New London, CT-- With the long regular season behind them, Volleyball entered the NESCAC championship as the #5 seed, facing off against archrival Amherst, the #4 seed, in the opening round of the tournament held at #1 overall seed Connecticut College. In an overall spirited match between the two sides Williams was able to ride a stellar offensive performance to come out victorious with a convincing 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-22) win. The Ephs move to 15-11 on the year and will face the host Camels tomorrow in a semifinal match-up while Amherst falls to 14-9, ending their season. The win marks the first victory for Williams over their archrivals since October 24, 2009.
In the first set Amherst was able to jump out to a quick lead as both teams played through the inevitable nerves of the opening match of a major tournament. The Jeffs went up 3-1, increasing their lead to three points up 5-2. A kill by sophomore outside hitter Raea Rasmussen kept the lead at three points, with an important kill leaving the Ephs down 6-3. Showing an early commitment to all-out defense, first year setter Ryan Farley careened into the bench to track down an errant dig and keep the next play alive, leading to a kill by sophomore outside hitter Claire Miller which cut the lead to two down 6-4. An Amherst service error brought the lead down to one at 7-6, and a ball handling error by the Jeffs tied the score up at 7-7. A Miller kill off of another long rally tied the score again at 8-8 where a Farley ace gave Williams their first lead of the match up 9-8. Amherst would respond, retaking the lead up 10-9. Another kill by Miller coupled with a block by Rasmussen flipped things, putting the Ephs back up 12-10. A kill by junior co-captain Emily Doll increased the lead to 13-10. A kill by Rasmussen made it 14-11, prompting an Amherst time out. Coming out of the break the Jeffs were unable to regain momentum. Another kill by Rasmussen made it 16-11, while first year middle hitter Catherine Egan slammed home another ball to make it 17-11. Senior co-captain Haley Eagon kept things steady at the line as Williams kept pressing their advantage. Another Rasumessen kill made it 18-11, necessitating a second time out from Amherst. It would be this back-breaking 9-2 run in the middle of the set, as Amherst once again proved unable to immediately chip into the lead. Another kill by Egan made it 19-12, while an ace by Emily Doll increased the lead to 8 points up 20-12. A Rasmussen kill kept the lead at eight up 21-13. At this point the Jeffs began to fight back into it, closing the gap back down to 5 points down 22-17. Williams took a timeout, and out of the break a kill by Egan regained momentum. A crafty kill off a setter dump by Farley set the Ephs up with a set point. While Amherst was able to fight off two set points Williams would take the first set 25-19.
Claire Miller served the Ephs out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, a run punctuated by an Eagon block. A kill by Rasmussen made it 5-2, throwing down another ball to increase the lead to four points up 7-3. An Egan kill pushed the margin to 8-4, while a block by Eagon made it 9-4. Amherst took a timeout, siding out coming out of the break. A kill by Miller, though made it 10-5. A subsequent ace by Miller put the Ephs up 12-6. A Rasmussen kill increased the lead to seven points up 15-8, as Williams began to pull away. An Egan block maintained this margin up 18-11. All-out defense in the back court kept the Ephs fired up, especially the play of sophomore defensive specialist Amanda Schott, who flew all over the floor digging up Amherst swings. A kill by Farley off another dump made it 20-12, and down 21-13 the Jeffs took their second time out. A kill by Doll made it 22-14, and the co-captain ended the set with a thunderous block, 25-15.
To their credit Amherst continued to battle in what would prove to be the deciding third set. The two squads went back and forth in the opeing flurries. A block by Egan made it 3-2, a margin that the Ephs maintained with a kill by Egan to 4-3. Another block by Egan made it 6-3, while Miller slammed home a kill to push the advantage to 7-4. Down 8-4 following a hitting error Amherst took their first time out of the set. The Jeffs used a short rally to close the gap to 8-6 before a kill by Farley momentarily snuffed out the danger. Amherst would roar back, though, to knot the score at 9-9, where they took their second time out trying to exploit the advantage. A Miller kill out of the break made it 10-9, while an ace by Eagon made it 12-10. A Egan kill maintained the two point lead up 14-12 as Williams struggled to definitively pull away. An Eagon kill made it 16-14, and the Ephs pushed the lead up to three points with a Miller kill at 18-15. A Rasmussen kill made it 19-16 for Williams. The Ephs continued to side-out efficiently in serve receive even as they found it difficult to finish off the Jeffs. A kill by Emily Doll made it 20-17, although as short rally by Amherst closed it down to 19-20 before another kill by Doll pushed the lead back up to two. A kill by Miller made it 23-21, and a kill by Doll gave Williams match point up 24-21. Amherst fought off one match point to 22-24 before ending things anti-climactically with a hitting error, conceding the win to Williams 25-22.
As a team the Ephs rode a strong all-around offensive performance to victory, hitting .346 in the match, with only 11 total hitting errors. Sophomore Raea Rasmussen turned in perhaps the best performance in her Williams career, throwing down a match-leading 15 kills while hitting .344. Junior co-captain Emily Doll was second on the team with 11 kills, hitting .450, just behind the team leading attack average of .571 (8 kills, no errors, 14 attempts) tallied by first year middle hitter Catherine Egan. Sophomore outside hitter Claire Miller also turned in an impressive stat line with 9 kills and only 2 errors in 23 attempts (.304 attack average). The Williams offense, however, could not have performed as well as it did, however, without the equally important performance of their defense and serve receive. The Ephs out dug Amherst by 13 (52-39) while also tallying six more team blocks (7-1). Individually, senior co-captain Haley Eagon and sophomore libero Emily O'Day tied for the team lead with 12 digs apiece. First year setter Ryan Farley was close behind with 8 digs. Eagon also tied for the team lead in blocks alongside Doll and Egan, each rejecting three balls for points. Farley proved the integral linchpin between the two phases of the game, dishing out 44 assists to her teammates (14.66 per set).
Williams will be looking to keep the ball rolling as they take on the host Camels tomorrow afternoon at 1 pm in New London in the first NESCAC semifinal.