Middlebury advanced to the NESCAC Championship match with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-22) win over Williams in a semifinal contest played at Amherst College's LeFrak Gymnasium. The Panthers will take on Tufts in the title match at noon on Sunday. The Jumbos will be looking to erase memories of a loss in last year's championship match, while Middlebury will play in the title bout for the first time since its back-to-back crowns of 1997 and 1998.
In the first set, Williams erased a Middlebury lead to close the gap to 15-14 on a monster kill by Nicole Ballon-Landa, before tying the score on the next point. The score was tied still at 17-17, before Middlebury took the first frame with a 25-22 result.
In the second set, Williams jumped out to a 10-7 leadon back-to-back kills from Kate Anderson and Haley Eagon. The Panthers responded with three straight points to knot the score up at 10-10. Middlebury gained some breathing room at 17-15, before pulling away for a 25-19 result.
In the final stanza, Middlebury burst out to a 5-0 lead, before Williams answered back to tie the score at 6-6. Williams briefly held a 14-11 lead, before opening up a five-point advantage at 18-13 to force Middlebury into a timeout. The Panthers responded, closing the deficit to 19-18 and forcing the Ephs into calling their final timeout. The game was tied as late as 21-21, but Middlebury escaped with the 25-22 win.
The Panthers were led by 14 kills from Jane Handel and 13 kills from Julia Gibbs. Lauren Barrett dished out 39 assists in the win, adding a team-high 10 digs for Middlebury.
Williams was paced offensively by 14 kills from Ballon-Landa, and eight kills by both Anderson and Eagon. Emily Avis had 33 assists for the Ephs, while Anderson had a team high with 14 digs.
Middlebury advances with a 23-5 overall record, while Williams drops to 17-13 with the loss.