Amherst, MA–– The Ephs (4-5, 1-2 in NESCAC) were excited to play Little III rival Amherst (6-2, 2-1 in NESCAC) in a Friday night away match. Last season, Williams beat Amherst during the regular season in a four set home game (17-25, 25-13, 25-16, 25-22). Additionally, Williams and Amherst met again during the 2015 post-season with Williams emerging victorious against Amherst in the NESCAC Quarterfinals.
The 2015 NESCAC Quarterfinals was five sets of intense rallies and showmanship from both teams that led to the Ephs victory (25-22, 32-34, 25-21, 21-25, 17-15). This match also marked Amherst's 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. After the NESCAC Quarterfinals in 2015, Head Coach of the Ephs Christi Kelsey remarked, "It was definitely a battle today between two conference rivals and evenly matched teams." She added, "Long rallies, lots of great saves and just overall a battle from start to finish." With a long history between the two teams, this regular season game was sure to be another great match up.
The starters for the Ephs were Ally Ostrow '19, Morgan Richman '19, Roxi Corbeil '19, Tori Jasuta '17, Natalie Albright '20 as well setter Alex Newton '20 and libero Catie Benell '17. The first set started off with both teams ready to attack. The Ephs pushed forward early after kills by Ostrow, Newton, and Jasuta set the score at 9-6. Amherst then called a timeout. Back from the timeout, Benell demonstrated her signature serve and earned a service ace. Benell leads the team in service aces with a total of 15. Amherst edged back in after a double block on the Eph's left pin hitter. At 15-11, Jasuta had an explosive kill from the outside. Jasuta is the team leader in kills with 93 so far this season and Ostrow holding a strong second place with 66 kills. With the Ephs up 17-11, Amherst called their second timeout of the match. At 18-12, Albright earned a point off of a set from Newton. The Ephs maintained their presence at the new with kills by Jasuta and Corbeil. Corbeil earned a kill from the right side at match point to win the set for the Ephs 25-18.
Amherst quickly took at 3-0 lead at the start of the second set. Williams tied things up at 3-3 after a kill from the outside by Ostrow. Amherst responded with strong hitting around the back line. Williams called a timeout down 4-9. Down 6-11, Ostrow earned another kill as Williams tried to narrow the deficit. At 8-12, Newton earned a kill with an assist from Daiana Takashima '20. Amherst called a timeout up 15-12 as they tried to widen their lead. Back from the timeout Amherst went on a run to set the score at 13-19. Down 15-20, the Ephs pushed back after a service ace by Takashima. Williams called a timeout after multiple kills from Amherst put the score at Amherst's match point Amherst won the second set 25-17.
With one set each, both teams were hoping to claim the third set of the night. The third set was a back and forth battle with many lead changes throughout the set. Up 7-4, Jasuta had a consistent hit with help from setter Newton. At 10-8, Albright got a kill as Newton continued to be an integral part of the Eph's offensive system. Up 14-11, Albright earned another kill but Amherst pushed back and after multiple kills took the lead at 15-14. Williams called a timeout down 15-17. Back from the timeout, Richman added a point with a kill. Down by one at 21-22, Albright hoped to bring the Ephs close to a lead change. Tied at 23-23, Ostrow got a kill with an assist by Jasuta. After a kill by Ostorw at Williams' match point, Amherst called a timeout. Williams took home the third set in a close win 25-23.
Williams was hoping to clinch the fourth set now that they were up two sets to one. However, Amherst had other plans and when on a 5-0 run with strong serving. The deficit between the two teams winded and Williams called a timeout down 5-10. Amherst continued their run and Williams called a timeout down 5-15. The Ephs suffered from many attack errors during the forth set. Additionally, Amherst was serving consistently and earned multiple service aces. Back from the timeout, Jasuta earned a kill. However, Amherst continued to push forward. Down 7-22, Ostrow earned a kill off on an assist by Benell. The Ephs regained energy at the end of the forth set with kills by Ostrow and Richman. Ultimately, Amherst won the forth set 25-10 with a double block by Amherst at match point.
The fifth set was winner takes all as both teams were excited for yet another match up that came down to the wire. Amherst took an early lead at 3-0 after attack errors by the Ephs. Down 1-5, Williams called a timeout. Down 2-6, Albright got a kill with a set by Newton. Down 3-7, Jasuta got a kill as the Ephs hoped to regain control of the tempo. Amherst called a timeout up 8-5. Back from the timeout, Williams took control and tied things up at 8-8 with a kill from Corbeil. Amherst responded and took back the lead at 11-8. Williams called a timeout to talk things over. Erin Denham '20 got a kill with the Ephs down 9-12. Amherst's strong offensive hitters helped them push forward as they ultimately won the decisive fifth set 15-10. After a grueling five set battle, the Ephs ultimately lost (25-18, 17-25, 25-23, 10-25, 10-15) in the Friday night conference match up at Amherst. This match marked Amherst's first victory since the 2012 regular season when Amherst won in four sets at Amherst. This win for Amherst also ended a six-match streak for the Ephs.
Coach Kelsey remarked on tonight's match up. She explained that "Tonight was a battle for sure with both sides playing some really great volleyball." She noted the progress that the team has shown throughout the season so far. She added, "It's exciting to see the improvement each and every match. It's a tough missed opportunity but hats off to Amherst for really playing well too."