November 12, 2012

The Middlebury College women’s volleyball team saw its season come to an end with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-18) loss to Clarkson in an NCAA Regional hosted by their opponents. The Panthers finish the season with an impressive 23-7 record. Third-seeded Clarkson will face fourth-seeded SUNY New Paltz in the regional finals on Sunday afternoon.

In the first set, Middlebury came out firing from the outside and middle, but finished off the game by keeping the Knights on their toes from the service line. The Panthers were able to take a 19-19 tie and push it to a 25-21 win thanks to aces from sophomore Lizzy Reed (Cazenovia, N.Y.) and first-year player Kathryn Haderlein (Pasadena, Calif.). However, in the second set, the Golden Knights made some adjustments and added another wrinkle to their offense. In the first set, Clarkson got more than half of its kills from rookie Victoria Kirkemo, mostly from the back row, a change added classmate Aishvina Arasu to the mix. Arasu dealt a number of kills, including the set-winner, and coupled with another dominant performance from Adrienne Walker in the middle to lift Clarkson to the win.

The third set was another nail-biter, despite the fact that Clarkson had a five-point lead (22-17) in the late-going. Capitalizing on Clarkson errors and using another Haderlein ace to pull within one point, Middlebury was unable to complete the comeback as Kirkemo dropped an ace on the side line to end the set, 25-22.

It appeared as if Middlebury would force a fifth game early on in the fourth set as it used kills from juniors Megan Jarchow (Cos Cob, Conn.) and Amy Hart (Kenilworth, Ill.) to take an early lead, but Clarkson rallied back thanks to some errors by the Panthers. Those errors changed the complexion of the set shortly thereafter as well. Clarkson led 10-9, but pushed out to a 19-12 edge with kills from Arasu, Kirkemo, Lauren Hutchinson and Bailey Walker along with three more Middlebury miscues. Though the Panthers had plenty of fight remaining, the final tally finished at that same seven-point gap between the two teams.

For Middlebury, Hart had 15 kills and matched that total with 15 digs. Jarchow also reached double figures in kills with 11 and added a trio of block assists. Haderlein led the team with 35 assists and also aced Clarkson on four occasions. Senior Caitlin Barrett (Medfield, Mass.) came through with a match-high 19 digs.

Middlebury advanced to the second round of the tournament with a 3-1 (25-21, 25-21, 21-25, 25-22) win over Southern Vermont on Friday night.

Middlebury came out swinging in the first set as senior Julia Gibbs (Houston, Texas) was striking from all angles for the Panthers, with Hart and Jarchow flanking her on the attack. Despite most of the shots making it over the front line of Southern Vermont, the Mountaineers defense was up to task  by keeping several balls in play. However, the Panthers serving also put the Mountaineers on their heels and made it difficult for Southern Vermont to put together much offensively in the first two sets.

The third set saw the Mountaineers find a different gear, especially for senior Jessica Alvarez, who was able to pick up a few aces and continue her onslaught offensively that saw her finish with a game-high 21 kills. In the fourth set, Middlebury held off a late charge by Southern Vermont, but its .343 hitting percentage (15-3-35) was too much for the Mountaineers to overcome.

Gibbs finished with 16 kills and 10 digs, while Jarchow and Hart produced 14 and 13 kills, respectively, with Hart also adding 10 digs and three aces. Haderlein ran the offense to a tune of 52 assists and nine digs, while Barrett topped the team with 15 digs. Sophomore Piper Underbrink (Ocala, Fla.)  had four total blocks to go along with her .444 hitting percentage (9-1-18).

• Volleyball final record: 23-7