MEDFORD, Mass. – Amherst College senior setter Kate Bres dished out 22 assists and recorded seven digs, but Middlebury College's Becca Raffel floored a match-high 16 kills and added eight digs to help lift the Panthers to a 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-23) sweep of the Purple & White in Saturday afternoon's NESCAC Semifinal match at Cousens Gymnasium on the campus of top-seeded Tufts University in Medford, Mass.
With the loss, Amherst (17-9) is eliminated from NESCAC postseason play, and will await its NCAA Division III Championship tournament fate. Middlebury improves to 17-8 overall and advances to the NESCAC championship match Sunday afternoon.
In a back-and-forth opening set that saw neither team post more than a six point advantage, Middlebury broke a 19-19 deadlock by scoring three straight as Raffel and Sarah Staver each knocked down a kill to help make it 22-19. Nicole Gould '17 answered with a kill, and Maggie Danner '17 added two kills of her own to highlight a 3-1 rally that pulled Amherst to within one at 23-22, but Raffel and Isabel Sessions provided back-to-back kills for the Panthers as Middlebury claimed a 1-0 lead in the contest.
In the second stanza, Middlebury roared out to a 23-12 lead, before Charlotte Duran '20 and Annika Reczek '18 teamed on a block to spark a 4-0 rally. Danner added three kills during the span to pull the Purple & White to within seven (23-16), but a solo block by Melanie English, and a kill by Raffel allowed Middlebury to secure a 2-0 advantage in the match.
Tied at 21-21 in the third frame, the Panthers scored three of the next four points as Raffel connected for a pair of kills and used an Amherst attacking error to help stake a 24-22 lead. After Middlebury suffered a miscue of its own, English capped the set with her 16th kill allowing the Panthers to preserve the sweep.
- Danner led Amherst with 13 kills, while Marialexa Natsis '18 followed with 10 kills. Gould and Reczek chipped in eight and six kills respectively in the losing effort.
- Bres finished with 22 assists, while Duran handed out 13 helpers. Hayes Honea '19 led all players with 19 digs, followed by Asha Walker '18 with 13 digs, and Gould with nine digs. Danner and Natsis each contributed a pair of assisted blocks, while Kelci Keeno '17 served up two of the team's three aces.
- Middlebury was led by Raffel's 16 kills, while Staver and Sessions finished with nine kills apiece.
- Hannah Blackburn directed the offense with 34 assists and 10 digs, while Gigi Alper led the Panthers with 17 digs. Claire White-Dzuro followed with 15 digs, and Emily Kolodka chipped in 10 digs to give Middlebury four players with double-digit digs.