Panthers Ease Past St. Michael’s in Home-Opening Match

Becca Raffel had a good all-around match of eight kills, 11 digs and a pair of service aces during Wednesday's victory.
Becca Raffel had a good all-around match of eight kills, 11 digs and a pair of service aces during Wednesday's victory.

Middlebury opened the home portion of its 2016 schedule with a three-set home sweep (25-19, 25-23, 25-12) of in-state foe St. Michael's Wednesday evening in Pepin Gymnasium. The Panthers (4-3) return to the court Friday when they jump back into NESCAC play with an 8:00 p.m. home conference match against Hamilton, while St. Michael's entertains Merrimack on Saturday.

Middlebury raced to a 6-2 lead in the opening set, but the Purple Knights (2-2) responded with four-straight points to level the score at 6-6. The two teams exchanged points with neither side holding more than a three-point edge. Ahead by one at 19-18, the Panthers tallied six of the final seven points for the 25-18 victory.

In the second set, the hosts recorded five of the opening seven points for a 5-2 lead on a kill from Isabel Sessions. St. Michael's scored the ensuing three points, evening the set at 5-5. The Panthers scored 10 of the next 16 points, including the final three on kills by Alice Roberts, for a 15-11 advantage.

The Purple Knights responded with a 9-2 run of their own, highlighted by three kills from Jordan Dean and a pair of service aces from Catie Weller for a 20-17 lead. Middlebury put together a 6-3 run of its own, drawing even at 23-23. With the score knotted, Middlebury's Becca Raffel served an ace and a block assist by Roberts and Melanie English gave the Panthers a 2-0 edge.

The final set saw the teams split the opening 10 points, but Middlebury put together a quick 4-0 spurt and were never challenged again the remainder of the set for the 25-12 triumph.

Sessions paced the balanced Middlebury offense, finishing with a match-best total of 13 kills. Roberts ended her night adding nine kills on 23 attempts with no errors for a .391 hitting percentage, while Raffel chipped in with eight kills, 11 digs and a team-best two service aces. Chellsa Ferdinand handed out a match-high 28 assists to go along with eight digs. Emily Kolodka dug up 11 balls and had two service aces, while Claire White-Dzuro had nine digs and Charlotte Devine added eight.

St. Michael's was paced by Dean with nine kills, while Gabby Ratte tacked on seven. Natalie Moore led all players with 25 digs, while Weller tallied a team-high 19 assists to go along with 12 digs and two service aces.