Courtnesy of Tufts Sports Information
MEDFORD, Mass. – Middlebury head coach Sarah Raunecker picked up her 400th career win as the second-seeded Panthers defeated third-seeded Amherst, 3-0, in the NESCAC Semifinals in Cousens Gym on the campus of Tufts. Becca Raffel led the Panthers with a match-high 16 kills.
With the win the Panthers (17-8) advance to the conference finals and will face top-seeded Tufts on Sunday at noon for the conference title. The Purple & White finish the year with a 17-9 record.
The Purple & White took an early lead in the first set. Trailing 18-13, Middlebury received two kills from Sarah Staver, a serve ace from Emily Kolodka and a couple of Amherst errors, allowed the Panthers to climb back within one, 18-17. After an Amherst point, Middlebury scored five consecutive points behind the serve of Staver to take a 22-19 lead and was able to hold on to win set one, 25-22.
The Panthers never trailed in the second set, picking up a 25-16 win. Amherst led for most of the third set, but with the score 20-18 in favor of the Purple & White, Staver picked up a kill to bring the Panthers within one. An Amherst error tied the match at 20 and kill by Raffel pushed the Panthers into the lead. Amherst came back to tie the set at 21 thanks to a Panther error. Another kill from Raffel and an Amherst error gave Middlebury a two-point lead, and it was able to hold on to that to pick up a 25-23 win to close out the sweep.
Raffel's 16 kills led the Panthers and Isabel Sessions and Staver contributed nine kills each. Defensively, Gigi Alper was the leader with 17 digs, while Claire White-Dzuro turned in 15 and Hannah Blackburn and Kolodka both added ten. Blackburn took care of the setting, finishing with 34 assists.
For the Purple & White, Maggie Danner led the offense with 13 kills and Marialexa Natsis added nine. Defensively, Hayes Honea turned in 19 digs and Asha Walker helped with 13. Kate Bres tallied 22 assists and Charlotte Duran finished with 13.