Brunswick, Maine-- In what was undeniably the most exciting of the evening's NESCAC quarterfinal match ups, Williams came up just short in one of the most audacious upset bids in tournament history, storming back from a 2-0 deficit in a narrow 3-2 (25-10, 25-14, 23-25, 16-25, 15-10) loss to Tufts. Only twice in tournament history has a team seeded seventh or lower won a quarterfinal match, and the Ephs very nearly became the third in what was undoubtedly their most impressive match of the year.
The match against Tufts marked the first NESCAC Championship experience for seven players on the Ephs' roster, composing the majority of the team. It was perhaps understandable that the Ephs opened up a little shaky against their much more experienced opponents. The Jumbos eased their way through the first two sets behind some tough serving. Tufts had 15 aces in the match, one less then Championship record set by Williams in 2003. The Williams offense also struggled through the first two sets, recording only 14 kills combined versus ten errors, for a combined hitting percentage of .085. Tufts recorded the two set victories by scores of 25-10 and 25-14 respectively.
Their backs against the wall, however, the Ephs refused to give up without a fight, and thus marked the beginning of tackling the immense challenge of digging themselves out of what is usually an insurmountable 2-0 hole. The Williams serve receive buckled down to the task of limiting the damage done by Tufts' serving, and as a result all other aspects of the game picked up. With first year Amanda Schott (37 assists) firmly taking control of the offense, the Ephs began firing back against their opponents. Sophomore Emily Baratta turned in a gutsy performance from her outside hitter spot, slamming home a team leading 13 kills while hitting .312 (3 errors, 32 attempts). She was ably backed up by classmate Emily Doll who had 9 kills while hitting .438 (2 errors, 16 attempts).
The Williams defense also stepped up to the plate, en route to out digging Tufts by 12, 82 digs to 70. First year Claire Miller had 21 digs to go with 8 kills, while senior Aly McKinnon had 19 digs in her final match in a Williams uniform. McKinnon leaves the program in sole possession of seventh place in program history for digs, with a total of 1283 over her four years as an Eph. First year Holly Harper had 11 digs, while Schott added in an additional 10. Williams took the close third set 25-23.
In the fourth set the Ephs again seized control. At the net the Williams block helped to shut down the Tufts offense, with junior Haley Eagon tallying 5 blocks, while Schott added in 3 more and first year Raea Rasmussen also grabbed 2. Tufts was also unable to find the answer for some tough serving by Williams. The Ephs totaled seven aces of their own in the match, led by Harper's team leading 4. Schott had two, while first year Emily O'Day tallied the final one for the team. Williams closed out the fourth set 25-16.
Facing a winner-take-all fifth set, both teams were determined to seal the deal. Tufts was looking to avoid the ignominy of the looming upset, while Williams was looking to prolong their season at their opponent's expense. The set went back and forth through the early goings, and the teams found themselves knotted up at 10-10. In the end it would be the Jumbos who got their noses in front at the end, as the Ephs were unable to stop a late serving rally by Tufts. The Jumbos took the set victory 15-10.
With the victory Tufts moves on to face reigning conference champions Middlebury in a semifinal matchup tomorrow afternoon. Williams ends their season at 16-13, an impressive achievement given their youth and the high level of talent that they face game in and game out in the NESCAC.