Middlebury

Volleyball Looks For NESCAC Title

November 4, 2010

With a 3-1 victory at Hamilton Saturday afternoon, Amherst College secured the number-one seed in the upcoming NESCAC Volleyball Championship. The top-seeded Jeffs will host the annual conference tournament beginning on Friday, Nov. 5, with quarterfinal action set to begin at 5:00 p.m. Winners of Friday's matches will advance to Saturday's semifinals, and the 2010 NESCAC Volleyball Championship will conclude on Sunday, Nov. 7, with the title game getting underway at 12:00 p.m.

After opening NESCAC play with a 3-0 loss at Middlebury on Sept. 17, Amherst (23-2, 9-1 NESCAC) went on a 16-match tear before suffering its next and only other loss in non-conference action. The Jeffs controlled their own destiny heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Amherst knew that a pair of wins to close out the conference slate would guarantee it the top seed after jumping into first place in the NESCAC standings on Oct. 16, however this was no small challenge since they still had rival Williams to play. Holding a 2-0 lead over the Ephs on Friday night, Amherst watched as Williams battled back to tie the match at 2-all before winning the decisive set 18-16. The Jeffs wrapped everything up on Saturday, downing Hamilton 3-1 as they closed out the league schedule with nine straight victories. Amherst will begin its quest for a fourth NESCAC title against eighth-seeded Wesleyan (10-12, 3-7 NESCAC). The Cardinals ended the regular season on a high note with wins in six of their last seven matches, including a pair of 3-2 wins over the weekend against Bates and Colby that propelled them into the NESCAC championship. Friday's quarterfinal meeting will be the third between the two this season, as Amherst won both previous encounters by a 3-0 score. Against this year's tournament field, Amherst is 8-2 while Wesleyan is 0-9.

For most of this season, it looked as if second-seeded Middlebury (21-5, 8-2 NESCAC) was going to run the table and claim the number-one seed for the first time ever. Although it was not in the plans for the Panthers after back-to-back 3-2 losses to Connecticut College and Trinity on Oct. 16, they still managed their best finish in the NESCAC standings thanks to a 3-1 victory against Williams on Saturday. Middlebury enters the tournament riding a six-match winning streak, dropping only two sets during that span, and victories in 14 of their last 16 outings. The Panthers will have a chance at some redemption when they face seventh-seeded Trinity (16-7, 5-5 NESCAC) in the other early quarterfinal. The Bantams have a bit of momentum of their own, winning six of their last seven, including the aforementioned 3-2 victory over Middlebury. Trinity ran its streak to five matches with a 3-0 victory over Colby on Friday and a 3-1 decision against Bates on Saturday. It will be interesting to see which of these two will make it to the semifinals. Trinity last advanced in 2005, and it has been just a bit longer for Middlebury, as the Panthers' last trip came in 2004. The Panthers are 8-2 against this year's tournament teams, going a combined 6-0 against the other top four teams, while the Bantams are 3-5.

Looking to make some noise at the championship will be third-seeded Bowdoin (18-10, 7-3 NESCAC). The Polar Bears posted their best record ever in NESCAC play this fall with seven wins and tied Tufts and Connecticut College for third in the conference standings. Bowdoin earned the third spot over both teams with a 2-0 head-to-head record. The Polar Bears got a monumental victory over the Jumbos on Oct. 13, battling back from a 0-2 hole to win 3-2, their first win against Tufts since 2000. They also won by the same score on Oct. 2 over the Camels. Bowdoin wrapped up league play a few days later with a win over Hamilton (3-1) before falling to Williams (2-3). The Polar Bears will look to add another first to their terrific season when they take on sixth-seeded Williams (16-12, 6-4 NESCAC) for a trip to the semifinals. The three-time defending NESCAC champions hope to rebound after falling short in six of their last seven, as the Ephs closed out the regular season with setbacks to Amherst (2-3) and Middlebury (1-3). The Ephs' lone win, though, was the previously-mentioned 3-2 decision over the Polar Bears on Oct. 16. While Bowdoin will be in search of its first trip to the semis, Williams will look to keep its championship streak alive. No other team has reached the semifinals in each of the last nine years but the Ephs, and they have missed out on Sunday's final only once during that stretch, earning seven titles along the way. Bowdoin is an even 5-5 against this year's field, while Williams is 3-5.

Friday's remaining first round match features fourth-seeded Tufts (19-9, 7-3 NESCAC) against fifth-seeded Connecticut College (19-6, 7-3 NESCAC). The Jumbos edged the Camels for the fourth spot thanks to a 3-0 victory on Oct. 1, the only meeting between the two this fall. After earning the number-one seed in back-to-back seasons, Tufts had high hopes once again this year but injuries took a toll on the Jumbos. They still managed to finish on strong, winning their last two NESCAC matches two weeks ago and their final three outings of the regular season. The Camels may be too much for the Jumbos in the quarterfinals, as Connecticut College comes in with six-straight victories and wins in 10 of its last 11. Interestingly enough, the last time these two met in the NESCAC tournament was the four-five match in 2006. The fifth-seeded Camels upended the fourth-seeded Jumbos 3-2 to reach the semifinals for the first time ever. Tufts is 5-5 versus tournament foes this season. Connecticut College owns a 4-3 record against the field.

2010 NESCAC VOLLEYBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Quarterfinals - Friday, November 5 at Amherst
No. 8 Wesleyan at No. 1 Amherst - 5:00 p.m.
No. 7 Trinity vs. No. 2 Middlebury - 5:00 p.m.
No. 6 Williams vs. No. 3 Bowdoin - 8:00 p.m.
No. 5 Connecticut College vs. No. 4 Tufts - 8:00 p.m.

Semifinals - Saturday, November 6 at Amherst
Winner No. 1/No. 8 vs. Winner No. 4/No. 5 - 1:00 p.m.
Winner No. 2/No. 7 vs. Winner No. 3/No. 6 - 3:30 p.m.

Championship - Sunday, November 7 at Amherst
Semifinal winners - 12:00 p.m.

--courtesy NESCAC--