The Middlebury volleyball team tallied a 2-2 record last week. The Panthers fell on the road Tuesday in a tough five-set match at Union (3-2), and returned home for a 3-1 setback in the NESCAC opener with Bowdoin. On Saturday, Middlebury rebounded and took both ends of its home tri-match with Cortland State (3-2) and Colby-Sawyer (3-0).
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead on Tuesday, Union edged Middlebury in the second set to knot the match at 1-1. The Panthers hit .262 in the third set and edged the Dutchwomen by a 25-23 score. Union tied the match with a fourth-set victory, before winning the abbreviated fifth set, 15-11.
Junior Melanie English (Montgomery Village, Md.) tied a school record with nine block assists in the match, equaling Whitney Bean's effort at Skidmore in 2008. Sophomore Becca Raffel (Palo Alto, Calif.) finished with 16 kills and 11 digs, rookie Isabel Sessions (Chicago, Ill.) earned 10 kills, while sophomore Eliana Schaefer (Bethesda, Md.) and rookie Sarah Staver (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) each had six. Sophomore Emily Kolodka (Verona, N.J.) paced the defense with 21 digs, junior Hannah Blackburn (Chapel Hill, N.C.) added 18 digs to go along handing out 41 assists, while Raffel and sophomore Jen Ayer (Sudbury, Mass.) each collected 11 digs.
Union's Rachel Wyman's 19 kills led all players, while Ally VanDoren added 14 kills.
In Friday’s opening set with Bowdoin, Middlebury jumped out to a quick 5-2 lead with kills from four different players. The Polar Bears responded with a 5-2 spurt of their own, capped off by a kill from Sydney Salle and tied the set at 7-7. The teams traded points back and forth with neither side holding larger than a three-point edge. With the score tied at 19-19, the Polar Bears slowly pulled away thanks to kills from a quartet of players and grabbed the first set.
During the second set and the tally knotted at 9-9, Bowdoin produced a quick 4-1 spurt, fueled by a service ace from Katie Doherty and a kill by Christy Jewett, for a 13-10 advantage. The hosts fought back and earned a 15-13 lead on a 5-0 run highlighted by a pair of kills by Sessions and a service ace from Blackburn. With the set deadlocked at 17-17, the visitors slowly eased away from the Panthers, grabbing the lead for good for a 2-0 lead.
The third set played out in similar fashion to the first as the Panthers raced out to a 6-2 edge on a service ace by Sessions. Bowdoin recorded 11 of the next 16 points and led 13-11. Middlebury tied the match at 13-13, 15-15, 19-19 and 21-21 on a kill by Schaefer. Following a pair of Polar Bear attack errors that gave the Panthers a 23-21 edge, kills from Bowdoin's Michelle Albright sandwiched around a Raffel kill for Middlebury pulled the visitors to within one, 24-23. Clinging to the one-point lead, Sessions pounded the set-clinching point to the floor via an assist from Blackburn.
Bowdoin raced out to a 6-1 lead in the fourth set capped off on a kill from Hailey Wahl, forcing Middlebury to call a timeout. The hosts worked their way back into the match, tying the set at 14-14, 16-16 and 17-17 on a kill by Raffel. However, the Polar Bears posted the ensuing four points and clinched the match with a 25-18 set win.
Raffel paced the Middlebury offense with 11 kills, while Sessions ended her night adding 10. Blackburn handed out 32 assists to go along with a team-best nine digs. Kolodka had eight digs, while English had five block solos and three block assists for the Panthers.
For the Polar Bears, Jewett led a pair in double figures with a match-high 18 kills, while Erika Sklaver added 13 and Albright chipped in with nine. Quincy Leech handed out 43 assists to go along with eight digs, Doherty recorded a match-high 23 digs, and Sklaver concluded the match with a block solo and five block assists.
In the opening set against Cortland State on Saturday, Middlebury jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead highlighted by three service aces by Blackburn. The Red Dragons slowly cut the deficit to four at 9-5 on a kill by Courtney Silberer, but the hosts held off any Cortland State rallies and took the first set.
The second set played out much like the first with the Panthers grabbing the early 7-3 advantage. That lead grew to as many as 10 at 15-5 as the Red Dragons never threatened and Middlebury grabbed a two-set advantage.
In the third, the two teams exchanged points and the score was tied at 9-9. Cortland State rattled off a quick 4-0 spurt, capped off by a kill by Vanessa Carmesin and held the lead, 13-9. Once again, the two sides traded points as the Panthers pulled to within one (23-22) on a kill from Sessions, but the Red Dragons scored the final two points of the set.
The fourth set was back and forth with neither side possessing greater than a three-point edge. With Middlebury clinging to a 19-17 edge, a kill from Cortland State's Lindsay Kirk along with a pair of service aces by Samantha Czeczotka and a setting error by the Panthers gave the Red Dragons a 21-19 lead. Raffel pulled the hosts to within one at 21-20 on a kill, but that's as close as Middlebury would get as Cortland State tallied four of the final six points of the set and tied the match at two sets apiece.
In the decisive set, the teams saw the momentum swing back and forth with neither side able to pull away. With the set tied at 13-13, a Cortland State service error followed by a block assist from Schaefer and junior Gabi Rosenfeld (Hermosa Beach, Calif.) clinched the set and the match.
Raffel paced the Middlebury offense with a career-high 20 kills, while Sessions ended with 16. Blackburn handed out a career-best 53 assists to go along with a 15 digs and a team-high four service aces. Junior Charlotte Devine (Charlottesville, Va.) led the Panthers with 16 digs, while Rosenfeld (1 BS, 5 BA), Schaefer (5 BA) and English (1 BS, 3 BA) led the Middlebury defense at the net.
For the Red Dragons, Kirk led a pair in double figures with 12 kills, while Czeczotka added 11. Carmesin handed out 25 assists and Liz Roberts had 14, while Melanie McGuirk and Janine Patora had 16 and 15 digs, respectively.
In the nightcap against Colby-Sawyer, the Panthers jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead in the opening set. The Chargers cut that deficit to four (9-5) on a kill by Kelsey McCulley, but Middlebury rattled off a 4-0 spurt and never looked back in the set victory.
During the second session, the hosts raced out to a 5-0 advantage. The Chargers gradually chipped at the Panther advantage and tied the set at 11-11 via a kill by Gabrielle Ratte. Middlebury secured the ensuing four points as Colby-Sawyer couldn't draw closer as the Panthers led 2-0.
In the third, the Chargers scored the first point via a kill by Alli Lahiff, but Middlebury reeled off seven-straight points and were never threatened for the remainder of the set for the victory.
Sessions and Raffel led a balanced attack with nine kills apiece, while English chipped in with eight for Middlebury. Blackburn dished out 28 assists and collected eight digs, while English added two more block solos to go along with a block assist. Schaefer and Rosenfeld each tallied three block assists in the victory. As a team, the Panthers hit .284 (39-12-95) for the match, including a .476 clip (12-2-21) in the opening set.
Kelsey Sullivan finished with seven kills and McCulley added six for Colby-Sawyer. Ratte had 13 assists and five digs, while McCulley had a team-best nine digs.
• Volleyball record: 5-2
• Up next: 9/23 at St. Michael’s – 7:00 p.m., 9/25 at Hamilton – 8:00 p.m., 9/26 vs. Ramapo (at Skidmore) – 1:00 p.m., 9/26 vs. Sage (at Skidmore) – 3:00 p.m.