Volleyball sweeps opening tourney

Volleyball (4-0) dominated the season-opening Endicott Invitational Friday and Saturday, sweeping its matches 3-0 against Salve Regina, Plymouth State and Schreiner and later topping Endicott 3-1 in the final match of the tournament. 

On Friday, against Salve Regina, Claire Miller ’15 once again stepped up, recording a team-leading 15 kills in the women’s season opener. Amanda Schott ’15 tallied 33 assists in the 25-16 first-set win. The Ephs took the second set by a 25-17 margin and then punctuated a decisive match with a kill from Jen Borderud ’13 to finish with a 25-19 win. The women disposed of Salve Regina 3-0.

After falling down 7-0 early to Plymouth State, the women clawed back into the match. Aly McKinnon ’12 and Schott led the charge with three aces and Miller with two aces. Despite the early setback, the women snapped off a 26-24 win to take the first set. Emily Baratta ’14 helped carry the team the rest of the match, leading the women with 11 kills and only one error as the Ephs took the second and third sets by margins of 25-22 and 25-20, respectively.

The women opened Saturday, the second day of play, with a decisive victory over Schreiner. The first set saw the Ephs post a sparkling .419 hitting percentage on their way to 14 kills and only one error against the Mountaineers. Leading the women’s charge was Miller: The rookie pounded 12 kills in the women’s 25-17 first-set victory.

The women relied on their defense to pull out the second set. McKinnon took charge with 13 digs, while teammates Lauren Agoubi ’13 and Schott contributed eight digs to the effort and Miller came up with seven. The women’s strong defense propelled them to a 25-20 win in the second set. They continued to dominate in the third set, recording nine kills and zero errors en route to a 25-20 victory. The Ephs topped the Mountaineers 3-0 in the match.

The women’s match against Schreiner set the tone for the day, and with their signature offensive strength, the women kept Endicott off balance in the final match of the invitational. The Ephs erupted for an early 7-1 lead and pounded eight aces in the first set. Miller had a standout performance, serving up two of the aces and pacing the team with 19 kills. “Claire has, as do all of our first-years, a lot of potential,” Kelsey said. “She stepped it up in competition this weekend.”

Baratta backed up Miller’s dominance with an impressive 14 kills of her own. The women ultimately took the first set 25-13. Keeping the momentum strong, McKinnon recorded 22 digs in a 25-20 victory in the second set. The Ephs’ defensive effort in the second set would prove critical, as the Gulls came back to take the third set 25-19. The women rallied in the fourth set, however, snagging a 25-20 victory to round out the invitational undefeated with a 3-1 win in their final match.

“The strength of our offense starts with good ball control, and we had some of the most consistent passing I’ve seen in the first week of play. That helped our center to make good decisions, and we really have a lot of different options on offense,” Head Coach Christi Kelsey said.

The women will look to better last season’s performance, when the women fell to Middlebury in the NESCAC semifinals last year. The Ephs’ five rookies stepped up to take charge of the women’s game at the invitational, putting the team in good position to start the season. Meanwhile, the women lost four seniors: co-captains Emily Avis ’11, Kate Anderson ’11, Nicole Ballon-Landa ’11 and Eleanor Levine ’11. The women return six players, including co-captains Haley Egan ’12 and McKinnon.

“The mix of young and experienced players is a positive thing,” Kelsey said. “That showed throughout the weekend. We got some great leadership from our upperclassmen and returners, and adding youth and new people to the team brings positive energy.”

The women play at Vassar tonight at 7 p.m. and then take on Tufts and Conn. College at Conn. College on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Friday’s match will start at 6 p.m., and Saturday’s match will begin at 11 a.m.

“We have to focus on what we’re doing day to day and get better each time we step into the gym,” Kelsey said. “We have a lot of potential, but the NESCAC is always a tough challenge. We have a tremendous group of young women.”