Four Panthers Earn All-NESCAC Volleyball Accolades

(L-R): Becca Raffel, Hannah Blackburn, Isabel Sessions and Sarah Staver
(L-R): Becca Raffel, Hannah Blackburn, Isabel Sessions and Sarah Staver


Four Middlebury College volleyball players were honored when the league announced its All-NESCAC recipients. Junior Becca Raffel (Palo Alto, Calif.) was named to the conference's first team for the second-straight season, while senior Hannah Blackburn (Chapel Hill, N.C.) along with sophomores Isabel Sessions (Chicago, Ill.) and Sarah Staver (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) each picked up second-team honors. The quartet is a part of a Panther team that claimed the fifth NESCAC Championship in the program's history and will play in the Brockport regional this weekend.

Raffel, the 2014 NESCAC Co-Rookie of the Year, was the only junior selected to this year's first team after earning first-team accolades a season ago. The outside hitter is fifth in the league in both kills (285) and kills per set (3.06) while hitting .216. She recorded a career-high 22 kills last Friday in the NESCAC Quarterfinal victory over Bates. Raffel has played in all 26 matches and is the only Panther to play in all 93 sets, posting double-digit kill totals during 15 matches, including all three during the NESCAC Tournament. The junior also posted 269 digs, including a career-best 26 in the NESCAC Championship win over Tufts. This fall, she has tallied six double-doubles to go along with 23 service aces and 36 total blocks. Raffel ranks atop the all-time Panther record books with 3.26 kills per set.  

Blackburn earns her third-straight second-team all-conference laurel. She paces the team and ranks eighth in the league with 4.66 assists per set, despite missing eight matches with an injury earlier this year. Blackburn is second on the team with 3.35 digs per set, including a career-best 29 in the NESCAC Championship win over Tufts. She was selected as the NESCAC Player of the Week on November 7, averaging team-best totals of 8.50 assists per set and 5.50 digs per set to go along with three service aces during Middlebury's three NESCAC Tournament victories. Blackburn posted a career-high 29 digs in Sunday's championship victory over the Jumbos. She is currently third all-time at Middlebury with 2,538 assists in 92 matches.

Sessions collects her first all-conference accolade. She is second on the team and sixth in the league with 2.86 kills per set. A member of the NEWVA All-Rookie team in 2015, Sessions has picked up 10 or more kills in 14 matches this season. She accomplished the feat in nine-straight matches midway through the year. Sessions tallied a season-best 18 kills in a five-set victory over UMass.-Boston on October 1. She also recorded 26 blocks, including five during the NESCAC Tournament contests.

Staver also earns her initial all-league laurel, providing an impact up front for the Panthers. She owns 1.60 kills per set, while her .301 hitting percentage leads the team and places her fourth among her NESCAC peers. She earned a career-high 12 kills in a win at Colby, hitting an astonishing .800 in the match. Staver is also solid defensively, tying for the NESCAC and team lead with 1.08 blocks per set. She accumulated five or more blocks in eight matches this fall, including a season-best eight against MIT on October 22.