Middlebury Falls to Bates in Regular-Season Finale

Hannah Blackburn had 29 assists and 14 digs for the Panthers.
Hannah Blackburn had 29 assists and 14 digs for the Panthers.

The Middlebury volleyball team capped the regular season Saturday with a 3-1 (25-11, 25-15, 16-26, 25-17) setback at Bates. The Panthers (15-8, 7-3) earned the second seed in next and open with the seventh-seeded Bobcats (15-15, 5-5) in weekend's NESCAC Tournament, which Tufts will host starting on Friday.   

Bates never trailed in the opening set, scoring the first three points. Middlebury later closed the gap to 6-5 on a kill by Eliana Schaefer, but a pair of kills by Claire Naughton and back-to-back service aces by Hannah Tardie extended the Bobcat lead to 10-5. The hosts scored nine of the set's final 11 points to win the opener, 25-11.

In the second set, the hosts again raced out to an early advantage with a 13-5 lead. The Panthers later closed to 18-12 on consecutive kills by Isabel Sessions, Sarah Staver and Schaefer, but Bates earned seven of the final two 10 points to claim a 2-0 lead.

Middlebury grabbed the third set, sparked by a 6-0 run early in the set with Gigi Alper serving. The final point of the run came on an Alice Roberts kill, making the score 9-3. The Panthers built a 24-13 lead and held off a late Bobcat push for a 25-16 triumph.

Bates erased an early 2-0 deficit in the fourth and final set, leading by as many as eight on several occasions. The hosts notched the final three points of the fourth set for a 25-17 win.

For Middlebury, Becca Raffel finished with nine kills and 17 digs, while Sessions recorded a team-best 11 kills. Hannah Blackburn had a steady performance with 29 assists and 14 digs, while Alper chipped in with 17 digs.

Jacqueline Forney paced the Bobcats with 50 assists, while Chandler McGrath posted 17 kills and Taylor Stafford-Smith finished with 16. Gabi Eustache led all players with 24 digs.