The Middlebury volleyball team opened play during the two-day New England Challenge with a 3-0 setback Friday evening to host and 23rd-ranked M.I.T. by scores of 25-20, 25-19 and 25-22 inside the Rockwell Cage. The Panthers (15-4) return to action Saturday and will take on Babson at 11:00 a.m. followed by a 3:00 p.m. contest with Wellesley.
In the opening set, Middlebury raced out to a 7-4 advantage capped off by a kill from Becca Raffel. MIT (24-2) recorded the next three points and tied the set at 7-7. The teams traded the next 16 points with neither side able to manage more than a one-point edge, as the Panthers knotted the set at 16-16 on a kill from Alice Roberts. The Engineers scored five of the next six points and never looked back in taking the first set.
The second set saw the teams exchange the first six points. MIT grabbed 12 of the next 17 points and led 15-8. The Panthers clawed back and cut the deficit to two at 19-17 on an Engineer service error, but the hosts rattled off three-straight points and grabbed a 2-0 lead.
Middlebury started the third set with a 4-1 edge. The Engineers battled back to within a point at 8-7 on a kill by Meryl Gibbs, but the Panthers pushed the advantage back to four (14-10) on a kill from Eliana Schaefer. MIT rattled off a 12-4 run and held a four-point edge, 22-18. Middlebury chipped away thanks to a 4-1 spurt and pulled within one at 23-22 on a kill from Raffel, but back-to-back kills from MIT's Megan Geghard secured the set and the match.
Raffel paced Middlebury with a double-double of 13 kills and 10 digs, while Schaefer chipped in with nine kills and just two errors on 16 attempts for a .438 hitting percentage. Hannah Blackburn dished out 24 assists, while Emily Kolodka had a pair of service aces.
Defensively, Kolodka led Middlebury with 15 digs, while Claire White-Dzuro chipped in with 11 and Charlotte Devine added nine. Melanie English and Schaefer each recorded three block assists, while Sarah Staver was credited with a block solo and block assist.
For MIT, Gebhard tied Raffel for match-high honors with 13 kills, while Abby Bertics added nine. Fiona Tanuwidjaja handed out 31 assists, while Alli Davanzo and Carly Silvernale tied for match-best honors with three service aces. Tori Wuthrich led all players with 22 digs and Silvernale added 10, while Bertics and Davanzo both had three block assists.