Panthers end volleyball’s season

Volleyball (17-13, 6-4 in the NESCAC) saw its season end at the NESCAC semifinals this weekend. After dropping Bowdoin 3-0 in the quarterfinals on Friday, the women fell 3-0 to Middlebury on Saturday.

Middlebury ended the women’s season in a 3-0 dismissal on Saturday afternoon. The match looked promising early on, as Williams jumped out to 9-6 lead in the beginning of the first set. The Panthers, however, overcame the Ephs for a 19-17 lead and an eventual 25-22 first set win. Co-captain Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 led the women with an attack average of .545 on the set.

The second set was more of the same, as Middlebury and Williams were neck-and-neck until the Panthers pulled ahead 18-15. The Panthers closed out the set up 25-19 and, despite an Eph rally in the third set, claimed the 3-0 victory with a 25-22 score.

“The Middlebury match was a tough one, and we had some opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of at times, but I give a lot of credit to Middlebury as they have a talented team and worked hard to win their first NESCAC title since 1998,” Head Coach Christi Kelsey said.

A decisive 3-0 victory over Bowdoin on Friday launched the women into the NESCAC semifinals. The women dropped the NESCAC No. 3 seed in a blowout match. Williams claimed the first set 25-21 after six kills from Ballon-Landa and four more from Haley Eagon ’13. While the Polar Bears initially took an early lead in the second set, the Ephs rebounded from a 4-1 deficit to steamroll their way to a 25-14 win and a 2-0 lead on the match. An early Williams lead in the third and final set withstood a Bowdoin onslaught to preserve the women’s advantage. They closed out the final set of the match 25-22 to advance to the NESCAC semifinals.

“Our team had a tremendous match Friday night against Bowdoin. It was a total team effort across the board against a very strong Polar Bear team,” Kelsey said. ”We executed offensively, but more importantly, I think our defense stepped up in a big way.”

After Saturday’s match, Middlebury advanced to the NESCAC finals on Sunday in order to play Tufts for the championship. Middlebury dropped Tufts 3-1 in the finals and has earned an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament.

The end of the tournament marks the end of the women’s season. The team will graduate its four co-captains this spring: Ballon-Landa, Emily Avis ’11, Eleanor Levine ’11 and Kate Anderson ’11.

“Our four seniors have been an outstanding class both on and off the court, and their impact on the program over their four years is immeasurable,” Kelsey said. “These four are tremendous students, athletes and overall people, and it has been an absolute pleasure to have them as part of our program.”

Despite the final result, Kelsey sees this season as a positive one for the squad. “Looking beyond our overall record, the season as a whole was a good one,” she said. “We went up against the best teams in our region and our country and performed well. I do think this team battled night in and night out every week.”

The team is already looking ahead to next season. “We will have a strong, experienced core of players returning,” Kelsey said. “Our biggest strengths will be our overall team chemistry and the work ethic. Each year brings with it new challenges and experiences, but I think this returning group will be hungry and energized to return to the court next fall.”

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