HADLEY, Mass. – For the first time in program history, Connecticut College has earned the top seed in the NESCAC Volleyball Championship. By doing so, the Camels earned the right to host the annual event in its entirety this weekend at the Charles B. Luce Field House. Quarterfinal round action is slated to get underway on Friday at 5:00 p.m. Connecticut College will host all seven matches, including the semifinals and finals on Saturday and Sunday. Video will be available for all matches on center court.
Williams will face Amherst in the quarterfinal round on frdeiay at 8:00 PM. "I think we match up really well with Amherst and it should make for an exciting first round game," noted Eph head coach Christi Kelsey. "Amherst traditionally has a solid group and a team that competes well. We played well at times in our first match against them but to Amherst's credit, they put together strings of points when it mattered most in our first match. I think our team has worked really hard the past couple weeks to improve our consistency and execution, so we are looking forward to the re-match this weekend and are excited for the opportunity."
"The NESCAC regular season is a preview to just how competitive the conference tournament will be," Kelsey added. "The strength and depth of our conference continues to grow and realistically any one of the teams who earns the right to participate in the conference championship can win this weekend. The team that can play steady, consistent and confident volleyball for three days will be the last one standing at the end. It's a fun weekend overall and an exciting opportunity to showcase our conference and the great student-athletes that represent it."
The race for the top seed came down to the wire, with five teams still in the hunt when play began last weekend. After gaining the upper-hand with a 3-0 triumph over Hamilton on Friday, Connecticut College needed some help from Bowdoin to wrap up home court advantage. The Polar Bears did their part, defeating Williams 3-0 on Saturday. In the process, they sealed things for the Camels, who will enter postseason play riding a 12-match winning streak.
Connecticut College finished in a three-way tie at the top of the standings with Middlebury and Bowdoin but was awarded the number one seed by virtue of its 2-0 record in head-to-head competition between the teams. After edging the Panthers 3-2 on September 15, the Camels ended Bowdoin's 40-match home winning streak with a 3-0 win on September 29.
Connecticut College (22-2, 8-2 NESCAC) has advanced the semifinal round of the NESCAC Championship three times (2006, 2007, 2007) but has never qualified for the finals. Prior to this season, the Camels were seeded as high as third in 2009. They have dropped just four sets over the past month due in large part to seniors Katie Ketcham and Rachel Schroff. Over the course of the season, Ketcham has dished out a league-best 10.20 assists per set. Meanwhile, Schroff also sits atop the conference leaderboard with 3.37 kills per set. As a team, the Camels are ranked first in the NESCAC in hitting percentage (.246), kills per set (12.46) and assists per set (11.89).
Up first for the hosts will be Colby (12-12, 2-8 NESCAC). The Mules have struggled of late, dropping four straight matches after a promising start to their season. They finished in a deadlock for eighth place with Wesleyan but were awarded the final playoff slot due to their 3-2 triumph over the Cardinals on October 12. Colby took home the conference crown in 2005.
Middlebury (19-6, 8-2 NESCAC) came away with the second seed as a result of its 3-1 win over Bowdoin last Friday. Winners of six of their last seven matches, the Panthers will look to stay hot when they face off against seventh seeded Trinity (12-10, 5-5 NESCAC) in the quarterfinals. They are in search of their fourth conference championship and second in the past three years. Middlebury was also the second seed in 2010, when it began its title run with a 3-0 win over the Bantams. This year, they have been paced by junior outside hitter Megan Jarchow, who has delivered 3.04 kills per set while hitting .265. Trinity locked up a postseason berth with wins over Bates and Colby during the final weekend of the regular season. The Bantams fell 3-0 in their annual meeting against the Panthers on October 13.
Defending champion Bowdoin (25-3, 8-2) is in the midst of one of its most successful seasons in program history. Despite coming up just short in their bid to host the NESCAC Championship for the second year in a row, the Polar Bears are still considered a strong candidate to repeat. They enjoyed modest success in the postseason until their impressive title run in 2011, when they topped Colby, Trinity and Middlebury to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. Bowdoin reeled off 12 straight wins before falling to the Panthers last Friday. Junior setter Sophia Cornew has spearheaded the team's offensive attack with 9.51 assists per set. Sixth seeded Tufts (13-12, 6-4 NESCAC) will have the first opportunity to unseat the Polar Bears. The Jumbos were in the mix for first place entering the weekend before losses to Williams and Middlebury ended their chances. Among their six league wins was a 3-1 triumph over Connecticut College on September 28. Tufts took home the title in 1996 and has advanced to the finals seven times. Bowdoin defeated the Jumbos twice during the regular season.
The remaining quarterfinal round contest will pit fourth seeded Amherst (14-8, 7-3 NESCAC) and fifth seeded Williams (14-11, 7-3). The longtime rivals have met in the finals four times, with Williams prevailing on three occasions (2002, 2007, 2008). The Ephs have historically been the team to beat, racking up nine conference titles. Amherst has also been impressive in the postseason, winning three NESCAC championships. Both teams went 7-3 in league play this year, but the Lord Jeffs were awarded the fourth seed due to their 3-1 win over the Ephs on October 13.