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Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

Volleyball on a Roll for Tournament

Author: David Lindholm Assistant Sports Editor

The Middlebury Women's Volleyball team could not have asked for a better week going into the Nee England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament. The Panthers lost only two games en route to a 4-0 week, sending visiting teams packing for long bus rides home. Now the team is on the prowl for upsets as the top seven teams in NESCAC come to the renovated Pepin Gymnasium for the championships. This Friday at 6 p.m., the Panthers will look to send powerhouse Wesleyan back to Connecticut very unsatisfied.

The team started last week by hosting the University of Vermont and Plattsburgh on Tuesday. Not knowing what to expect from UVM, the Panthers came out gunning and quickly overpowered the Catamounts, taking the first game by a score of 30-23. Middlebury continued their dominance in the next two games, as they limited UVM to 18 points in the second game and 17 in third as the Panthers cruised to a 3-0 win. Rachael Faraone '02 led the team with 12 kills and nine digs, getting the job done on both sides of the ball. Luz Brito '04 was not far behind with 10 kills and eight digs. Katy Hicks '05 added eight kills and Kellie Jensen '02 had ten digs.

In the second game of the day, Middlebury hopped out to a quick lead against Plattsburgh, winning the first game 30-16 and the second 30-23. However, Plattsburgh refused to go down, and fought to win the third game by a score of 30-25. The Panthers rebounded in the fourth, winning the game 30-21 to take the match. Jensen again lead the Panther defense, digging 18 balls in the four games, 13 more than anyone else on the team. Hicks and Danielle Boniello '04 led the offense with 10 and eight kills respectively. Boniello also had four solo and four tandem blocks in the match.

"Danielle had a good match," said head coach Sarah Raunecker, who praised the performances of Boniello. With regards to Hicks, Raunecker said, "She's a good player and she's been playing very well; she's improved a lot from the beginning until now."

On Saturday, the Panthers were hunting for two more wins as they faced Colby-Sawyer College and Endicott College. In their first game of the day, Colby-Sawyer played the Panthers evenly, and in the end it was the Chargers who won 34-32 to take the 1-0 lead. The Panthers did not mull over the first-game loss, and won the next three for the 3-1 win. On defense, Jensen had 16 digs and Brito had 11; Evan Kanaly '03 had a stellar 19 kills and Faraone had 17 to lead the offense.

The Panthers capped the week with a relatively easy 3-0 win against Endicott College. Every player got on the floor during the match, and many different players had their share of kills, blocks and digs. The match gave Middlebury a 4-0 record for the week, which improved their overall record to 13-11.

"We were expecting to win all four of [the games]," said Raunecker, "and we played well for the week. Overall it was a good performance."

Now the team is in their final few days of practice before hosting the NESCAC tournament. The Panthers concluded their NESCAC matches a few weeks ago, and with a record of 3-7 the team had a bit of a mixed blessing. They did make the postseason tournament, earning the eighth seed, but in the first round they face a Wesleyan team that will come into the match with a 27-4 record.

"We have a tough draw, but we have definitely improved over the season," says Raunecker. "We'll be looking for the one upset and then we'll take it game by game from there." The Wesleyan match will be played in Pepin Gymnasiam at 6 p.m. The tournament begins with two quarterfinal matches at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by the other two immediately after. Saturday morning will see the semifinals played at 11 a.m. and the final at 3 p.m.