MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Trailing 2-0 on the road against the defending NESCAC Champions, the Wesleyan University volleyball team battled back to claim a thrilling 3-2 win against Middlebury College Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals won by scores of 19-25, 11-25, 25-19, 25-19, 16-14 to snap the Panthers' 10-match win streak.
Wesleyan extended its own win streak to seven with the win and is an incredible 15-1 overall and 6-0 in the NESCAC. The Cardinals also handed Middlebury its first conference loss of the season, as the Panthers drop to 12-3 overall and 5-1 in league play.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- The first set went back-and-forth often until Middlebury pulled away down the stretch. A 3-0 run by Wesleyan cut the deficit to two (21-19), but the Panthers scored four unanswered to close out the game and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
- It was all Middlebury in the second set. The home team jumped out to an 8-4 lead before rattling off nine-straight points to take a commanding 17-4 advantage. The Panthers went on to win the game easily, 25-11.
- Wesleyan didn't back down, however, and took a 12-10 lead in the third set following back-to-back kills from Stasie Litinsky '20. Later in the game, a kill from Madeleine Lundberg '19 put the Cardinals on top for good, 15-14, as they went on to win by six.
- The visitors came out hot to start the third and went on a 4-0 run. Middlebury got within one (9-8), but that would be the closest it would get as Wesleyan pulled away for another six-point victory to force a decisive fifth set.
- The momentum remained in the Cardinals' favor as they jumped out to a 6-1 lead following three kills from Harper Graves '21. Wesleyan led the entire way and went ahead 14-8, but the Panthers rallied back and scored six unanswered to even the score at 14-14. However, the Cardinals sealed the incredible comeback victory with a kill from Graves followed by an error from Middlebury to give Wesleyan a 16-14 win and the match.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Litinsky led the Cardinals with a career-high 20 kills and an incredible .459 hitting percentage. She was joined in double-figures by Graves who finished with 11 and added 12 digs. Additionally, Nicole Hilton '20 added nine kills and Sarah Swenson '18 totaled seven with a .400 attack mark.
- Kaira Muraoka-Robertson '21 dished out 39 assists, while Grace Rose '21 added 12 and 12 digs. Defensively, Phia Bellizzi '21 totaled a match-high 32 digs and Gabby Bennett '20 recorded four block assists and one solo.
- In the first two sets, Wesleyan hit just .081 and .074 as a team, but the Cardinals rallied with 15 kills and a .250 hitting percentage in the third, 15 kills and a .333 mark in the fourth, and 12 kills and a .296 attack mark in the fifth.
- Four players recorded double-digit kills for Middlebury – Becca Raffel (21), Sarah Staver (12), Alice Roberts (11) and Eliana Schaefer (11). Emma Walsh dished out a match-high 55 assists, and Gigi Alper led the team with 17 digs. Staver also recorded three solo blocks and two block assists.
HEAD COACH BEN SOMERA:
- "It was a great ending to a really long week. Our team has been a little distracted in the training environment and at the matches, but they found a way to persevere and come out with wins. Middlebury is a quality opponent and to get the win in five on the road is huge."
- "We will get back in the gym next week and recommit ourselves to daily improvement."
- Wesleyan is back in action Friday, Oct. 13 and will play at Colby. The match is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.