No. 24 Wesleyan defeats volleyball team in NESCAC quarterfinals

Sydney Phillips led Bates volleyball with nine kills in the Bobcats' 3-0 loss to Wesleyan in the NESCAC quarterfinals on Nov. 8, 2019. (File photo by Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

MEDFORD, Mass. -- Second-seeded Wesleyan University jumped on the Bates volleyball team early with a dominant first set and proceeded to down the Bobcats 3-0 (25-8, 25-17, 25-22) Friday evening in the quarterfinal round of the NESCAC Touranment at Tufts University.

The No. 24 nationally ranked Cardinals (20-3) attacked at a .318 percentage for the match, including a .643 mark in the first set, while limiting the Bobcats  to a season-low .058 mark, including -.148 in the opening frame.

Making its fourth straight appearance in the eight-team NESCAC tournament, Bates (16-10) finishes with its most victories since the 2009 season.

Nicole Hilton, the 2017 NESCAC Player of the Year, led Wesleyan with 12 kills on 23 attempts (.478) to go with five blocks (four solo). Hilton did not play in the teams' regular-season meeting on Oct. 5 at Bates, a 3-1 Cardinal victory.

Bella Ahearn posted 10 kills with no errors on 18 attempts (.556) and Mia Hogan added eight kills for Wesleyan. Phia Bellizzi led three defenders with double-digit dig totals, with 16, along with Jenna Otaola with 14 and Olivia Guidotti with 13. Kalra Muraoka-Robertson had 31 assists in the match.

Sophomore Sydney Phillips (Plainville, Mass.) led Bates with nine kills against three errors on 29 attempts (.207), concluding a strong sophomore season in which she led Bates in kills (196) and kills per set (2.39).

Senior Taylor Stafford-Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) posted seven kills on 39 attempts (.026) to go with six digs. She finishes her career with 734 kills and 724 digs.

Senior setter Julia Panepinto (Buffalo, N.Y.) posted a team-high 11 assists to go with eight digs, while first-year Emma Eide (Ramsey, N.J.) tallied 10 assists. Sophomore Megan Seabury (Santa Barbara, Calif.) had a team-high 11 digs for Bates, while senior libero Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y.) had nine. The 2017 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year, Eustache finishes her Bates career with 1,710 digs.

Bates started off the first set by taking a 3-1 lead, thanks to two Phillips kills and a service ace by junior Angel Echipue (Munich, Germany). Wesleyan responded with seven straight points, including two kills and a solo block by Hilton. The lead grew to 15-5 and 20-7 as Wesleyan continued to run away with the opening point.

Bates kept it closer in the second set, but not enough to threaten Wesleyan, which pulled away from a 6-6 tie to take leads of 10-6, 14-8 and 19-11 en route to a 2-0 match lead.

A kill by Echipue gave Bates a 3-2 lead in the third set and began a 7-0 Bobcat run, including another ace by Echipue and two kills by Phillips. Bates held a 15-9 lead before Wesleyan began making up the difference and more with an 8-2 run that made it 19-17 in the Cardinals' favor, powered by three Ahearn kills. Back-to-back Bates kills, by Stafford-Smith and junior Ruby Lightbourn (Los Angeles, Calif.), tied the score for the last time at 19-19 as Wesleyan sealed the win with a 6-3 run.