Williamstown, MA – Williams College (14-9, 5-4 NESCAC) took on Middlebury College (13-9, 5-4 NESCAC) for the first match of their final home weekend. This match took five sets, and after Middlebury won the first two, Williams stormed back to take the next two but ultimately, Middlebury won in the fifth.
Head coach Christi Kelsey commented, "I'm proud of the way our team battled back from being down 0-2 and showed some real resilience, grit, and mental toughness. I thought we had it there in the fifth, but Midd stepped up on the last few points. Overall, I'm incredibly proud. We're playing our best volleyball late in the season, and we have another chance to compete tomorrow."
Williams opened the fifth set with a forceful cross court kill from sophomore Lydia Kurtz, which set the tone. There would be dynamic plays and incredible athletic feats from both teams. Middlebury refused to give anything to Williams and proceeded to battle right away. However, a hustle play by Williams freshman Gracie Guidotti throwing herself forward, digging the ball up, and sending it back over the net for a Williams point gave the Ephs the 6-5 lead. The gymnasium erupted, and energy shifted to the Ephs. Williams built a 10-7 lead behind two kills from freshman Anna Tosolini and a kill from freshman Christina Conforti. From here, it appeared to be Williams's set and match, but Middlebury had other plans. Behind two kills each from Middlebury sophomores Maggie Wise and Jane Nelson, the Panthers stormed back into the set and forced a set and match victory, 17-15.
In the first set, the turning point came after two kills from Panther Maggie Wise which gave Middlebury a 15-10 lead, and from here, Middlebury controlled the pace of the set. They used small runs to ensure the Ephs never got settled into a rhythm. Williams attempted to mount a late comeback behind a kill from Erin Denham and a block from junior Lauren Barry which narrowed the Middlebury lead to 22-14. However, the lead was too much, and Middlebury's senior setter, Chellsa Ferdinand, was crucial to the Middlebury's 25-16 victory.
The second set began with Eph senior Daiana Takashima hustling all over the floor. She seemed to know exactly where the ball was going to be placed and made incredible, athletic saves for the Ephs. Middlebury established a 14-8 lead by utilizing the strong serving of junior Emma Walsh, but the Ephs were not dissuaded. Williams chipped away at the lead, and a massive double block by Williams's Erin Denham and sophomore Olivia Hindy narrowed the Middlebury lead to 18-17. The Ephs were fired up and forced a timeout, but Middlebury was collected after coming out of the timeout and proceeded to go on a four-point run, led by strong serving from Maggie Wise. Williams's Lydia Kurtz refused to let the Ephs go down and came up clutch with a punishing kill off an overpass and a roll shot to narrow the Middlebury lead to 23-21. Middlebury was not fazed and placed the ball well down the stretch to force Williams errors and claim the set 25-23.
In the third set, the Ephs came out of the gate and won the first point by playing complete, good volleyball together. Their passes were impeccable, and they had strong communication, establishing how they would approach this set. Middlebury sophomore Corley Doyle had four impressive kills to build the Panthers a 17-13 lead over Williams, but Williams was not discouraged. Eph Erin Denham quickly powered down a kill to stop the run. The Ephs regained their energy and began to chip away at the lead through intelligent distribution of the ball by senior Alexandra Newton. The largest Williams run was three-points and was directed by Anna Tosolini's kill and two monumental double blocks from her and teammate Erin Denham. This gave Williams the lead 23-22. Play went back and forth between both teams, and spectators held their breath. However, Williams's Erin Denham showcased her clutch gene as she contributed three more kills when Williams needed it. Eph Olivia Hindy sealed the win for Williams after she blocked a backrow attack, securing the 28-26 win.
With a win under the belts, the Ephs assembled a 5-1 lead in the fourth set through smart play and hustle. From here, Williams appeared to be in the driver's seat, but Middlebury made it interesting by tying the set at 17-17 led by strong serving from Emma Walsh and freshman Kelly Ferrero. Middlebury then proceeded to push to a 22-19 lead behind Jane Nelson's dynamic play. However, Williams was not fazed and sided out after Erin Denham again showcased her clutch gene by firing down a kill and following this up with another one. The Ephs went on a 6-0 run to close out the set, of which Christina Conforti also had two kills. Williams was victorious 25-22.
In this thriller, Middlebury leaders were: Maggie Wise with seventeen kills, Chellsa Ferdinand with thirty assists, and senior Gigi Alper with twenty-eight digs. Williams leaders were: Erin Denham with twenty-two kills, Alexandra Newton with forty-eight assists, and Daiana Takashima with twenty-six digs.
The Ephs return to play on Saturday, November 2nd when they take on Amherst College at 1:00 PM EDT for the final conference match of regular season play.