Schenectady, New York – Williams College (6-1) opened play at the Union College Tournament with matches against SUNY Plattsburgh (4-5) and Union College (5-3). In these matchups, Williams earned two sweeps to go 2-0 on the first day of play.
The second set of the Williams and Plattsburgh matchup began with Williams going on an early eight-point run and establishing a 11-4 lead. This montage was led by three kills from freshman Christina Conforti, a kill from junior Lauren Barry, a kill from sophomore Lydia Kurtz, a kill from freshman Anna Tosolini, and two Plattsburgh errors. This was the momentum the Ephs needed as Plattsburgh only won five more points for the duration of the set. Ephs Lydia Kurtz, Lauren Barry, and Christina Conforti all had four kills each, and Williams was also highlighted by impressive serving placement from both junior Allison Frison and freshman Gracie Guidotti. Williams tied together an impressive team performance to coast to the 25-9 win.
For the first set of the day, Williams and Plattsburgh opened up in a back and forth fashion, but Williams built an early 10-4 lead behind strong serving from Alison Frison and a kill each from senior Erin Denham, senior Natalie Albright, Lauren Barry, and Lydia Kurtz. After Williams built the lead, the Ephs used an array of players to attack the Plattsburgh defense and never looked back. Although Plattsburgh tried to rally behind the play of junior Michelle Simmons and her four kills, the closest point differential was six points. The diverse transition offense of the Ephs was too much for Plattsburgh to overcome, and Williams sailed to a 25-16 victory.
Although Plattsburgh was down by two sets, the Cardinals were determined to fight. Plattsburgh remained calm and continued to hustle to keep the set close, and junior Rachel Mennonna contributed two kills to this effort. However, Williams went on a four-point run by capitalizing on two Plattsburgh errors, a kill from freshman Morgan Persky, and a service ace from Erin Denham to push the Williams lead to 14-9. From here, Williams maintained the lead, but Plattsburgh threatened with a five-point run by capitalizing on four Williams errors and a service ace from junior Abby Bone, shortening the Williams lead to 17-15. However, the Ephs rallied together and did not falter, relying on a service ace from both freshman Renee Depencier Pinero and Natalie Albright to keep the energy high and win 25-18. For this match, Plattsburgh leaders were: Michelle Simmons with seven kills, junior Allyssa Rock and senior Brianna Coon with eight assists each, and senior Megan Hyde with ten digs. Williams leaders were: Lydia Kurtz with eight kills, Gracie Guidotti with sixteen assists, and Lydia Kurtz with fourteen digs.
Head coach Christi Kelsey remarked: "We had the opportunity to see two different types of teams tonight in terms of style of play, and we had to make some small adjustments early on to get into our rhythm and pace of play. We had the opportunity to play several different lineups, and I was proud of the way everyone contributed to the three-set win."
In the second match of the day, Williams took on the host, Union College. In the first set, Union took the first significant lead, 12-9, after a kill from junior Katie Moss, junior Gillian Gore, and junior Julia Louis. Williams quickly responded and tied the set at 13-13 after a kill from Lydia Kurtz, service ace from Allison Frison, and a Union error. The set then proceeded with long rallies of dominant swings, beautiful digs, and impressive hustle. Union rallied to take a 20-19 lead after two Williams errors, a service ace by junior Sage Shimamoto, and a kill from Julia Louis. At a 21-21 tie, Williams came up clutch with a kill from Erin Denham and freshman Kiley Wallace. This proved to be the momentum the Ephs needed, and Lydia Kurtz finished off the set with two powerful swings for a Williams win of 25-22.
Although Union was down by one set, the second set was intense with long rallies and lead changes. Union was up 17-16, of which junior Steph Libonati contributed three kills. Union was looking to make a final push, but Williams battled and forced two Union errors and utilized a kill from Erin Denham and service ace from Natalie Albright to take the lead 20-17. Union then took a timeout to attempt to stop Williams's run, but the Ephs were not fazed. Erin Denham followed the timeout with another kill, and Natalie Albright placed another serve for an ace to further expand the Eph lead to 22-17. Williams then coasted to the 25-19 win.
In the third set, Williams was looking to close out the match and curb a potential Union comeback. Four Union errors gave Williams an early 4-1 lead, but Union threatened Williams by taking a 9-8 lead after two Williams errors, a kill from junior Katie Moss, and a kill from junior Lara Atalay. Williams capitalized on a Union error and rebounded with a service ace by Renee Depencier Pinero. From here, Williams never surrendered the lead, and a four-point run with a kill from Kiley Wallace, a kill from Erin Denham, and two Union errors pushed the Ephs ahead 18-12. It was then smooth sailing for Williams, and the Ephs committed no attacking errors down the stretch for the 25-15 victory. Union leaders were: Gillian Gore with nine kills, Sage Shimamoto with twenty-three assists, and Gillian Gore with seventeen digs. Williams leaders were: Erin Denham with thirteen kills, senior Alexandra Newton with twenty-seven assists, and Lydia Kurtz with thirteen digs.
Head coach Christi Kelsey commented: "In this match, we saw a faster pace of play, and I was incredibly proud of the in-game changes that we made to be able to stay consistent and also push the pace of how we wanted to execute and play. From start to finish, our group played with an incredible amount of confidence and poise which was great to see. We also had incredible bench energy and are excited about two more opportunities to play tomorrow!"
The Ephs are back in action on Saturday, September 14th at 12:00 EDT against Skidmore College and 2:00 EDT against Coast Guard.