The Middlebury volleyball team grabbed a key NESCAC win, and increased its unbeaten streak to 10-straight matches Friday with a 3-1 home triumph (25-20, 21-25, 25-17, 28-26) over visiting Amherst. Middlebury (13-2, 4-1) returns to the court Saturday for another pivotal league match with Williams at 2:00 p.m., while Amherst (12-2, 4-2) takes on Hamilton at the same time.
In the opening set, the Panthers grabbed a 5-2 lead on a kill by Becca Raffel. The Jeffs scored three-straight points and tied the set at 5-5. Middlebury recorded 13 of the next 16 points and led 18-8 on another kill by Raffel. Amherst chipped away and cut the Middlebury edge to three at 22-19 on a kill by Maggie Danner, but a pair of kills by Hannah Blackburn along with a set-clinching swing by Raffel secured the first set for the hosts.
The second set saw the two sides split the first 16 points and were tied at 8-8. The Jeffs eased out to three-point leads of 12-9 and 15-12, but Middlebury fought back and took a one-point lead at 17-16 via a kill from Isabel Sessions. Trailing 19-18, the Jeffs rattled off six-straight points and tied the match at 1-1.
In the third set, the Panthers slowly pulled away for a 16-9 advantage, but Amherst answered with eight of the ensuing 12 points and was within three (20-17) on a kill by Danner. However, a pair of kills from Raffel along with a kill by Eliana Schaefer and a service ace by Blackburn gave Middlebury a 2-1 lead.
Middlebury started the fourth set with a 6-1 advantage, but the Jeffs battled back and tied the set at 11-11 on a kill by Nicole Gould. The teams exchanged points with neither side able to hold more than a three-point bulge. With Middlebury at set point (24-21), Amherst fought off three match points and tied the set at 24-24. Middlebury and Amherst traded the ensuing four points, leaving the set at 26-26. Kills by Sessions and Raffel clinched the set and the match for the Panthers.
Raffel led the Panthers with a double-double of 20 kills and 15 digs, while Sessions was right behind with 19 kills. Blackburn handed out 52 assists to go along with nine digs and a match-high five service aces, while Emily Kolodka tied a season-best with 23 digs and Charlotte Devine chipped in with 18. Melanie English concluded the match with six block assists.
For Amherst, Danner put down 17 kills, while Marialexa Natsis also finished in double figures with 11. Nicole Carter handed out 28 assists and added 10 digs for a double-double and Katie Warshaw posted a team-best 17 digs. Samantha Newby dished out 12 assists and led the Jeffs with five block assists.