Volleyball falls to Wesleyan, defeats Connecticut College, Smith

Rachel Neugart

Volleyball (14–8, 5–3 NESCAC) fell to Wesleyan (18–2, 8–1 NESCAC) in three sets on Friday but notched wins over Connecticut College (7–14, 0–9 NESCAC) in a 3-0 game and Smith (6–2) in a 3-2 five set game the next day. 

The close match against Wesleyan ended in three sets with the scores 25-17, 25-23 and 25-22. In the third set, the Ephs were able to briefly take a 16-15 lead over the Cardinals after falling behind 10-3 early. However, the Cardinals attack was too powerful as they ended up taking the set 25-22 and the match. The Ephs leaders in this match were Erin Denham ’20 and Lydia Kurtz ’22, who both had eight kills each, Alexandra Newton ’20, who had seventeen assists and Kurtz, who had eighteen digs. 

Head coach Christi Kelsey commented, “Overall, this was some of the best volleyball we’ve played yet this season which is promising against a talented team like Wesleyan. The second and third sets came down to a couple points, and we need to battle more in those momentum ones. We’re looking forward to another day of play tomorrow. 

The women then faced off against Connecticut College in a shutout win the next day. The second set was the turning point for the Ephs in claiming the sweep over the Camels. 

In the first set, the Ephs utilized an attack error by the Camels to reverse the momentum. Gracie Guidotti ’23 earned three service aces. Another attack error from the Camels gave the Ephs the 14-11 lead. However, a kill from Camels middle hitter Katie Gunderman reversed the tide. Three strong serves from Emma Roberts then gave the Camels a 19-18 lead. The Ephs ultimately controlled the rest of the set with two kills each from Denham and Natalie Albright ’20, which helped push the women to the 25-23 victory. 

The second set proved to be the deciding factor as the Connecticut College played the women evenly. The Ephs started off with a 15-10 lead, highlighted by three kills from Oliva Hindy ’22. However, the Camels were determined to remain in the set and used small runs to close the gap. Ultimately, the Ephs only led 21-20. Connecticut College then tied the set at 24-24 after a kill from senior Grace McGee and an Eph error. Then, the women responded by putting pressure on the Camels and keeping the ball alive to win the next two points and the set, 26-24. 

For the third set, the Ephs were riding the momentum from the close second set. The women established an early 19-7 lead after a twelve-point run with six service aces behind effective serving from Albright. The Camels then went on a seven-point run of their own to narrow the gap to 22-15. The Ephs buckled down after a Camel attack error and played smart to control the remainder of the set and win 25-15. 

The women were led by Kurtz with 11 kills, Newton with 17 assists and Daiana Takashima ’20 with 19 digs. 

Kelsey remarked, “It was great for us to stay pretty steady and consistent with our execution and energy even when were pushed by a very athletic Conn team.”

For the second match of the day, the women faced off against Smith in a close five set match. After dropping the first two sets to Smith, Williams rallied and won three straight to claim the match. 

In the first set, Smith jumped out to an early 7-3 lead. The Pioneers never surrendered the lead although the Ephs battled and was able to tie the set six times. The teams went back and forth after the women tied the set at 20-20, as Denham and Kurtz had a kill each. However, at the 24-24 tie, a dynamic kill from Smith’s Evi Evgeniou shifted the momentum and gave the Pioneers the 25-24 lead. A block from Smith junior Claire Cicchetti sealed the Smith victory, 26-24. 

The second set was played tightly for the entire duration. The Ephs took a 21-16 lead after a four-point run consisting of kills from Hindy, Kurtz and Lauren Barry  ’21 and a service ace from Takashima. However, the Pioneers responded with a four-point run of their own. The women then held a 26-25 lead after a Smith error and kill from Kiley Wallace  ’23, but Smith retaliated with a kill from Claire Cicchetti. The Pioneers won the next two points and the set, 28-26. 

The women knew they had to win the third set to stay alive and thus immediately started with a 9-0 run. This was highlighted by two kills from Kurtz, two service aces from Newton, a kill from Albright and four Smith errors. The Ephs only gave up seven points in this match and were ultimately victorious, 25-7. 

After a crucial third set victory, the Ephs took the fourth set as well. A kill from Denham allowed the women to go on a four-point run led by Anna Tosolini ’23 who had two kills and a double block with Newton. Kurtz also contributed another powerful kill, putting the Ephs at a 12-9 lead. However, Smith battled to tie the set up at 24-24, but the Ephs were not fazed as Newton saw an opening and had a kill to give the women back the ball and momentum. A final kill from Olivia Hindy ’22 sealed the set at 26-24 for the Ephs. 

The fifth set determined the match’s victor. The Pioneers started out with a 6-1 lead after capitalizing on Eph errors. However, the Ephs mounted a comeback and tied the set at 9-9 led by two kills from Denham. Both teams traded points until a kill from Kurtz gave the Ephs the 12-11 lead. From here, the women never surrendered another point, claiming the set 15-11 and the match. 

The Ephs were led by Kurtz with 20 kills, Newton with 33 assists and Takashima with 17 digs. 

Kelsey reflected, “Our ‘bench’ energy has been awesome each and every match. They have been like the ‘seventh woman or teammate’ all year for us, and we are incredibly thankful for our group that gives us all their energy, passion, and enthusiasm every single point. Without them, we could not have pulled any win today. We are incredibly proud of our team for getting our fire back in the third set and hanging in there and fighting for the five-set win!” 

Volleyball returns to action for a home conference weekend. On Friday, it faces Middlebury at 7 p.m., and on Saturday, the women take on Amherst at 1 p.m. This will close out the regular season for the Ephs.