Volleyball sweeps Saint Joseph's and Rivier, improves to 7-0 on the season

The Bates volleyball team is off to its best start to a season in nearly three decades after a pair of 3-0 wins over Saint Joseph's and Rivier respectively on Saturday, September 14, 2019. (File photo courtesy of Brian Beard)

NASHUA, N.H. -- The Bates volleyball team is off to its best start since 1990 after sweeping Saint Joseph's and Rivier Saturday afternoon in non-conference action. 

The Bobcats (7-0) visit the University of Southern Maine Tuesday night. The match gets underway at 7pm.

Bates 3, Saint Joseph's 0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-9)

Junior Olivia McCulloch (Sunderland, Mass.) led the way for Bates as she totaled seven kills while senior Taylor Stafford-Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) added six kills in a 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-9) win over Saint Joseph's at Muldoon Gymnasium.

Both senior captain Julia Panepinto (Buffalo, N.Y.) and first-year Emma Eide (Ramsey, N.J.) each had 17 assists to direct the offense and senior captain Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y.) picked up 16 digs. Along the net, junior Angel Echipue (Munich, Germany) finished with four total blocks to guide the Bobcats to victory.

After falling behind early in the opening set, the Bobcats tied the score at 11 when junior Ruby Lightbourn (Los Angeles, Calif.) found sophomore Sydney Phillips (Wrentham, Mass.) for the kill. Three straight attack errors from the Monks (0-10) put Bates up 14-11. Then Phillips and Lightbourn delivered back-to-back kills to extend the lead further, forcing the Monks to call timeout.

Saint Joseph's came out of the timeout strong, going on a 3-0 run, which Phillips ended with another kill. She finished with five kills in two sets on the afternoon. Phillips and Echipue teamed up for a block to put Bates up 18-14. 

Then with the score 22-18 in favor of Bates, the Bobcats took the final three points to clinch the first set.

Bates never trailed in the second set. With the score tied at five, the Bobcats went on a 5-0 run which featured a pair of Stafford-Smith kills and never looked back for a 25-16 win.

Then they left no doubt in the third set with an even more dominating performance. Eide started the set with a service ace and a kill by junior Delaney Mayfield (Santa Barbara, Calif.) put Bates ahead for good. 

Up 6-3, the Bobcats went on a 4-0 run to open up a seven-point lead. Following a Bates service error, the Bobcats went on another 4-0 run, making the score 14-4. Later in the set, Echipue and senior Samantha Schecter (Riverside, Conn.) teamed up for a block to clinch the match.

Bates 3, Rivier 0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-23)

Phillips led the way for the Bobcats with 10 kills and a .375 hitting percentage along with Echipue, who collected nine winners and a .500 hitting percentage in Bates' 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-23) win over Rivier University Saturday afternoon.

Panepinto totaled 19 assists while Eustache and McCulloch scooped up 14 and 10 digs, respectively. Lightbourn also reached double-figures with 10 digs in the win for the Bobcats.

Trailing 10-8 in the opening set, the Bobcats went on a 5-0 run to grab the lead for good. Lightbourn got the run started with a kill and a Phillips kill made the score 13-10 in favor of Bates. After back-to-back points for Rivier (6-5) cut the Bates lead to one, the Bobcats answered with a 3-0 run, featuring a Panepinto kill and a pair of Rivier attack errors.

The teams essentially traded points down the stretch, with Bates tallying the clincher on a kill from Phillips on an assist from Panepinto.

Nursing an 18-17 lead in the second set, the Bobcats received another huge kill from their setter Panepinto, which prompted a quick 3-0 run. Bates opened up a 24-21 lead and Echipue finished off the set with a kill on an assist from Eide. 

With the score tied at 12 in the third set, Echipue tallied yet another kill, this time on a Panepinto assist. That began a 3-0 run, causing Rivier to call timeout. Rivier didn't let the Bobcats get too comfortable, eventually tying the set at 20.

But Lightbourn delivered back-to-back kills to put Bates ahead for good.

Up 24-23, Panepinto found Phillips for the match-clinching kill. 

The Bobcats are one of four teams in the NESCAC at this moment that sport an undefeated record. Tufts is the only other team in the conference with a 7-0 mark on the season.