Panthers Edge Amherst in NESCAC Quarterfinals

Gigi Alper moved into third place in program history for career digs in the win.
Gigi Alper moved into third place in program history for career digs in the win.

The fifth-seeded Middlebury volleyball team posted a thrilling 3-2 victory in the NESCAC Quarterfinals (25-17, 20-25, 25-16, 18-25, 16-14) over fourth-seeded Amherst on Friday evening. The five-set match was contested in Tufts' Chase Gymnasium. Middlebury (15-9) advances to play in Saturday's semifinals against top-seeded Tufts at 1:00 p.m., while the Mammoths fall to 19-6.

The Panthers jumped out to a 13-4 lead in the opening set on a solo block from Lucy Ambach. The Mammoths chipped away at the deficit, moving to within 16-10 on a kill by Jamie Dailey. Middlebury recorded three of the next four points for a 19-11 edge and eased to the 1-0 lead.

Amherst won nine of the first 10 points of the second set. Middlebury put together a quick 5-0 spurt to get to within 9-6, but the Mammoths answered with a 7-2 run for a 16-8 lead. The Panthers clawed back to a 22-18 deficit on a kill from Maggie Wise, before Amherst leveled the match at 1-1 on a kill from Dailey.

Knotted at 10-10 in the third set, Middlebury rattled off seven-straight points, highlighted by two kills each from Wise and Jane Nelson. The Panthers were never challenged in the frame, grabbing a 2-1 advantage on a service ace from Emma Walsh.

Trailing 9-8 in the fourth set, the Mammoths put together an 8-1 run for a 16-10 lead on a Panther attack error. An ensuing kill by Middlebury's Corley Doyle brought the Panthers to within five, before Amherst tallied three of the next four points and evened the match at two sets apiece on a kill by Sophie Launsbach.  

Middlebury grabbed its largest advantage of the decisive set (9-5) on a Mammoth attack error. Amherst fought all the way back, tying the set at 13-13 on a service ace by Jacqueline Kortekaas. A kill from Emily Kolsky gave the Mammoths a 14-13 edge, but the Panthers fought off four match-clinching attempts in the ensuing rally, before an Amherst attack error tied the score at 14-14. A kill by Middlebury's Laney Sullivan and a setting error for the Mammoths gave the Panthers the set and the match.  

Wise paced Middlebury with 17 kills to go along with 12 digs, while Doyle added a season-best 14 kills and Nelson finished with 13. Walsh handed out 30 assists to go with 12 digs, while Chellsa Ferdinand accumulated 23 assists. Gigi Alper produced a match-high 31 digs, giving her 1,600 digs for her career, moving her into third in the program's history. Ambach tallied three service aces in the victory. Wise recorded two block solos and four block assists, while Doyle had a block solo and five block assists.

Amherst was led by Kolsky and Launsbach with 19 and 18 kills respectively, while Dailey added 15. Kortekaas had 31 assists and Charlotte Duran chipped in with 29, while Skyleur Savage tallied 25 digs. Claire Dennis ended the match with two block solos and three block assists for the Mammoths.