Volleyball Nearly Upsets Williams in Five-Set Thriller
Issue   |   Tue, 09/30/2014 - 23:07

After six straight wins and 18 straight set victories, the Amherst volleyball team entered their home opener against archrival Williams on Friday night with high expectations. The Firedogs felt confident entering the match, but the Ephs, last year’s conference champions, would be one of the toughest contests of the year.

Williams emerged victorious on the night in a thrilling five-set match (25-21, 20-25, 25-21, 24-26, 15-13) that included 49 ties and 26 lead changes.

Lizzie Ahern ’16 led Amherst on the night with a team-high 13 kills in addition to 17 digs. Maggie Danner ’17 floored 11 kills, while Nicole Gould ’17 added nine. Setter Nicole Carter ’16 dished out 41 assists, while defensive specialists Katie Warshaw ’16 and Kelci Keeno ’17 added a combined 44 digs. Middle blocker Marialexa Natsis ’18 added seven kills, and Asha Walker ’18 floored five kills on a .714 hitting percentage.

The two teams traded points throughout the first set, with neither side holding more than a one-point advantage through the first half of the set. The two eventually found themselves tied at 15 when Williams finished strongly, riding a 10-6 run to close out the match and take a 1-0 lead.

In the second set, the Ephs rode their momentum to a early 6-2 lead. A Williams attack error, however, opened the door for the Firedogs, as they responded with an 8-3 run to take the lead at 11-10. Back and forth action followed, with the score notched at 15 once again, but this time Amherst claimed six straight points on the back of two kills from Danner to take a 21-15 lead. The Ephs closed it to three with an attack error by the Firedogs, but Amherst called a timeout and responded to win the set 25-20.

The third set featured five lead changes and nine ties in thrilling action between the two teams. After an even start to the set, three straight Amherst errors gave Williams a 16-11 lead. The Firedogs regrouped to launch a 7-2 run and tie the score at 18. An Ahern kill gave the Firedogs a 20-19 edge, but the Ephs’ Tori Jasuta claimed two kills in the late stages to guide Williams to a 25-21 set win.

In the fourth set, Williams looked on top with an 18-16 lead before Amherst responded with four straight kills to force an Ephs timeout. Out of the break, the Ephs claimed a 22-21 lead before kills by Ahern and Gould put Amherst up 23-22. With the score tied at 24-24, a bad set by Williams and a Natsis kill forced a decisive fifth set.

Williams jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the fifth set before a 9-3 run by Amherst helped the Firedogs take the lead, 12-9. However, the Ephs responded with a 5-0 run to go ahead 14-12. A Gould kill cut the deficit to one, but ultimately it wasn’t enough as Williams claimed the set and the match 15-13.

“Going into the match against Williams, we were as mentally and physically prepared as we could have been,” Carter said. “I’m really proud of how hard everyone worked in preparation as well as during the match. We played with an incredible amount of heart and intensity, and I’m excited to see that energy transfer into our matches this weekend.”

The Firedogs had to quickly regroup after an emotional loss, with a non-league doubleheader against Babson and Clark at Clark University on Saturday.

Their day got off to a rough start, with Babson dominating from start to finish to defeat the Firedogs in straight sets (25-19, 25-19, 25-18). Amherst struggled to deal with the Beavers’ front line and never settled into a rhythm offensively. Babson recorded eight total team blocks to Amherst’s one and floored 51 kills to the Firedogs 30.

Warshaw highlighted Amherst’s losing effort with 23 digs, while Carter recorded 15 assists. Ahern floored a team-high seven kills while Danner and Gould each added five.

The Firedogs responded against Clark with an impressive straight set victory (25-13, 25-13, 25-14). Kate Bres ’17 dished out 12 of Amherst’s 21 assists, while Carter added 7 helpers. Sammy Newby ’16 led Amherst with 2.5 total blocks. The Firedogs used a balanced attack to overwhelm Clark, as Danner floored six kills, Natsis and Gould each added five, and Newby contributed four.

“The Williams match was a very emotional one, a match that we really wanted to win. I think we weren’t quite there against Babson, but the team responded well to end our week with a victory,” Natsis said.

The Firedogs record now stands at 9-4 overall (2-1 NESCAC). The team returns to conference action this Friday, Oct. 3 with a match against Middlebury in LeFrak Gymnasium at 8 p.m. Amherst, then faces conference foe Hamilton, also in LeFrak, at 2 p.m. on Saturday.