PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Wesleyan University volleyball team continues to roll as the Cardinals swept Wellesley College 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-22) in the first round of the NCAA Championships Friday night behind an all-around impressive performance in the Wildcat Center at Johnson & Wales University.
Wesleyan totaled 49 kills with a .286 hitting percentage, 48 assists, 67 digs, and six total blocks as they improve to 22-5 overall. The Cardinals will play the winner of No. 8 Johnson & Wales vs. Elms tomorrow, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. Wellesley's season comes to an end with a 22-7 record.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Wesleyan came out hot in the first set and jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The Cardinals carried the momentum throughout the game and continued to increase their lead behind impressive offensive play. Down the stretch, Wesleyan took an 11-point lead off a kill from Nicole Hilton '20, but the Blue responded with five unanswered to force a Cardinal timeout as they got within seven, 23-16. Out of the timeout, Kaira Muraoka-Robertson '20 set up Stasie Litinsky '20 for an impressive kill and an attack error by Wellesley sealed the win for Wesleyan.
- In the second set, it was Wellesley that came out hot as it took a 6-3 lead, but the Cardinals rallied to even the score following a kill from Muraoka-Robertson. After some intense back-and-forth action, Wellesley took a 15-13 lead but Wesleyan responded with an impressive 7-0 run capped off by a kill from Litinsky, which proved to be the difference in the match. Back-to-back blocks from Bennett down the stretch followed by a service ace from Olivia Guidotti '20 gave the Cardinals a 25-18 victory and a 2-0 advantage.
- Graves opened the third game with consecutive kills and a service ace by Phia Bellizzi '21 put Wesleyan ahead 3-0. However, Wellesley rallied and scored nine of the next 12 points to go ahead 11-8. The Cardinals regained a lead after back-to-back kills from Hilton and Litinsky, respectively, to go ahead 17-16. They pulled ahead 24-20 down the stretch before a brief 2-0 run by the Blue to force a timeout, but Hilton put the match away with another kill to escape a comeback attempt by Wellesley.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS:
- Wesleyan hit an impressive .341 in the first set with 18 kills and only three errors on 44 attempts to make a statement early on.
- Litinsky led all players with 11 kills, while Hilton totaled 10 and Harper Graves '21 finished with 10 and 10 digs. Muraoka-Robertson dished out a match-high 39 assists, Bellizzi led all players with 23 digs, and Madeleine Lundberg '20 totaled 16 digs and eight kills. Bennett was a force at the net once again and finished with four block assists and six kills.
- Wellesley was led by Lauren Gedney's nine kills and Michelle Li's 29 assists and 13 digs. As a team, the Blue hit .167 with 35 kills.
- The second set featured nine ties and seven lead changes, while the third featured eight ties and two lead changes.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE:
- Wesleyan and Wellesley never met in the NCAA Tournament before, but the Blue did serve as the pod host in the Cardinals' first postseason appearance in 2001.
- The Cardinals are now 2-1 all-time in the tournament while the Blue drop to 17-13 in 12 appearances.
- Wellesley leads the all-time series 10-4, but Wesleyan has won the past two meetings.
HEAD COACH BEN SOMERA:
- "I was very impressed by our defense. Our blockers did a very nice job of getting our block timing down and slowing balls down, not necessarily stuffing balls but we did stuff enough to make their hitters change their shots. But that has really been the biggest change in our team, is
over the last half of the season, how much better we've been defending and blocking. Our offensive rhythm has been good all season. We had a really nice pass, set, hit rhythm since day one and now our defense is starting to slow some people down and give us a chance to outwork teams in transition."