AMHERST, Mass. – Amherst College senior Maggie Danner delivered a match-high 24 kills as the Purple & White battled back from a 2-1 deficit to stake a 3-2 (23-25, 25-18, 18-25, 25-20, 15-8) victory over NESCAC and Little III rival Wesleyan University Saturday afternoon at LeFrak Gymnasium to earn the Little III title.
With the win, Amherst completes its regular season 16-8 overall, 7-3 in league action and garners the third seed in the NESCAC tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Wesleyan moves to 15-7 on the season, 6-4 in league play, and secures the sixth seed in the NESCAC postseason tournament. The Purple & White will square off with the Cardinals in the NESCAC Quarterfinals on Friday, Nov. 4 at top-seed and host Tufts University at 8 p.m. in Medford, Mass.
With the contest knotted at 1-1 after two sets, the sides battled to a 17-17 score in the third stanza before Wesleyan exploded for a 6-0 run that featured a kill by Gabby Bennett and two from Madeleine Lundberg, and a service ace from Kaira Muraoka-Robertson to give the Cardinals 23-17 lead. A kill by Danner halted the run momentarily as a bad set, followed by an assisted block from Bennett and Mia Hogan allowed Wesleyan to earn a 25-18 win in the frame and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
In another evenly contested stanza, Amherst used a kill by Claire Dennis '20, and back-to-back assisted blocks by Dennis and Nicole Gould '17 to break an 18-18 deadlock and take a 21-18 lead in the frame. The Cardinals responded with a kill by Stasie Litinsky and an assisted stuff by Litinsky and Bennett, the Purple & White pulled away, using kills by Gould, Danner and Dennis to earn a 25-20 win and force a decisive fifth set.
The final frame saw Amherst jump out to a 10-4 lead and never look back. A 4-2 rally by Wesleyan capped by a Litinsky kill pulled the visitors to within four at 12-8, but Dennis and Danner pounded consecutive kills, and an attacking error by the Cardinals sealed the thrilling victory for the Purple & White.
- Danner led all hitters with 24 kills, followed by Gould with 13 kills. Marialexa Natsis '18 added seven kills, Dennis chipped in six kills, and Emily Kolsky '20 floored five kills to help lead the Amherst attack.
- Charlotte Duran '20 led the Purple & White with 25 assists, while Adelaide Shunk '20 dished out 21 helpers and recorded 11 digs. Hayes Honea '19 led the hosts with 22 digs, while Kelci Keeno '17 and Asha Walker '18 notched nine each. Danner, Duran and Natsis each finished with seven digs in the winning effort.
- At the net, Natsis posted eight assisted blocks, while Kolsky added six. Annika Reczek '18 added a solo block and five assisted stuffs to help secure the win.
- Lundberg led Wesleyan with 14 kills, followed by 13 from Litinsky and 12 from Nicole Hilton. Muraoka-Robertson handed out 54 assists and notched eight digs, while Olivia Guidotti dug a match-high 25 balls in the losing effort. Rachel Savage contributed 15 digs, while Hogan logged 10 digs.
- Bennett finished with seven kills and nine assisted blocks for the Cardinals.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
- Amherst has now won two in a row, and six of its last eight matches heading into NESCAC tournament action.
- The Purple & White clinched the program's first Little III title since 2012.