HENNIKER, N.H. – The Southern Vermont College women's volleyball team played to a five-set thriller Friday night to start the 2017 regular season—unfortunately falling 3-2 to the hosting Pilgrims in the opening round of the New England College Tournament at Bridges Gym.
NEC won the opening set 25-19 before the Mountaineers came back to tie the match with a 25-22 victory in the second. The Pilgrims needed extra points to go back on top with a 26-24 edging in the third—only to see Southern Vermont push it to the decider with a 25-20 win in the fourth. Each side held an advantage during the fifth, but New England tallied the final two points of the contest to end it with a 15-11 victory.
SVC (0-1) now turns to a pair of Saturday matches hosted by NEC to wrap up the Tournament—the first being a 10 a.m. contest against Fisher College with the second seeing the Mountaineers take on Curry College at 2 p.m.
Southern Vermont junior Liv Sowles (Sacramento, Calif.) notched a match-high 18 kills while adding 10 digs, four blocks, and four aces to her line. Freshman Nikki Ramirez (West Covina, Calif.) followed with 11 kills, eight digs, and three service aces while junior Heidy Benitez (Tulare, Calif.) had 26 digs, four aces, and three kills.
Sophomore Abigail Landon (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) facilitated the SVC offense with 33 assists, and she also notched two kills in the effort; fellow sophomore Sarah Billow (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) recorded four kills and nine digs on the night.
The Pilgrims jumped out to a 6-2 advantage in the opening game before Southern Vermont came back with five straight aided by two Benitez aces. Points went back-and-forth until NEC rallied for four unanswered to go up 16-12 and force a Mountaineer timeout. The hosts would push it to a seven-point difference late in the set before closing it out with a final kill.
The second frame was tight through the early going with NEC up just 13-11 after a Southern Vermont service error. SVC turned the tables, however, with a 7-1 run to go in front; Ramirez tallied two kills and three-straight aces during that stretch. Another Ramirez kill was followed by a 3-1 spurt by New England which made it a 21-18 Southern Vermont edge, and three in-a-row by the Pilgrims cut it to a two-point deficit. The Landon-Ramirez duo put it away, however, as two more kills from the freshman tied the match at one set apiece.
Three aces and a kill from Sowles put SVC up 7-2 to open up the third, and the Mountaineers then extended their lead to seven on a Pilgrim handling error. A 7-1 run by the hosts, however, got them back in it. A Sowles kill helped make it an 18-15 edge for Southern Vermont—only to see New England come back with a 5-1 surge to regain the upper hand. NEC went on top 23-20, and the Pilgrims fought back after going down one with the final three points of the set for a 2-1 edge on the night.
Two consecutive kills from Sowles put the Mountaineers ahead 9-4 in the front end of the fourth, and she then added two more in-a-row to maintain that separation. The Pilgrims would cut it to a two-point deficit, and three-straight from the hosts then tied it at 13-13. The final tie was a 17-17 tally, but kills from Sowles, Landon, and senior Julia Florence (Salem, Mass.) sandwiched two NEC timeouts as the visitors went on a 6-0 run. Points were traded before Landon put down one last kill to tie the contest at two sets apiece and send it to the final frame.
The Pilgrims went on top 3-1 to start the fifth before SVC came out of a stoppage with five straight; Ramirez had two-straight kills during that surge while Billow capped it with one of her own. NEC answered with the next three to tie it, however, and the two squads went back-and-forth through the midpoint of the game. New England was able to tally four straight for a 12-8 upper hand, and the hosts then registered the final two points of the match to take the new program's first victory.
– #LetsGoSVC –