Trailing two sets to none at home against Williams in Saturday afternoon's NESCAC volleyball match, Middlebury won the third and fourth sets before falling in the decisive fifth set (25-21, 25-18, 25-27,18-25, 15-12) to the visiting Ephs. Middlebury (13-3, 4-2), which sees its 10-match winning streak snapped, returns to the court Friday with an 8:00 p.m. match at Colby, while Williams (13-5, 6-1) hosts UMass-Boston at the same time.
In the opening set, the teams were unable to pull ahead by more than two over the initial 20 points. With the set tied at 10-10, the Ephs tallied 10 of the next 14 points for a 20-14 lead, capped off via a kill by Catherine Egan. The Panthers chipped away and pulled to within two (23-21) on a Williams attack error, but a kill by Roxi Corbeil and a Middlebury ball handling error gave the Ephs the first set, 25-21.
The second set was tied at 3-3 before Williams reeled off an 8-1 run for an 11-4 advantage. Middlebury cut the lead to five at 14-9 on a service ace by Hannah Blackburn, but the Ephs kept the hosts at bay on their way to a 25-18 victory and a 2-0 lead.
The Panthers began their comeback bid with an exciting third-set victory. Tied at 4-4, Middlebury went on a 6-1 run for a 10-5 edge, capped off on a kill by Gabi Rosenfeld. With the Panthers clinging to an 18-12 lead, Williams sliced it to one (18-17) with a quick five-point spurt. The teams exchanged points and with Williams down 24-23, a kill by Ally Ostrow tied the set at 24-24. Kills from Middlebury's Isabel Sessions and Williams' Corbeil brought the set level once again at 25-25, but consecutive putdowns by Alice Roberts and Sessions for the Panthers drew the hosts to within a set.
In the fourth set, Middlebury turned a 3-3 tie into a 7-3 lead with a 4-0 run highlighted by kills from Roberts and Sessions sandwiched around an Emily Kolodka service ace. The Panthers maintained between a four- and seven-point advantage before pulling to within three at 17-14 on a Middlebury attack error. That is as close as the Ephs would come as Middlebury pulled away for the 25-18 win and tied the match.
The fifth set saw Williams score four of the opening five points, including a pair of kills from Katherine Lane. The Panthers clawed all the way back, taking a 10-9 lead on a kill from Melanie English. Williams scored the next four points and held on for the 15-12 set win and the match.
Raffel led the Panthers 18 kills, while Sessions finished with 14. English and Roberts chipped with eight and seven kills. Blackburn handed out 52 assists to go along with a team-high 14 digs, while Kolodka and Claire White-Dzuro had 12 and 10 digs, respectively. English concluded the match with a block solo and five block assists.
Tori Jasuta led three Ephs in double figures with 14 kills, while Ostrow and Lane each had 12. Ryan Farley handed out 45 assists for Williams along with six kills, while Jasuta and Caitie Benell tied for match-high honors with 23 digs apiece. Egan (1 BS, 4 BA) and Lane (1 BS, 3 BA) led the net defensive unit for the Ephs.