New Paltz, NY – On Friday, September 6th, Williams College (2-0) traveled to New Paltz, NY for the two day women's volleyball Hawk's Invitational. The Ephs opened their 2019 season with two victories, one against Kean University (3-3) and the other against SUNY Oneonta (4-2).
After an exciting preseason filled with long, intense practices, the Ephs were thrilled to finally face competition. In the first set, Kean University obtained an early lead by utilizing the powerful serves of senior, Jesse Larkin, but Williams was not dissuaded. With Williams down 11-13, a key kill from Williams senior, Erin Denham shifted the momentum, and the Ephs went on a twelve-point run to sail to the first 2019 set victory, 25-15.
For about half of the second set, it was very close. Play was back and forth until Williams senior, Natalie Albright shifted the tide with a fierce kill. This put Williams up 16-14, and from here on out, the set never got closer than two points. Williams further capitalized on three straight errors by Kean University to surge to a 25-20 win.
In the third set, Williams had the mindset of jumping out to an early lead, and the Ephs did just that. Senior, Alex Newton's intelligent serves and sophomore, Lydia Kurtz's three straight kills pushed Williams to a 5-0 lead, and the Ephs never looked back. The set never got closer than four points as the Ephs played confidently and loosely to secure a 25-21 victory. For this match, Kean University leaders were: junior, Zoe Strozewski with seven kills; senior, Brianna Calvano with eleven assists; and sophomore, Amanda Delio with eight digs. Williams leaders were: Erin Denham with twelve kills; Alex Newton with thirty-seven assists; and senior, Daiana Takashima with nineteen digs.
Regarding the season opener, Head coach Christi Kelsey remarked: "We executed well from start to finish. I thought we had some great moments from all of our attackers as they moved the ball around well with shot selection. Our setters did a nice job of creating tempo and space along with all around team defensive discipline. This provided us with the opportunity to work on a transition offense. Overall, it was a great match to open up the weekend."
Although Williams secured the first victory of the 2019 season, there was no time to rest as the Ephs had to prepare to face SUNY Oneonta at 8:00 P.M. Opening the second match of the day, Oneonta jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but that was the biggest lead the Red Dragons could hold. Williams quickly gathered together and rallied behind a kill from Lydia Kurtz and a service ace from Daiana Takashima, to take control. After these monumental plays, the Ephs never yielded the lead and led by a dominant Lydia Kurtz performance, they worked together to coast to a 25-17 victory.
The second set was more back and forth as Oneonta refused to go away, primarily led by junior, Clara Culeton's play. Williams's Erin Denham set the tone for the set, and behind her powerful swings, Williams maintained a four-point lead throughout the entirety of the set. Williams players Erin Denham, Lydia Kurtz, and freshman, Kiley Wallace all had monumental plays and composure to contribute to their 25-22 victory.
The third set was very evenly matched until Oneonta rallied behind a kill from senior, Gillian Stieglitz. This gave Oneonta a one-point lead over Williams for a score of 9-8, and although the score remained close for the duration of the set, this kill was all Oneonta needed to control the energy, and the Red Dragons surged to a 25-20 win to keep the match alive.
Going into the fourth set, Oneonta was fired up while Williams was looking to bounce back. The rallies between both teams were intense, and it seemed to be anyone's set until Oneonta sophomore, Adriana Losier fired a kill down to tie the set at 13-13. From here, Oneonta went on a six-point run and cruised to a 25-19 victory over the Ephs. The Williams effort was led by Lydia Kurtz and Kiley Wallace.
Seeing as the fifth set was the determining factor for the winner of the match, the tension in the gym rose as both teams prepared themselves. In a back and forth fashion, the set slowly inched on through ferocious kills, beautiful sets, and plenty of hustle. Williams built a three-point lead behind three crucial kills from Lydia Kurtz, and this was all the Ephs needed to never surrender the lead. The Ephs prevailed and won the set 15-11 to ultimately take the match. The Oneonta leaders were: Clara Culeton with fourteen kills; senior, Jessica Fowler with thirty-nine assists, and senior, Lindsey Pelaccio with twenty digs. The Williams leaders were: Lydia Kurtz with twenty kills, Alex Newton with thirty-six assists, and Lydia Kurtz with twenty-six digs.
Head coach Christi Kelsey commented on the second match of the day: "We started off well, and it was a good challenge for us to be pushed by Oneonta's adjustments. We took a bit to get back into rhythm, but it was great to see our team dig deep in the fifth set and pull out the win. Overall, I'm super proud of the way this team started out the season today. We had the opportunity to play everyone that was healthy, and that's always nice for us to see different combinations of players. We ultimately know that everyone will make an impact on our team going forward. This group is incredibly focused on the process, and while two wins are great, I'm excited that they are just as optimistic and looking forward to getting back in the gym tomorrow!"
The Ephs are back in action on Saturday, September 7th against Mount St. Mary College at 1:00 P.M. EDT and New Paltz University at 3:00 P.M. EDT.