Panthers Fall to Babson on Day One of New England Challenge

Gigi Alper led the Panthers with 28 digs in Friday's win over Amherst.
Gigi Alper led the Panthers with 28 digs in Friday's win over Amherst.

Middlebury opened play during the two-day New England Challenge with a 3-1 setback Friday evening to Babson (14-9) by scores of 25-23, 25-20, 24-26 and 25-14 in Staake Gymnasium. The Panthers (14-5) return to action Saturday, playing a 10:30 a.m. match against Springfield at MIT followed by a 3:00 p.m. contest with the Engineers.

Middlebury jumped out to an 8-1 in the opening set, but the Green and White clawed its way back by hitting .314 and recording 17 kills. Gizem Yilmaz hammered three of her six kills late in the frame as the Beavers scored eight of the final 10 points to take a one-set advantage.

Despite recording just nine kills in set two, Babson took advantage of 10 Panther errors on its way to a two-set lead. The Beavers appeared poised to close out the match in straight sets before Middlebury mounted a furious late rally to force a fourth set. Trailing 23-16, the visitors got two kills apiece from Alice Roberts and Isabel Sessions, and service aces from Becca Raffel and Gigi Alper as part of a 10-1 run en route to a 26-24 victory.

The Green and White responded with a strong fourth set, hitting .353 and posting 17 kills to close out the match. Babson took the lead for good at 8-7 on a kill by Lorraine Mackiewicz and was in front 15-12 before ripping off a 10-2 run. Mackiewicz, Yilmaz and Shannon Roseen combined for 11 kills in the frame while holding Middlebury to just a .054 hitting percentage.

Sessions paced Middlebury with 12 kills, while Raffel and Roberts both had nine. Hannah Blackburn dished out 20 assists, while Chellsa Ferdinand handed out 10. Sarah Staver had six kills along with a match-best four service aces.

Defensively, Alper led Middlebury with 15 digs, while Ferdinand chipped in with nine. Staver finished with two block solos and four block assists, while Roberts was credited with a block solo and three block assists.

Mackiewicz paced the Beavers by hitting .400 and finished with 17 kills, while Elizabeth Cameron had a match-high 47 assists. Yilmaz hit .545 while recording 14 kills and four blocks for the Beavers, while Alana Atchison led all players with six block assists. Annissa Lai and Lauren Hennigan recorded 15 and 10 digs, respectively.