Photo by Brian Beard/CIPhotography.com
Brunswick, ME – Second-seed Williams (18-9, 8-2 in NESCAC) prepared for a Saturday afternoon NESCAC Semifinal match against third-seed Amherst (22-4, 8-2 in NESCAC). The Ephs beat the Lord Jeffs in four sets (17-25, 25-13, 25-16, 25-22) at home during the regular season. The Ephs hoped to win their third-straight NESCAC Championship and this semi-final match proved critical.
Head coach of the Ephs Christi Kelsey was excited about the outcome of the game and noted, "I'm really proud of our team from start to finish. Amherst is a great group. We played very consistently from start to finish. Probably one of our most well rounded matches this season."
Amherst was making its 17th consecutive NESCAC postseason appearance since 1999. They have won three conference titles (1999, 2000, 2006), and have finished as the runner-up three times (2002, 2007, 2008), with all three losses coming at the hands of Williams.
The Williams starters were Ally Ostrow '19, Roxi Corbeil '19, Tori Jasuta '17, Ryan Farley '16, Catherine Egan '16, Katherine Lane '16, and libero Caitie Benell '17. The first set began with the Ephs trailing after multiple attack errors in the form of hits that went out of bounds. Down 7-4, Ostrow got a kill from the outside. After Amherst continued their run, the Ephs called the first timeout of the match at 9-4. Back on the court, the Ephs attempted to narrow the deficit. Down 10-9, Lane got a kill in the middle. After an incredibly long rally with multiple attacks by both sides, Williams was riled up and Egan earned another kill.
Up 15-13, Egan had a big block in the middle. Giving Williams the edge at 18-17, Jasuta had a cross-court kill from the outside. Williams continued their run and down by four at 22-18, Amherst called a timeout. With the ball back in play, Jasuta had a strategic kill. Amherst edged back in to narrow the deficit within two at 23-21. Jasuta brought the team to match point after converting a dig to a kill. Williams won the set 25-22 after a bad set from Amherst.
The second set began with Williams continuing to bring energy and determination. Up 6-4, Ostrow got a kill from the outside. Amherst tied things up at 6-6 after multiple kills. The Ephs pushed back and went on a seven-point run to widen the margin to 13-7. Amherst called a timeout to stop the run. Corbeil had a big snap for a kill at the right pin to set the score at 15-10.
At 18-14, Ostrow had a tricky tip from the outside to add a point for the Ephs. Amherst rallied back to tie at 19-19 after a tricky kill to the corner of the court. Both teams had multiple service errors that contributed to the score. Amherst called a timeout down 23-21. After the timeout, Amherst regained the lead at 24-23. Williams then called a timeout with Amherst at match point after scrappy digs from both teams. Williams tied things up at 25-25 after a kill by Ostrow. After back-to-back service errors, the score was tied at 26-26. With a kill by Corbeil that was just inside the back line, both teams tied again at 28-28. Lane had a fast-paced kill in the middle to give the Ephs the edge. The teams tied for the eleventh time in this set at 29-29.
Ostrow put the Ephs at match point with a deep kill from the outside. Amherst responded with a kill to tie at 30-30. Both teams showed nerves of steel after seven opportunities to take the match left the match tied at 31-31. Amherst won the set 34-32 after match point was an attack error by the Ephs after the attack failed to clear the net. The second set had four lead changes and fourteen ties total.
The third set began with the Ephs tying at 4-4 after a kill from Farley by dumping the ball over the net. Down 8-4, Williams called a timeout. Down 11-7, Farley had a service ace. Lane had a middle kill down 14-9. Amherst called a timeout up 14-10. Benell had an ace down by one at 15-14. Williams called a timeout after Amherst continued their run down 20-15. Shelby Fisher '18 entered at 22-16. Ostrow had a tricky back row kill down by three at 23-20.
Amherst called another timeout with a two-point lead at 23-21. Amherst pushed through to win the set 25-21.
The fourth set began with small point differentials. Down 5-4, Morgan Richman got a kill from the right side. Amherst got a service ace up 8-4. Fisher had a big block in the middle down 9-6. At 11-8, Farley got a kill with a left-handed dump to the middle of the court. Williams edged back in with a big kill from Lane to tie things up at 14-14. Ostrow had a big kill from the outside as the Ephs led 19-16 to try to force a fifth deciding set.
At 19-16, Amherst called a timeout. Back on the court, they edged back in to within one at 19-18. Farley dumped the ball over to push back at 20-18. Amherst took another timeout down 21-18. At 23-18, Jasuta had a critical kill from the outside. Williams called a timeout up 23-21. A kill by Jasuta put the Ephs at match point. A service ace by Shelby Fisher won the set for the Ephs 25-21 to force a fifth set.
All five sets in the match have been tied at 1-1. All five sets had at least four ties. The fifth set began with both teams responding with critical defense and aggressive hitting. Amherst led at 6-3 after a service error by the Ephs. Richman got a kill from the right side to put the Ephs within two of the lead. The score was tied at 7-7 after a kill by Ostrow. The teams switched side with Amherst taking the lead at 8-7. Down 10-9, Jasuta got a kill from the outside with Fisher also adding multiple attack attempts. The teams tied at 10-10 and 11-11.
Amherst called a timeout after Williams held the lead at 12-11. An important kill by Lane in the middle tied the score again this time at 13-13. At Amherst's match point, Ostrow stayed calm and earned a kill. Both teams tied at 15-15. Williams took the lead after a block by Ostrow. Williams won the match 17-15 after a match point block by Fisher.
Ultimately, Williams edged past Amherst in a grueling five-set battle (25-22, 32-34, 25-21, 17-15).
Coach Kelsey commented on the teams hard work when she said, "It was definitely a battle today between two conference rivals and evenly matched teams. Amherst has a tremendous group and hats off to them for sure for the amazing season they have put together. Neither team had much breathing room in any of the sets today. Long rallies, lots of great saves and just overall a battle from start to finish."
Williams will take on Bowdoin (22-4, 9-1 in NESCAC) in tomorrow NESCAC Championship match.
Coach Kelsey noted, "Tomorrow is another great opportunity and we look forward to taking on Bowdoin and the challenge that lies ahead before us tomorrow in the championship."