After posting an 8-2 record in conference play, including a 3-0 sweep over Bowdoin (8-2), the Wesleyan volleyball team secured the No. 2 seed in the 2017 NESCAC Championships hosted by top-seeded Tufts. The Cardinals, who are 18-5 overall and rank fourth in the New England regional rankings, will play Little Three rival and No. 7 seed Williams College Friday, Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.
The tournament begins Friday night with four quarterfinal matches, followed by two semifinal matches on Saturday and the finals Sunday, Nov. 5 at 12 p.m. The Jumbos earned the No. 1 seed after posting a perfect 10-0 NESCAC record for the second year in a row (20-5 overall) and will host the entire three-day tournament. All seven matches will be broadcasted by the Northeast Sports Network (NSN) and can be viewed HERE.
Wesleyan defeated Williams (11-11, 5-5 NESCAC) on the road in the first matchup this season in a thrilling three-set match (26-24, 28-26, 25-16) on Sept. 15. It was the Cardinals' second-consecutive win against the Ephs after a six-match losing streak. The winner of Friday's match will play the winner of No. 3 Bowdoin/No. 6 Middlebury on Saturday in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m.
Friday's match will mark the second-ever meeting between Wesleyan and Williams in the current NESCAC Championships format, with the Ephs claiming a 3-2 win in 2001 and a 3-0 sweep in 2004. Williams has appeared in all 18 tournaments and owns a 35-9 record with nine titles and two runner-up finishes. The Cardinals appeared in 12-straight tournaments from 1999 to 2010 before a five-year hiatus. They return for a second consecutive season with their best seeding since 2008. It is also the third time in program history that Wesleyan earned the No. 2 seed. The Cardinals are 4-13 all-time in the current conference championship format with one runner-up finish.
AT A GLANCE: NO. 2 WESLEYAN
- Wesleyan opened the 2017 season with eight-consecutive wins and went 16-1 through its first 17 matches—the second-best start in program history (the 1989 team went 17-1).
- The Cardinals boast a well-balanced attack with a lot of depth.
- Offensively, they lead the NESCAC in kills per set (12.99) and assists per set (12.32) and rank second in hitting percentage (.220).
- They are led by outside hitters Nicole Hilton '20, Stasie Litinsky '20 and Harper Graves '21, and sophomore setter Kaira Muraoka-Robertson. Hilton ranks second in the NESCAC in hitting percentage (.343) -- and 29th in all of Division III -- and is second on the team in kills (2.66 per set), while Litinsky leads Wesleyan in kills (2.80) and her .315 hitting percentage in conference play is third-best in the league. Graves is enjoying a stellar freshman season in which she earned NESCAC Player of the Week honors on Oct. 2 and ranks third on the team in kills (2.51 per set). Muraoka-Robertson has been setting up her teammates all season long and ranks seventh in assists per set (8.25) while averaging 8.76 per set in conference play.
- Defensively, freshman libero Phia Bellizzi has been terrific for the Cardinals and Gabby Bennett '20 and Hilton have been forces at the net. Bellizzi is averaging 5.96 digs per set to rank second overall in the conference. Bennett leads the team in blocks and ranks sixth in the NESCAC with 0.83 per set while averaging 0.88 per set in conference play, and Hilton is 12th in the league in blocks averaging 0.76 per set.
- Wesleyan went 7-0 to start the season in league play, including 3-0 sweeps over Williams and Amherst to win its first Little Three title since 1992 and only its second in program history.
- The team's lone conference losses came against eighth-seeded Bates (3-0) and top-seeded Tufts (3-1).
- In non-conference action, the Cardinals faced three nationally-ranked top-25 teams including Juniata twice and defeated then-No. 24 Christopher Newport (3-2).
2017 NESCAC WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
Quarterfinals - Friday, November 3 (at Tufts)
No. 8 Bates at No. 1 Tufts – 5 p.m. l Video
No. 7 Williams vs. No. 2 Wesleyan – 5 p.m. l Video
No. 6 Middlebury vs. No. 3 Bowdoin – 8 p.m. l Video
No. 5 Amherst vs. No. 4 Hamilton – 8 p.m. l Video
Semifinals - Saturday, November 4 (at Tufts)
Winner of 4/5 vs. Winner of 1/8 - 1 p.m. l Video
Winner of 3/6 vs. Winner of 2/7 - 3:30 p.m. l Video
Championship - Sunday, November 5 (at Tufts)
Semifinal Winners - 12 p.m. l Video