MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – The Wesleyan University volleyball team won its first Little Three title since 1992 on Saturday, as it swept archrival Amherst College by scores of 25-15, 25-16, 25-14. Later in the day, the Cardinals defeated Stevens Institute of Technology in four sets (25-18, 30-32, 25-10, 25-23) to conclude the doubleheader sweep.
The Little Three title is just Wesleyan's second in program history. Additionally, the win over the Mammoths is the program's first since 2008, and it's the Cardinals first sweep against Amherst in exactly 12 years to this day.
Wesleyan continues to shine early in the 2017 season and is now 12-1 overall and a perfect 5-0 in the NESCAC. Amherst, after defeating Stevens, is now 11-4 overall and 2-2 in league play. The Ducks drop to 15-5 after back-to-back losses in Silloway Gym.
MATCH 1 VS. AMHERST:
- In the first set, Wesleyan led from the beginning. Midway through the game, a streak of six consecutive points powered the Cardinals ahead of their rivals from a three-point lead to an eight-point gap, 13-5. Mia Hogan '20 finalized the win with a service ace.
- Amherst tried to close the gap of five points in the second set, 19-14, but after a service ace from freshman Robi Frederick, the Cardinals' lead only continued to grow. Harper Graves '21 hit the winning kill off an assist from Kaira Muraoka-Robertson '20.
- In the final game, Amherst evened the score at 10-10, but a kill by Graves off an assist from Muraoka-Robertson ended the Mammoth's hopes for a comeback as Wesleyan's lead grew. To end the historic match, Graves sealed the win off an assist from fellow freshman Phia Bellizzi.
- Stasie Litinsky '20 led the Cardinals with 13 kills and a fantastic .480 hitting percentage. Nicole Hilton '20 was close behind totaling 12 kills and boasting a .348 hitting percentage.
- Bellizzi racked up five assists and a match-high 24 digs, while teammate Muraoka-Robertson totaled another match-high 35 assists. Gabby Bennett '20 ended the match with three block assists and one solo.
- Marialexa Natsis led Amherst with eight kills, while Charlotte Duran totaled 22 assists. Hayes Honea commanded the Mammoths with 11 digs, closely followed by her teammate Asha Walker who finished with 10.
MATCH 2 VS. STEVENS:
- Wesleyan faced a difficult non-conference match against Stevens later in the day. After taking the first set, 25-18, the Cardinals and Ducks played a thrilling second game. The two teams traded points for much of the set, especially down the stretch, until a Wesleyan error followed by a kill from Shelby Stewart gave Stevens a 32-30 win to even the match at 1-1.
- The Cardinals responded with a decisive win in the third game. Leading 8-5, the home team went on to score 17 of the next 22 points to claim a 25-10 route.
- Wesleyan found itself down 7-4 in the fourth, but scored eight consecutive points to take the lead and never look back. The Ducks got within one down the stretch, 24-23, but a block assist by Bennett and Graves sealed the win.
- Hilton finished with 16 kills and a .469 hitting percentage, while Litinsky and Frederick joined her in double-figures with 13 and 11, respectively. Muraoka-Robertson dished out an incredible 46 assists and added 15 digs. Bellizzi led the team with 31 digs, with Frederick adding 12 and Madeleine Lundberg '19 registering 11. Bennett finished with seven block assists.
- Stevens was led by Casey King, as she totaled 15 kills and 13 digs. Taleen Mitchell and Stewart had 12 and 11 kills, respectively, and Julie Greco and Brianna Perez each dished out 20 assists. Sydni Horner led all players with 33 digs and Mitchell added 14.
HEAD COACH BEN SOMERA:
- "It was great to win the Little Three Championship and meet another goal for the season. Our execution in the Amherst match was the best it's been all year, and we were solid in every phase of the game. It's not easy to play well for a sustained period of time against two quality opponents. At times our focus and intention left us, but we were able to rebound and regain our form."
- The Cardinals face off against Western Connecticut State on October 5th (7 p.m.) in Danbury, Conn.