Ephs topple Jumbos, clinch NESCAC Championship

PHOTO couRtesy of SPORTS INFORMATION Volleyball defeated Tufts in the NESCAC Championship match last Sunday 3-2 to clinch the women’s second-straight title.
Volleyball defeated Tufts in the NESCAC Championship match last Sunday 3-2 to clinch the women’s second-straight title.

Volleyball (25-4, 8-2 in the NESCAC) continued its conference dominance, clinching its second-in-a-row NESCAC Championship title – its 11th overall – by defeating Tufts in the finals last Sunday 3-2, by scores of 25-20, 22-25, 25-23, 23-25 and 15-13. On Saturday, the women defeated archrival Amherst in the semifinals 3-0, by scores of 25-23, 25-19 and 25-21. On Friday, the women took down Hamilton in the opening round of the NESCAC tournament 3-2, with scores of 25-11, 25-20, 23-25, 28-30 and 15-12.

Last Friday, Williams opened its first NESCAC championship match against Hamilton with two consecutive kills from Tori Jasuta ’17 and Catherine Egan ’16. A serving streak from setter Ryan Farley ’16 gave the Ephs an astounding 10-point run, earning three service aces and dishing out four kills before the Continentals earned a side-out, leaving the score at 21-7. A final kill from Raea Rasmussen ’15 clinched the first set for the Ephs, 25-11.

The Continentals took off in the second set with an early lead over the Ephs, 9-6. A service ace from Amanda Schott ’15 followed by a quick middle kill from Katherine Lane ’16 brought the teams to a tie, 9-9. Later in the set, the score was tied once again at 20-20 thanks to a service ace from captain Claire Miller ’15. Farley dished out a set to Miller and, after finishing with a six-point run, Williams took the second set, 25-20.

The Ephs had a slow start in the third set, following behind the Continentals early on – a lead they would not relinquish. Though the women fought throughout the set, a final attack error gave Hamilton the third set, 23-25.

The fourth set saw another slow start from the Ephs. Williams pressed on late in the set to earn five points, tying the score for the first time at 21-21, forcing another time-out from Hamilton. Nerves heightened as the tied score reached 28, and Hamilton pushed for the final two points, earning two kills and overcoming the women, 28-30.

Williams again started a bit behind in the fifth set, but quickly regrouped to gain the lead, 4-3 over Hamilton. A service ace from Emily O’Day ’15 followed by a quick kill from Rasmussen pushed the Ephs ahead, 6-3, and two kills from Jasuta, followed by her service ace, brought the Ephs to game point, 14-11. A vengeful swing from Rasmussen hit center court for the final point, winning the final set 15-12 and earning the Ephs their first win of the weekend, advancing them to the semifinal round to face off against their archrival Jeffs.

On Saturday, the Ephs trailed by three at the start of their first set against the Jeffs, when setter Farley earned an ace off of a let serve to tie the score at 7-7. A 6-1 run from Amherst increased the point deficit until the score reached 19-12. Good decisions by Eph pin hitters squeezed the deficit late in the set to two points, 22-20. The Jeffs attempted to quell the Ephs’ advances with a time-out at 23-22, but Jasuta delivered a service ace to tie the score at 23. Miller gave the Ephs their first lead of the set at game point, and another service ace from Jasuta won the first set 25-23.

Another slow start saw the Ephs down 5-2 in the start of the second set, but smart ball placement from Farley and Jasuta tied the score at 8-8. Two consecutive service aces from Jasuta took the Ephs to 18-14, and they broke 20 with clever net play, forcing Amherst to call time-out at 20-16. A Jeff error put the Ephs at game point, and a smart cross kill from Jasuta claimed the second set, 25-19.

Williams took the early lead in the beginning of the third set, thanks to kills from Rasmussen, Lane and Miller. The Ephs played the court, mixing short tips and deep corner placement to climb ahead, 20-16. Amherst called a time-out and fought back with a three-point run, forcing the women to call their own time-out at 21-19. Jasuta dealt two kills coming out of time-out, and Miller avoided the block to bring the Ephs to match point. Egan pounded down an over-pass to claim the final set, 25-21, sending the women to the NESCAC Championship game against No. 1  Tufts.

Williams entered the NESCAC championship title match with the fiery momentum from their semi-final win, raking up a 7-1 lead over Tufts at the start of the first set. An 8-4 run from the Ephs set the score at 16-10, thanks to several kills from Jasuta and Lane. Miller and Rasmussen swung the hammer to push the Ephs’ score to 21-16 late in the set. The Ephs reached game point with a kill from Lane, and a final smash to center court from Jasuta clinched the first set, 25-20.

This time, Tufts started the set with an early lead, gathering five points before the Ephs pulled an 8-1 run to set the score at 10-6, Williams. A solid 11-2 run from the Jumbos pressured the Ephs into a time-out with the score at 19-14, but Tufts continued to push their score to 22-17, despite powerful hits from the Eph front line. A final kill from the Jumbos claimed the second set, 25-22.

Several lead exchanges alternated with a tied score in the third set, but a back row attack from Jasuta followed by a service ace from Schott set the Ephs two points ahead early on, 8-6. An Eph error put the score at 22-18, yet the Jumbos managed a 4-1 run, pinching the Ephs’ lead to 23-22. The final rally was a scramble for both teams, with the Jumbos being unable to keep it alive, giving the Ephs the third set, 25-23.

Tufts started hot in the fourth set, quickly gaining a 10-5 lead. Kills from Egan and Rasmussen late in the set shrank the Ephs’ deficit to one point at 19-18, and allowed them to eventually tie the score at 21-21. However, a final kill from Maddie Kuppe gave Tufts the fourth set, 25-23.

As the championship match entered the fifth set, the Ephs started strong with a service ace from Schott, but the Jumbos tied the score at 4-4. In a back and forth set, the Jumbos cut the Eph lead to one point at 14-13, but the Jumbos could not control a cleverly placed tip from the Ephs, surrendering the championship point, 15-13.

This marks the second year in a row that the women have won the NESCAC Championship title, and they own a conference-best 11 titles overall.

“I am so proud of everyone on this team and everything we accomplished last weekend,” Miller said. “Everyone is fired up to host regionals for a second year in a row and to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.”