Middlebury Eases Past Visiting Hamilton in Straight Sets

Gigi Alper paced the Panthers with 20 digs during Friday's win.
Gigi Alper paced the Panthers with 20 digs during Friday's win.

Middlebury began the NESCAC home portion of its schedule with a three-set sweep (29-27, 25-19, 25-15) of Hamilton on Friday evening in Pepin Gymnasium. The Panthers (5-3, 2-1) return to the court Saturday when they entertain St. Lawrence at 5:00 p.m., while Hamilton (3-4, 1-2) remains in Middlebury and plays the Saints beginning at 2:30 p.m.

With the first set tied at 10-10 in Friday's contest, Hamilton rattled off four-consecutive points including a pair of kills by Giuliana Rankin and a service ace from Erin Donahue. The hosts responded with a 6-2 run of their own, highlighted by two kills apiece from Alice Roberts and Isabel Sessions, tying the set at 16-16. With neither side maintaining greater than a two-point edge, the set was knotted at 27-27. Middlebury's Becca Raffel blasted a kill down the line before a setting error by Hamilton gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

In the second set, the Continentals jumped out to a 6-2 advantage, including a trio of kills by Rankin. The Panthers answered by scoring seven of the next 10 points and tied the set at 9-9 on a service ace by Emily Kolodka. Trading the next four points, Middlebury put together a pair of 5-1 runs and closed out the set on a kill from Raffel for a two-set lead.

The final set had Middlebury tally 10 of the first 15 points, but Hamilton closed the gap to three (10-7) on a block by Jessica Weston and Donahue. The hosts rattled off four of the next five points, as Middlebury was never challenged and cruised to the set victory. Chellsa Ferdinand scored the decisive point with a service ace that dipped just inside the back line for the clincher.

Raffel paced the balanced Middlebury offense, finishing with a match-best 12 kills to go along with seven digs and four block assists. Sessions tacked on eight kills, while Ferdinand recorded match-high totals of 32 assists and five service aces. Gigi Alper dug up 20 balls, while Kolodka added eight. At the net, Melanie English had a stellar night with three block solos and four block assists, while Sarah Staver chipped in with a pair of block solos and four block assists.

As a team, Middlebury limited the Continentals to a .095 hitting percentage (35-24-116) for the match.

Hamilton was paced by Rankin with 11 kills, while Courtney Brown and Donahue both nearly finished in double figures with nine apiece. Christine Zizzi led the Continentals with 17 digs, while Kyndal Burdin tallied a team-high 27 assists to go along with 12 digs. Weston tallied four block assists.