Amherst Squeezes by Middlebury in Five-Set Thriller

Chellsa Ferdinand handed out a career-high 55 assists in Friday's match.
Chellsa Ferdinand handed out a career-high 55 assists in Friday's match.

The Middlebury volleyball team opened NESCAC play with a tight five-set loss (25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-10) to Amherst on Friday evening in Pepin Gymnasium. The Panthers (3-2, 0-1) return to the court Saturday when they host Trinity at 2:00 p.m., while the Mammoths (4-0, 1-0) host Newberry and Sage on Saturday.

With the opening set tied at 4-4, Amherst tallied seven of the next eight points for an 11-5 lead on a kill from Claire Dennis. The Panthers clawed their way back slowly into the set, grabbing a 21-19 edge on a kill from Corley Doyle. After trading the lead back and forth, the Mammoths secured the first set on a Panther hitting error.

With the second set tied at 15-15, Middlebury tallied five of the next six points, including a pair of service aces from Chellsa Ferdinand, for a 20-16 edge. The visitors chipped away at the deficit, cutting it to one at 21-20 on a kill by Cameron Hendricks. Middlebury responded with four of the final five points, capped off via a kill from Sarah Staver, to deadlock the match at a set apiece.

In the third with the score tied at 5-5, the Mammoths put together a 12-5 run for a 17-10 lead, capped by a kill from Sophie Launsbach. The hosts fought back into the set, cutting the Amherst advantage to just two at 23-21 on a kill from Jane Nelson. After exchanging the next two points, a Panther attack error gave the visitors a 2-1 lead.

The fourth set saw Amherst race out to an 11-6 edge on a kill by Jamie Dailey. Middlebury recorded nine of the next 13 points, knotting the set at 15-15 on a Mammoth attack miscue. Trading the next six points, the Panthers got back-to-back kills from Isabel Sessions followed by a kill from Staver for a 21-18 lead. Amherst moved to within a pair at 24-22 on a kill from Hendricks, but a kill down the line by Doyle gave Middlebury the set and tied the match at 2-2.

With the visitors clinging to a 7-6 edge in the final set, the Mammoths scored the next four points for an 11-6 lead on a kill from Dailey. Middlebury pulled to within three at 13-10 on a kill from Maggie Wise, but Amherst tallied the final two points for the narrow victory.

Doyle and Sessions paced the balanced Middlebury offense, finishing with 17 and 16 kills, respectively, while Staver added 15 and Wise chipped in with 13. Ferdinand handed out a career-high 55 assists to go along 16 digs and four service aces. Gigi Alper dug up 28 balls, while Shea Golden had 12 and Nelson ended with 11. Doyle and Staver each finished with a block solo and two block assists.

Hendricks led four Amherst players with double-figure kill totals with 15, while Dailey had 13 and Dennis and Emily Kolsky each produced 12. Charlotte Duran dished out 49 assists to go along with 12 digs, while Skyleur Savage paced the Mammoths with 29 digs. Hendricks tallied six block assists for the Mammoths, while Dennis added three.