Beverley, Mass.-- Entering the second day of competition at the Endicott Invitational Volleyball was looking to bounce back from the previous evening's setback to nationally ranked UMass-Boston. By capturing two solid wins over the host Gulls and an out of region opponent in visiting Susquehanna University the Ephs were able to handily achieve this goal.
Facing perennial Commonwealth Coast Conference contender Endicott has never been an easy match for the Ephs. While last season Williams triumphed over the Gulls in both of their meetings, each one proved to be a hard fought affair. This season's installment would be no different as the teams went all the way down to the wire in a thrilling five set contest. In the end it would be the Ephs that outlasted their opponents to take the 3-2 victory (18-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 15-8).
In the first set Endicott was able to get the jump on the Ephs, who were coming off a labor intensive victory earlier in the day versus Susquehanna. Playing in their home gym the Gulls would take the 25-18 victory as the Ephs struggled to string together runs of points and simultaneously halt the runs of their opponents. The second set looked to be more of the same, with Endicott leaping out to a quick lead that they would maintain late into the match. Finding themselves in a dangerous position down seven points 16-23 Williams was able to battle back and regain serve, turning the ball over to first year Tayler Donze, appearing in her first collegiate match. Donze would then calmly lead the team on an incredible nine point serving run to close out the match and give the Ephs a somewhat surprising 25-23 set victory.
Set two began with Donze serving again, and Williams captured small early leads at 2-0 and 9-7 before sophomore libero Emily O'Day served the team ahead by four points at 14-10. The Ephs were unable to hold onto the lead however, conceding the set victory, and match lead to Endicott. Digging deep Williams was able to fight back once again in set four to force the deciding fifth set, where they finished the match for good in their favor. While the Ephs struggled to pull away from their feisty opponents in the early goings a monster kill by junior co-captain Emily Doll put victory within reach at 13-8. There was no surprise in the crowd when Donze stepped back to the line to serve the final two points to bring home the victory.
Offensively Williams was lead by sophomore outside hitter Raea Rasmussen who came off the bench to record a team leading 14 kills in 33 attempts (.364 hitting percentage). Doll would be close behind with 13 kills while senior co-captain Haley Eagon chipped in an additional 11. First year Ryan Farley facilitated the offense from her setter position, tallying 45 assists in addition to helping out defensively with nine digs. O'Day would lead the team in this regard with 20 while senior Mika Nakashige, despite playing limited minutes as a defensive specialist, dug up 12 balls of her own.
The deciding factor in the match proved to be the strength of Williams' serving, with the team totaling 14 aces (2.8 per set). Rasmussen and Nakashige both served up three aces while Farley and O'Day chipped in a pair apiece. Endicott's inability to control their serve receive greatly helped the Williams defense, allowing them to transition smoothly back to the offensive and score much needed points in several important runs.
In the earlier match of the day Williams recorded a less stressful, if no less important, win over Susquehanna University 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-19). After dropping a close first set the Ephs came out strong in the second, holding a 19-11 lead before Susquehanna roared back to tie the set at 23-23. Williams then was able to squeak out a 25-23 victory. In set three a Susquehanna timeout at 8-4 allowed them to close the gap to two points, down 10-8. A clutch serving run by Emily Doll, however, would reopen a five point cushion to 17-12, a lead Williams held onto until the end of the set. Doll would lead the Ephs in kills in the match with 14, having established herself as one of Williams' most powerful hitters in their offensive scheme. First year Catherine Egan would also have a strong performance in leading the team in hitting percentage, slamming home nine kills in fifteen attempts with only one error for a hitting percentage of .533. Junior Emily Baratta was also successful on the offensive end, registering nine kills while first year Katherine Lane nearly matched her classmate Egan in the middle with eight kills of her own.
Set four was a back and forth affair through the early goings, although a short serving run by Doll opened up a slight lead at 14-12. Tough serving by the Ephs kept Susquehanna out of system and unable to generate much offense of their own to combat Williams' firepower. A serving run by Farley helped the Ephs to extend their cushion to 20-15, a lead they would not give up in cruising ahead to a 25-19 final set victory that also gave them the match. Defensively Williams was lead by Emily O'Day's 15 digs, while Emily Doll was close behind with 13. Catherine Egan was in double digits with 10 while Farley added in 9 more. Katharine Lane tied her career high with 4 blocks, leading all Ephs and proving that she is a force to be reckoned with at the net.
Overall the Ephs have much to be proud of in the way in which they pulled out two tough wins against quality opponents, even if there remains much work to be done in becoming more consistent and smooth in future matches. Williams will next host visiting Vassar College in their home opener on Wednesday September 12th at 7:00 pm in Chandler Gymnasium before opening up their conference schedule the following weekend.