Volleyball falls 3-1 to Middlebury in a tightly contested match

Taylor Stafford-Smith tallied a career-high 22 kills on Friday, September 29, 2017 at Middlebury College. (File photo by Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. -- The Bates volleyball team fell 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22) in a close battle on the road Friday night to the Middlebury Panthers.

Bates (5-6, 1-3 NESCAC) was paced by sophomore Taylor Stafford-Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) with a match-best and a career-high 22 kills to go along with 14 digs and six blocks. First-years Ruby Lightbourn (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Angel Echipue (Munich, Germany) added 11 kills each, while senior Jacqueline Forney (Bloomington, Ind.) tallied 48 assists and had seven digs. Sophomore Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y.) recorded 26 digs, while senior Augy Silver (Manhattan Beach, Calif.)  finished with 17. Bates concluded the match with 24 blocks as a team, including 11 from junior Reilly Murphy (Marshfield, Mass.).

Bates raced to a 7-3 lead in the opening set, but Middlebury (10-2, 3-0 NESCAC) clawed its way back to even at 14-14 on a Bobcat attack error. The teams battled back and forth, with neither side maintaining larger than a two-point edge. Knotted at 21-21, the Panthers took the lead on a Bobcat attack error and grabbed the first set on a kill from Isabel Sessions.

With the second set tied at 9-9, Bates reeled off six-consecutive points, including three kills from Stafford-Smith, for a 15-9 edge. The hosts recorded 15 of the next 20 points for a 24-20 advantage. Raffel had five kills during the spurt, while Sarah Staver added a pair. After two points for the visitors, Raffel put the Panthers up 2-0 with a kill down the line.

In the third with the score tied at 6-6, the Panthers rattled off a 6-1 spurt for a 12-7 edge. The Bobcats answered with a 10-3 run of their own, including three kills by Stafford-Smith, for a 17-15 lead. Middlebury took a one-point lead at 19-18 on an attack error by the visitors, but Bates scored seven of the final nine points for the 25-21 victory.

The final set saw numerous lead changes and ties, as neither side held greater than a two-point advantage over the first 40 points. With the set tied at 20-20, the Panthers took the set and the match with five of the last seven points for the 25-22 victory.

Raffel and Sessions paced the balanced Middlebury offense, finishing with 15 kills each, while Raffel added 15 digs for her seventh double-double this fall. Staver and Alice Roberts both chipped in with eight kills apiece, while Emma Walsh handed out a match-high 49 assists to go along 12 digs. Emily Kolodka dug up 14 balls, while Gigi Alper tallied a match-high 27 digs. Staver (1 BS, 3 BA), Roberts (1 BS, 2 BA) and Schaefer (3 BA) had solid nights at the net for Middlebury.

The Bobcats look to bounce back Saturday when they take on Simmons at 2 p.m. and host Plymouth State at 4:00 p.m.