WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Christi Kelsey's Williams College volleyball team (13-10/6-4 NESCAC) is seeded fifth in the NESCAC Tournament and will face fourth-seeded Bowdoin (14-9/6-4 NESCAC) on Friday at 8:00 p.m. at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
The NESCAC Semifinals and Finals will be held at Tufts on Saturday and Sunday. All of the NESCAC Tournament matches will be webcasted by NSN Sports.
The winner of the Williams v. Bowdoin match will be taking on the winner of the match between the top-seeded Tufts Jumbos and eighth-seeded Connecticut College at 1:00 p.m. The other semifinal match will find the winner of the Wesleyan v. Amherst match lining up to play the winner of the Middlebury v. Bates match at 3:30 p.m. The NESCAC Championship will be decided at noon on Sunday.
In the regular season match versus Bowdoin back on Sept. 17 in Brunswick, Maine, the Ephs were down 2-1 before rallying to win set four 25-23 and set five 15-13.
Bowdoin is 6-4 in its last 10 matches and all four losses came at a tournament in St. Louis hosted by Washington University where they played four strong teams from the heartland. Bowdoin has won its last four NESCAC matches.
Williams is 7-3 in its last 10 matches and 3-2 in its last five NESCAC matches. Fourteen times in the last 15 years the Ephs have advanced to the NESCAC Semifinals and in each of the last three years Wililams has played in the championship match, winning in 2013 and 2014, but losing to Bowdoin last fall.
"I think that over the course of the past nine weeks, we have had several strengths emerge for us," noted Eph head coach Christi Kelsey. "In terms of our play, we have had strong ball control, aggressive defense, and have become a more balanced offensive team as well. The intangibles for us though have been far bigger than any one skill. We have had tremendous leadership from our senior captains as well as everyone on the team taking turns stepping up and sharing the load. Most importantly, we have had awesome team chemistry in all that we do as a volleyball family."
One of the challenges that this Eph team has faced is that it has a short bench, what with just nine players in uniform heading into the NESCAC Tournament. The injury bug has been particularly pesky in the Berkshires this fall.
"We put together a really great stretch in the month of October and all that credit goes to the team," Christi commented. "They have risen to every challenge that we have put in front of them as coaches but also been willing to help inspire and motivate each other to get better every day. We have learned a lot along the way and we are so proud of their resiliency, grit, and overall unconditional support of one another."
This will be the seventh time that the Ephs and Polar Bears have met in post-season, either in the NESCAC or NCAA tournaments, and all seven meetings have come since 2008. All-time the Ephs hold a commanding lead in the overall series forging a record of 29-5, however, all of Bowdoin's five wins have come since 2011.
Prior to the Eph win this past September, Bowdon had defeated Williams two times in a row. A year ago Bowdoin downed Williams 3-2 in Brunswick to claim the NESCAC title. The Ephs are 4-1 all-time vs. the Polar Bears in NESCAC tourney matches and in 2014 the Ephs topped Bowdoin 3-0 in an NCAA Regional final in Williamstown.
"We have a tremendous amount of respect for Bowdoin," added Kelsey. "They have a great coach and a lot of really strong talent in terms of their players. They have had a great stretch in this month. It was a battle when we played them two months ago and I expect for it to be the same again here in the post-season, which is exciting.
"I think all of our players have been awesome in terms of what they continue to add to our volleyball family this year," Kelsey stated. "We have our seniors who are playing the best volleyball of their Eph careers and more importantly providing awesome leadership as well. We have a sophomore class who has been all in for everything that we have done and asked of them since we ended the 2015 season. Watching their growth has been amazing. Even for Mia Weinland, Tess Richman, and Nica Kovalcik who can't play due to injury, these guys have been right there with us in terms of their support, energy and enthusiasm. And lastly our first year class has really elevated their play and their presence on our team in just a short amount of time.. They have embraced their experience and really grown in their confidence with our program in two months. We as coaches really could not be more proud of this group. It's been an awesome journey so far and we are looking forward to seeing what's next this week and weekend."