Middlebury lost the opening set on Saturday afternoon against host Wesleyan, but the Panthers rebounded with three-straight set victories for a 3-1 win by scores of 16-25, 25-18, 25-16 and 25-15 inside Silloway Gymnasium. The Panthers (9-8, 5-3) return home Wednesday to take on Plymouth State at 7:00 p.m., while Wesleyan (10-9, 2-7) is idle until next Friday and Saturday for the Hall of Fame Classic.
Wesleyan came out firing in the first set after its 3-2 victory over Hamilton the night before, and continued its momentum throughout the set. The Cardinals kept Middlebury at bay with strong net play and took the first set 25-16.
The second set was tight throughout with the teams tied at 17-17. Middlebury's Olivia Kolodka put down a kill to give the Panthers a 19-17 lead. After a Wesleyan kill by Tyla Taylor cut the lead to one at 19-18, Middlebury made it 20-18 when Hannah Blackburn stepped to the service line to lead her team on a 5-0 run to end the set 25-18.
Middlebury kept the pressure on in the third set by jumping out to a 7-2 lead. The Panthers built that advantage to 11-4 before the Cardinals battled back to get within four, 15-11. Middlebury responded with a 10-5 spurt and took the third set 25-16.
The final set was also led wire-to-wire by the Panthers, as they stormed out to another lead of 7-4. Middlebury built on that advantage by taking 10 of the next 18 points, making the score 17-12. The teams then split the next six points, making the score 20-15 before the visitors rattled off the final five points to secure the match.
Kolodka's 12 kills led three Panthers in double figures, while Becca Raffel and Alice Roberts each added 11. Blackburn, the NESCAC's leader at 10.05 assists per set, bolstered that average with 44 to go along with four service aces. Lizzy Reed produced a team-best 18 digs for the Panthers along with three aces, while Kolodka added nine digs and two block solos.
Wesleyan was led offensively by Taylor with a match-best 17 kills, while Sarah Swenson added 13. Claire Larson had 37 assists, while Rachel Savage paced three Cardinals with 20 digs. Taylor added 15 digs, while Naja Lewis recorded three block solos and added three block assists.