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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

Women’s volleyball off to historic start

After opening their season with 14 straight wins, women’s volleyball (15-1-0) has secured their spot in the history books. The team has compiled their best start to a season in program history, sitting tied for first in the NESCAC with a 0.938 win percentage.

Volleyball started their season with four consecutive sweeps, winning three straight sets in every match. Their dominance continued throughout their first month of play, before Wesleyan finally broke Middlebury’s win streak on Oct. 11. In a tightly contested match, the Cardinals narrowly prevailed, 3–2.

Still unbeaten on their home court at Pepin Gymnasium, volleyball is tied with Amherst, Bowdoin and Williams at the top of the league — although the Panthers still rank first among NESCAC teams in overall win percentage.

While volleyball’s stunning record may come as a slight surprise to some, it has not been a shock to the players. Top scorer and senior captain Maggie Wise ’22 cites the team’s excellent chemistry on and off the court as a key ingredient to their success this season. 

“We have established a high level of trust in one another that I haven’t had with many other teams while playing the sport,” Wise said. “I have the utmost level of confidence in this group and wouldn’t trade them for anyone else.” 

Wise also credited her fellow seniors in fostering the sense of community and teamwork that has been pivotal for the team thus far.

“The seniors have done a really great job of building a good team culture,” Gabbie O’Tool ’25, who leads the team in assists, said. “As a freshman, being able to have the team’s trust in my abilities has been really encouraging.”

“We’re really focused on approaching each game with the same intensity and on playing clean Middlebury volleyball to finish out the regular season the best we can,” Lexi Linafelter ’24 added. Linafelter also credited the team’s incredibly “competitive yet supportive” practice environment in playing a key role in the team’s strong performances. 

The team’s chemistry and teamwork is also largely derived from their incredible depth across the starting lineup and bench, with multiple players ranking among the conference’s best in their respective positions. Corley Doyle ’22 is second in the NESCAC in hitting percentage (.410), while Kelly Ferrero ’25 is third in digs per set (4.67). The aforementioned O’Toole ranks second in assists (9.25 per set).

Looking ahead, the team sees no reason for its success to stop. Wise, O’Toole and Linafelter all agree that the team aims to win the NESCAC conference and host the tournament with home court advantage. The trio also has high hopes for the NCAA tournament as the team looks to capitalize on its current momentum. 

Women’s volleyball continues its season Friday, Oct. 15 as they travel to Bowdoin College. The Panthers haven’t beaten Bowdoin since 2016.

Charles Crounse

Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.