Vassar Splits Pair of Five-Setters

SWARTHMORE, Pa. – On Saturday afternoon, the Vassar College women’s volleyball team played a pair of non-conference contests at Swarthmore’s Tarble Pavilion. After knocking off the host Garnet (12-6) by a 25-14, 22-25, 25-15, 19-25, 15-9 count to extend their winning streak to five straight, the Brewers (13-7) dropped a 13-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-17, 15-10 decision to No. 25 Johns Hopkins (17-3) in their second match of the day.

Against Swarthmore, Vassar dominated the first set. It was tied 2-2 when the Brewers went on a 10-0 run to open up a 12-2 advantage. The Garnet trimmed their deficit to five at 13-7 before Vassar used another 10-5 spurt to increase its cushion to 23-12. A Sara Ehnstrom kill brought the Brewers to set point, and Jane McLeod’s kill, Vassar’s 16th of the frame, closed out a 25-14 win. The Brewers hit .350 in the set, committing just two errors in 40 swings.

There were 15 ties and nine lead changes in the second set. Vassar opened up a 12-9 lead before Swarthmore responded with a 5-1 rally to go in front. After the Garnet extended their advantage to 23-19, the Brewers scored three straight points to cut the margin to one, 23-22. Swarthmore won the next two points, though, to claim the set, 25-22.

Swarthmore took an early 3-0 lead in the third set, but Vassar rattled off the next five points to pull ahead. After the Garnet rallied to tie it at 9-9, the Brewers went on a 10-3 run to go up 19-12. Swarthmore got a block on the next point, but that would be Vassar’s only hitting error in the entire set. The Brewers hit a sweltering .444 (13 kills, 27 attempts) in the frame, taking it by a 25-15 margin to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

After the Garnet opened up a 13-8 cushion in the fourth set, the Brewers responded with a 7-3 run to pull within one, 16-15. Swarthmore scored the next five points, though, to regain its six-point lead, 21-15. The Garnet forced a fifth set by capturing the frame, 25-19.

However, Vassar had another outstanding hitting performance in the final set. The Brewers smacked 10 kills without an error, hitting .400 (25 attempts) in the stanza. The teams actually traded the first six points of the frame before Vassar went on a 7-1 run to open up a 10-4 cushion. Devon Gallagher pounded home a kill to finish off the set, 15-9, and the match, 3-2.

McLeod and Gallagher each recorded 19 kills, and Gallagher added 23 digs to complete a double-double. Annie MacMillan also had a double-double with 42 assists and 16 digs, while Ehnstrom tallied 10 kills. Anna Zucchero contributed 20 digs and Claire Bialek posted 14 digs, as Vassar held a 95-87 edge in that category. Lauren Ninkovich, meanwhile, finished with five service aces and four blocks. As a team, the Brewers hit .212 (57-18-184) in the match.

Emma Morgan-Bennett led Swarthmore with 18 kills, while Katie Silva finished with 12 kills and 19 digs. Mehra den Braven (11 kills, 12 digs) and Alyssa Nathan (43 assists, 10 digs) had double-doubles of their own. Isabelle Andrews tallied six blocks, and Sarah Girard posted four blocks to go along with 15 digs. Sarah Girard registered 23 digs for the Garnet, who hit .160 (54-24-187) as a team.

In their second match of the day, the Brewers took on 25th-ranked Johns Hopkins and promptly raced out to a 17-8 advantage. The Blue Jays scored three of the next four points to pull within 18-11, but Vassar responded with six straight points to extend the margin to 24-11. The Brewers hit .429 (10-1-21) in the 25-13 set win.

Vassar opened up a 12-7 lead in the second set before Johns Hopkins responded with a 9-3 rally to go up 16-15. A McLeod kill put the Brewers back in front, 18-17, but the Blue Jays rattled off the next three points to regain the advantage. Johns Hopkins ended the frame on a 4-0 run to close out a 25-19 win that evened the match at one set apiece.

The Brewers again built an early cushion in the third set, going up 11-5 and forcing a Johns Hopkins timeout. However, the Blue Jays scored 14 of the next 17 points following the timeout to take a 19-14 lead. Vassar responded, though, going on a 9-1 rally to regain the advantage, 23-20. A Johns Hopkins service error finished the set, a 25-22 Vassar win that gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead in the match.

That momentum carried over into the fourth set, as Vassar took an early 8-3 edge. Back-to-back Nicole Hada aces brought Johns Hopkins within one at 9-8, and the Blue Jays eventually tied it at 11-11. Vassar held a 14-13 lead when Louisa Kishton smacked consecutive kills to spark an 11-3 rally that gave Johns Hopkins its first set point opportunity. The Blue Jays took the set by a 25-17 count to force a decisive frame.

Johns Hopkins then opened the fifth set by taking five of the first six points. A pair of Gallagher kills brought Vassar within 5-3, but the Blue Jays countered with a 6-2 rally to make it 11-5. After the Blue Jays extended their advantage to 14-7, the Brewers fought off three match points before a Kishton kill gave Johns Hopkins the set, 15-10, and the match, 3-2.

Gallagher finished with 27 kills, one shy of her career-high, and she added 15 digs for her fifth consecutive double-double. McLeod also had a double-double with 16 kills and 12 digs, as the duo combined for 43 of the Brewers’ 54 kills in the match. MacMillan recorded four kills while also contributing 42 assists and eight digs. Zucchero tallied a match-high 19 digs and Bialek notched 13 digs. Jorden Schreeder, meanwhile, served four aces. Vassar hit .232 (54-18-155) as a team and outdug Johns Hopkins 80-79.

Simone Bliss paced the Blue Jays with 18 kills. Kishton ended up with 17 kills and 18 digs, while Hada posted a double-double of her own with 48 assists and 13 digs. Michelle Abt added 11 kills on .300 hitting. Sasha Gorilek had six blocks, as Johns Hopkins held an 8-3 edge in that category. Esther Hong returned 18 digs, and Sarah Khan collected 12 digs. The Blue Jays hit .231 (64-24-173) as a unit.

This weekend, the Brewers (4-1 Liberty) conclude their Liberty League schedule with a pair of road matches. Vassar visits RIT (20-3, 4-1 Liberty) at 7 p.m. on Friday, then travels to No. 18 Ithaca (16-5, 5-0 Liberty) next Saturday at 2 p.m. The Brewers will clinch a place in the Liberty League Tournament with a win in either match.

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