Plymouth State Edges Middlebury in Five-Set Thriller

Becca Raffel finished with a career-high 19 kills.
Becca Raffel finished with a career-high 19 kills.

Middlebury won two of the three opening sets during Wednesday's match with visiting Plymouth State (11-15), but the visitors rallied and took the fourth and fifth for the 3-2 victory inside Pepin Gym. Plymouth State was victorious by set scores of 15-25, 25-21, 27-29, 25-21 and 15-13. Middlebury (9-9) returns to action on Friday against Brandeis at 5:00 p.m. as part of the Hall of Fame Tournament at Amherst/Smith, while Plymouth State plays Eastern Connecticut and WPI on Saturday.

In the opening set, Middlebury raced out to a quick 5-0 lead. The hosts rattled off 13 of the next 19 points, capped off by a kill by Charlotte Devine, and held an 18-6 edge. The visitors attempted a comeback with a quick 5-1 spurt, cutting the Middlebury advantage to 19-11, but the hosts thwarted the bid with a kill by Becca Raffel and grabbed the opening set.

The second set saw the two teams trade the first 22 points. With the score tied at 11-11, Plymouth State rattled off a quick 4-1 run including kills from Reegan McKenney, Jana Nieman and Kayla Wayland for a 15-12 lead. Trailing by three, Middlebury scored the next seven points, including a service ace by Olivia Kolodka, and took a 19-15 lead. However, Plymouth State tallied 10 of the ensuing 12 points, including the final point on a service ace from Mikaela Orozco, and tied the match at a set apiece.

The third set saw the visitors race out to a 6-1 edge. Slowly chipping away, the hosts fought all the way back and took a one-point lead at 18-17. The two teams traded points and with the set tied at 27-27, kills by Kolodka and Melanie English gave the hosts the 29-27 win.

In the fourth, the script played out much like the set before as Plymouth State grabbed an early 5-2 lead. Once again, Middlebury scrapped back into the set and tied it at 16-16 via a kill from Piper Underbrink. The teams exchanged the next six points. With the set knotted at 19-19, Plymouth State recorded the next three points, including a pair of kills by Mikki Taffe, and grabbed a 22-19 lead. The visitors were never challenged and tied the match at two sets apiece with the 25-21 win.

The final set was very similar to the two before it, as the visitors won five of the first seven points. Middlebury went on an 8-4 run and possessed a narrow 10-9 edge. The two squads traded points, and with the set tied at 13-13, a pair of Middlebury miscues gave Plymouth State the set and the match.

Raffel finished with a career-high 19 kills, while Devine and Underbrink each tallied 10. Hannah Blackburn finished with 43 assists and 11 digs, while Devine chipped in with 11 digs and Underbrink assisted on seven blocks as the team finished with a season-best 13 total blocks. Katie Chamberlain ended the match with three service aces, and Kolodka added a pair. Lizzy Reed paced the defense with 36 digs in the contest.

Nieman led the visitors with 21 kills, while Taffe finished with 13. Kirsten Perrotta handed out a match-high 50 assists, while Brenna Peruch led the defense with 36 digs.