New London, CT – Williams College (14-8, 5-3 NESCAC) faced off against Connecticut College (7-14, 0-9 NESCAC) for the first match of the day. The second set was the turning point for the Ephs in claiming the sweep over the Camels.
Head coach Christi Kelsey remarked, "It was great for us to stay pretty steady and consistent with our execution and energy even when were pushed by a very athletic Conn team."
The second set proved to be the deciding factor as Conn played Williams evenly. Williams started off with a 15-10 lead, highlighted by three kills from sophomore Oliva Hindy. However, Conn was determined to remain in the set and used small runs to close the gap. The largest Conn run was four points, but two kills from freshman Katie Gunderman brought Conn within one. Williams only led 21-20. Both teams traded points back and forth, and extreme hustle and dynamic kills kept energy in the gym high and spectators on the edge of their seats. Conn tied the set at 24-24 after a kill from senior Grace McGee and a Williams error, but Williams responded by putting pressure on Conn and keeping the ball alive to win the next two points and the set, 26-24.
In the first set, Williams utilized an attack error by Conn to reverse the momentum. Then, Williams freshman Gracie Guidotti stepped up to the service line, and she earned three service aces through her intelligent, powerful serves. Another attack error from Conn gave Williams the 14-11 lead. It appeared that Williams was going to cruise away with the lead, but a kill from Conn Katie Gunderman reversed the tide. Three strong serves from Conn sophomore Emma Roberts gave the camels the 19-18 lead. Williams took a timeout to collect themselves and came out of it with renewed energy and fire. The Ephs controlled the rest of the set, only yielding four points, and two kills each from seniors Erin Denham and Natalie Albright helped push the Ephs to the 25-23 victory.
For the third set, the Ephs were riding the momentum from the close second set. Williams established an early 19-7 lead after a twelve-point run behind effective serving from Natalie Albright, including her six service aces. Conn refused to quit and went on a seven-point run of their own to narrow the Williams gap to 22-15. This was led by two kills from Camels Grace McGee and intelligent serving from freshman Georgia Quesnelle. Williams buckled down after a Conn attack error and played smart to control the remainder of the set and win 25-15.
Conn leaders were: Katie Gunderman with nine kills, junior McKaela Simons with seventeen assists, and junior Elle Kass with twenty-three digs. Williams leaders were: Lydia Kurtz with eleven kills, senior Alexandra Newton with seventeen assists, and senior Daiana Takashima with nineteen digs.
For the second match of the day, Williams faced off against Smith College (6-20). After dropping the first two sets to Smith, Williams rallied and won three straight to claim the match.
Head coach Christi Kelsey reflected, "Our "bench" energy has been awesome each and every match. They have been like the "7th woman or teammate" all year for us, and we are incredibly thankful for our group that gives us all their energy, passion, and enthusiasm every single point. Without them, we could not have pulled any win today. We are incredibly proud of our team for getting our fire back in the third set and hanging in there and fighting for the five set win!"
The fifth set was the determining factor for the match victor. Smith started out with a 6-1 lead after capitalizing on Williams errors. However, Williams was determined to utilize the momentum they had created from the previous two sets and battled Smith for each point. The Ephs mounted a comeback and tied the set at 9-9 led by two kills from Erin Denham. Both teams traded points until a kill from Lydia Kurtz gave the Ephs the 12-11 lead. From here, the Ephs never surrendered another point and claimed the set, 15-11, and the match.
In the first set, Smith jumped out to an early 7-3 lead led by the forceful serving from freshman Evi Evgeniou. Smith never surrendered the lead although Williams battled and was able to tie the set six times. After Williams tied the set at 20-20, it appeared to be anyone's set. The teams went back and forth, and Williams's Erin Denham and Lydia Kurtz had a kill each. However, at the 24-24 tie, a dynamic kill from Smith's Evi Evgeniou shifted the momentum and gave Smith the 25-24 lead. A block from Smith junior Claire Cicchetti sealed the Smith victory, 26-24.
The second set was played tightly for the entire duration. Williams took a 21-16 lead after a four-point run consisting of a kill from Olivia Hindy, Lydia Kurtz, junior Lauren Barry, and a service ace from Daiana Takashima. However, Smith responded with a four-point run of their own, and from here, it was again anyone's set. Impressive digs, smooth sets, and dynamic cheering kept the pace of game high, and both teams determined. Williams held a 26-25 lead after a Smith error and kill from freshman Kiley Wallace, but Smith retaliated with a kill from Claire Cicchetti. This shook the Ephs as the Pioneers won the next two points and the set, 28-26.
The Ephs were fired up in the third set and came out roaring. Williams knew they had to win this set to stay alive and thus immediately started with a 9-0 run. This was highlighted by two kills from Lydia Kurtz, two service aces from Alexandra Newton, a kill from Natalie Albright, and four Smith errors. Eph energy was electric as the bench helped propel the Eph attack for the entire set. The Ephs only gave up seven points in this match. Smith's Evi Evgeniou and senior Iris Afantchao each had a block in this set. Williams was ultimately victorious, 25-7.
After a crucial third set victory, the Ephs were focused, resilient, and confident in their abilities to take the fourth set. A kill from Williams's Erin Denham reversed early Smith energy, and Williams proceeded to go on a four-point run, led by freshman Anna Tosolini who had two kills and a double block with Alexandra Newton. Lydia Kurtz also contributed another powerful kill, and Williams then led 12-9. This appeared to be all the lead Williams needed, but Smith slowly chipped away with small runs and the help of three kills from freshman Ava Zollinger. Smith battled to tie the set up at 24-24, but Williams was not fazed as Alexandra Newton saw an opening and had a kill to give the Ephs back the ball and momentum. A final kill from Olivia Hindy sealed the set at 26-24 for the Ephs.
Smith leaders were: Ava Zollinger with ten kills, Evi Evgeniou with thirty-three assists, and freshman Gabby Beckman with nineteen digs. For Williams, leaders were: Lydia Kurtz with twenty kills, Alexandra Newton with thirty-three assists, and Daiana Takashima with seventeen digs.
Williams returns to action for a home conference weekend. On Friday, November 1st, Williams faces Middlebury at 7:00 PM EDT, and on Saturday, November 2nd, Williams takes on Amherst at 1:00 PM EDT. This will close out the regular season for the Ephs.