ITHACA – For the fourth time in as many matches, the Vassar College women’s volleyball team played five sets on Saturday afternoon. The Brewers (13-9, 4-3 Liberty) won the first set, which was one of the longest in the NCAA this season, but ultimately fell to No. 19 Ithaca (18-5, 7-0 Liberty) by a 34-36, 25-14, 22-25, 25-20, 15-7 count at Ben Light Gymnasium.
There were 16 ties and seven lead changes in the 70-point first set. Ithaca jumped out to a 7-0 advantage before the Brewers pulled within 9-7. After the Bombers extended the margin back to 13-8, Vassar went on a 9-2 rally to open up a 17-15 cushion. The Bombers regained a two-point edge at 23-21, but the Brewers responded with three straight points to pull ahead 24-23.
That was the first of six Vassar set points that Ithaca would fight off. The Bombers, meanwhile, had five set points of their own. After an Ithaca service error gave the Brewers their seventh set point at 35-34, Vassar finally converted to close out the frame, 36-34.
Ithaca again built an early cushion in the second set, going up 9-3. Vassar rallied back within 12-8, but the Bombers responded with a 9-2 spurt to increase their advantage to 21-10. The Brewers scored four of the next five points to trim their deficit to 22-14 before Ithaca rattled off three straight points to take the set, 25-14. The Bombers had 17 kills and hit .483 (three errors, 29 attempts) in the period.
In the third set, it was Vassar that took the early lead, as the Brewers opened up a 7-1 advantage. However, after a service ace by Anna Zucchero made it 11-6, Ithaca claimed four of the next six points to pull within two at 12-10. Vassar pushed its cushion back to six points at 21-15, but the Bombers responded with a 6-0 run that tied the score. Jane McLeod slammed a kill on the next point, though, to start a set-ending 4-1 spurt. A block by Devan Gallagher and Lauren Ninkovich closed out the set, 25-22, and gave Vassar a 2-1 lead in the match.
After Vassar took a 4-1 edge in the fourth set, Ithaca rallied to pull ahead 9-7. The Bombers extended their lead to seven at 22-15 and got their first set point opportunity at 24-17. Vassar fought of four set points, however, before Ithaca wrapped up a 25-20 win that sent the match into a decisive set.
The Bombers opened the fifth set by taking four of the first five points, and eventually increased the margin to 11-4. McLeod ripped a kill to start a 3-1 Vassar run that brought the Brewers back within five at 12-7, but Ithaca’s Reagan Stone followed with three straight kills to end the set, 15-7, and the match, 3-2.
McLeod led the Brewers with 12 kills, while Gallagher had her seventh consecutive double-double with 11 kills and 14 digs. Annie MacMillan also posted a double-double, finishing with 41 assists and 15 digs. Zucchero tallied a team-high 25 digs, and Jorden Schreeder tallied 15 digs to go along with three aces. As a team, Vassar hit .122 (43-20-188) in the match.
Stone finished with 37 kills, 18 digs, seven aces and six blocks for the Bombers. Katie Evans added 13 kills, while Caitlyn Floyd had 62 assists and 13 digs. Tara Stilwell returned 40 digs, as Ithaca outdug Vassar 108-84. Hailey Adler contributed 11 digs and three aces, and Jordyn Lyn Hayashi tallied 10 digs. Ruby Dyson, meanwhile, registered seven blocks for the Bombers, who hit .201 (74-34-199) as a team. Ithaca also served 17 aces.
Vassar will return to Ithaca for the Liberty League Tournament, where it will be the No. 3 seed, on Nov. 2-3. The Brewers will first travel to New Paltz (23-5) for their final road match of the regular season at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.