MEDFORD, Mass. – For the first time since 2001 and just the second time in program history, the Wesleyan University volleyball team returns to the NESCAC finals as the second-seeded Cardinals came-from-behind to defeat third-seeded Bowdoin College Saturday (3-1) by scores of 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-16 in the conference semifinals at Tufts. Wesleyan will play the Jumbos—the top-seed in the tournament—for a shot at its first-ever conference championship tomorrow at 12 p.m.
The Cardinals, who defeated the Polar Bears a week ago (3-0), reach the 20-win mark for the first time since 2008 as they improve to 20-5 overall. Bowdoin drops to 15-10 overall and awaits its NCAA Tournament fate.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Trailing by one in the first set (4-3), the Polar Bears rallied with five unanswered points and never looked back. Wesleyan got within two (22-20) down the stretch following a 4-1 run, but a kill from Danielle Abrams sealed the 25-21 victory to put Bowdoin on top, 1-0.
- The Cardinals retaliated with a vengeance in the second game as they went on an incredible 11-1 run to take an 18-6 lead, essentially putting the game out of reach as they tied the match at 1-1.
- In the third, Bowdoin came out strong and jumped out to a 10-4 lead early on. Wesleyan later found itself down 18-11 but mounted an impressive comeback as it went on a 9-0 run to pull ahead, 20-18. Freshman Harper Graves would then put the set away with a kill followed by a service ace as the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the match.
- The momentum carried over into the fourth as they scored the first four points of the game. Wesleyan used another strong run (8-2) to take a commanding 17-7 advantage. The lead proved to be too much as Nicole Hilton '20 sealed the victory with a kill off an assist from Kaira Muraoka-Robertson '20.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan's offense became more efficient as the match went on. The Cardinals hit .000 in the first set loss, but recovered nicely as they hit .277 in the second, .324 in the third, and .414 in the fourth.
- Graves continues to shine in her first-ever NESCAC Tournament as the freshman led all players with a career-high 19 kills and an impressive .395 hitting percentage. She also finished with 10 digs and four blocks. Hilton joined in her double-figures with 13 kills and three blocks while Gabby Bennett '20 added nine and Sarah Swenson '18 tallied six.
- Muraoka-Robertson registered a double-double with 40 assists and 10 digs while Phia Bellizzi '21 led Wesleyan's defense with 25 digs and Madeleine Lundberg '19 added 12. Bennett was a force at the net as well as she finished with five blocks.
- Bowdoin was led by Caroline Flaharty's 15 kills and 12 digs. Abrams added 11 kills with a .421 hitting percentage and Ashley Williams recorded 10 with a .500 attack clip. Kate Kiser led all players with 46 assists and Lisa Sheldon posted a match-high 27 digs.