Middletown, CT – Williams College (12-8, 4-3 NESCAC) returned to conference play with a match against Wesleyan University (18-2, 8-1 NESCAC). Williams played Wesleyan tightly but ultimately fell in three sets.
Head coach Christi Kelsey commented, "Overall, this was some of the best volleyball we've played yet this season which is promising against a talented team like Wesleyan. The second and third sets came down to a couple points, and we need to battle more in those momentum ones. We're looking forward to another day of play tomorrow."
Wesleyan built an early 10-3 lead in the third set behind the three kills of freshman Bella Ahearn. However, Williams knew their backs were against the wall and buckled down. The Ephs battled the Cardinals for every point and chipped away at the lead. After a kill from sophomore Olivia Hindy that gave the Ephs back the ball, Williams substituted for senior Erin Denham which proved to be the catalyst for a six-point run, led by the serving of sophomore Lydia Kurtz and incredible team hustle. The Ephs then earned a 16-15 lead over the Cardinals. Wesleyan began to pull away but was unable to build a lead larger than three points as Williams was determined to stay in the set. Although Williams played Wesleyan closely, the Wesleyan attack was too powerful as the Cardinals ended up taking the set, 25-22, and the match.
In the first set, Wesleyan separated the gap from Williams when the Cardinals went on a five-point run to lead 11-5. This effort was led by Wesleyan senior Gabby Bennett who had one kill and two blocks while Bella Ahearn had two kills. Williams rallied and closed the gap to two points by responding with a four-point rally of their own with a kill each from freshman Kiley Wallace, Lydia Kurtz, and junior Lauren Barry. However, Wesleyan was not fazed, and after a Wesleyan substitution for sophomore Jenna Otaola, the Cardinals recovered their stride. From here, Wesleyan cruised to the 25-17 victory. Williams was highlighted by three kills from Lydia Kurtz.
The second set began in a back and forth affair until Wesleyan went on a five-point run to build a lead of 10-4 of which was highlighted by strong serving from Jenna Otaola. Although the Cardinals extended the lead, Williams was not fazed and utilized small two to three point runs to slowly erase the gap. The turning point came from a Wesleyan service error, tying the set at 15-15. A Wesleyan attack error and a kill from Williams's Olivia Hindy gave the Ephs the lead 17-15. Play proceeded in a back and forth fashion with both teams going all out to keep the ball off the ground. Down the stretch, Wesleyan's Bella Ahearn was the difference maker for the Cardinals as her two kills gave the Cardinals the 23-21 lead. Eph Lydia Kurtz powered down a kill to bring Williams within one point, but Wesleyan's Gabby Bennett earned a kill by hitting off of the Williams block to reach set point, 24-22. On the next play, Wesleyan was out of system and sent a free ball over, and Eph Oliva Hindy powered down a quick set to keep Williams alive. However, Wesleyan gathered themselves and won the next point and the set 25-23.
Wesleyan leaders were: Bella Ahearn with sixteen kills, senior Kaira Muraoka-Robertson with twenty-two assists, and junior Phia Bellizzi with thirty-four assists. Williams leaders were: Erin Denham and Lydia Kurtz with eight kills each, senior Alexandra Newton with seventeen assists, and Lydia Kurtz with eighteen digs.
Williams is back in action on Saturday, October 26th with two matches. The first will be played at 1:00 PM EDT against Connecticut College, and the second will be played at 3:00 PM EDT against Smith College.