In the opening NESCAC match of the year for each squad, Middlebury, ranked seventh in this week's New England Division III poll, took three two-point sets from Wesleyan. Each team is back in conference action on Saturday with Middlebury visiting Conn. College and Wesleyan hosting Williams.
In the opening set, Middlebury pulled away from a 16-16 deadlock to grab a 23-18 edge behind a 7-2 run, only to see Wesleyan rally to take a 25-24 lead with a 7-1 stretch. The Panthers scored the final three points of the set with senior Julia Gibbs breaking a 25-25 tie with a service ace and junior Meg Anderson coming up with the winning point on a kill to make it 27-25.
The second set was controlled by the Panthers much of the way as they pulled out to a seven-point bulge, 20-13, but again the Cardinals fought back and made it a 24-23 score before senior Madeline Firestone delivered the decisive point for Middlebury with a kill for the 25-23 win.
The third set found Wesleyan ahead by as many as six points, 17-11, before the Panthers came back to tie, 23-23, on a 12-6 run. Middlebury had its first match point at 24-23, but the Cardinals evened the count. Again, Middlebury moved ahead, 25-24, and again, Wesleyan tied the score. Wesleyan had its first set point of the evening after going ahead, 26-25, only to be tied at 26-26. When Middlebury moved ahead, 27-26, Wesleyan saved its third match point to deadlock the score, 27-27. Middlebury finally put the finishing touches on the evening with a kill by junior Amy Hart on a well-placed tip, followed by her fourth ace of the night for the 29-27 victory.
Offensively, the Panthers were led by Anderson and Hart, both with 10 kills, while Gibbs collected 33 assists. Hart, with four aces, was topped by teammate Gibbs with six. On defense, senior Cailtin Barrett amassed 14 digs while sophomore Piper Underbrink had four blocks.
Wesleyan got 10 kills from junior Kim Farris and eight from senior Laura Volgenau while sophomore Claire Larson had 27 assists. Freshman Sofia Davila had a match-high 16 digs and freshman Abby Southam made three blocks. Both Farris and Davila had three aces for the Cardinals.