co-captain Kate Anderson ’11 to start the comeback, as she hit seven of her team-leading 16 kills in sets two and three. Down 10 points in set four, the Ephs dug deep to complete their come-from-behind victory, with Aly McKinnon ’12 sparking the Ephs’ resurgence with a series of impressive digs. McKinnon would finish the match with 22 out of the team’s 85 digs, second on the team only to Anderson’s final tally of 23. The Ephs pulled out a gritty win in the trenches in what Head Coach Christi Kelsey described as an “important rebound match,” fighting hard to prove their superiority over the upstart Bantams.

Earlier on Saturday, the women soundly thumped Wesleyan 3-0 (27-25, 25-19, 25-20). The Ephs relied on the steady middle hitting of co-captain Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11, as she cannoned home nine kills on 21 attempts for a hitting percentage of .300. Rookie Emily Doll ’14, ably filling in the second middle hitter slot opposite Ballon-Landa, added a further three kills while hitting a perfect 1.000. Also providing a strong contribution was co-captain Eleanor Levine ’11, who hit .667 with six kills on nine attempts. Co-captain Emily Avis ’11 facilitated the Williams offense, dishing out 33 assists overall to her teammates.

Saturday’s successes followed a grueling five-set loss to Conn. College on Friday night, as the team faced its most hostile road environment yet. In front of a raucous and sometimes belligerent crowd, the Ephs stormed out of the gates to take a quick one-set lead, ending the first set up 25-18 behind the tough swings of their workhorse Anderson. Anderson led the team with 24 kills on a staggering 53 attempts for an attack average of .415 in what soon degenerated into an all-out offensive barrage between the two teams. Williams, however, went on to drop the next two sets by close scores of 17-25 and 22-25. The women refused to roll over following these setbacks, digging deep to close out a close fourth set 28-26, temporarily silencing the crowd.

The team leaned heavily on the shoulders of their two outside hitters Anderson and Emily Baratta ’14, who would finish second on the team with 11 kills in 37 attempts for the night, good for an attack average of .270. Baratta further chipped in 15 digs, trailing behind McKinnon’s team-leading 23. The Ephs rallied from an early 8-6 deficit in the fifth set and seemed on the verge of silencing the crowd for good before falling short, dropping the set 16-14.

Despite the tough loss, the team has a lot to be proud of in the way it performed over the weekend after notching two key conference wins. “This year [the conference] is definitely deeper than it ever has been,” Kelsey said. “All 11 teams have a chance to win on any given night.”

Williams easily dispatched visiting Vassar 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-19) in the non-conference home opener last Tuesday. The women will take a short break from conference play as they travel to the MIT Invitational in Boston this weekend, where they will be outside favorites to win the whole tournament.

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