Volleyball roars back from 2-0 deficit, falls 3-2 to Amherst in battle of unbeatens

Olivia McCulloch had 12 kills and 31 digs in Bates' 3-2 loss to Amherst in their home opener on Sept. 20, 2019. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- In a matchup of undefeated teams both playing in their first NESCAC match of the season, the Bates volleyball team came back from a 2-0 deficit to tie Amherst on Friday night before the visiting Mammoths outscored the Bobcats 15-8 in the final set to come away with a 3-2 (25-21, 25-15, 21-25, 20-25, 15-8) victory.

Sophie Launsbach led Amherst (7-0, 1-0 NESCAC) with 14 kills and no attack errors on 39 attempts, for a .359 attack percentage, to go with five blocks. Jamie Dailey also tallied five blocks with 15 kills on 60 attempts (.183), and Emily Kolsky added 11 kills. Charlotte Duran distributed 42 assists in the winning cause, while Skyleur Savage led the Mammoths with 30 digs. Alex Rone bolstered the front-line defense with eight blocks.

Junior Olivia McCulloch (Sunderland, Mass.) continued her breakout season for Bates with a team-high 11 kills and 29 digs. Gabi Eustache and Ruby Lightbourn totaled 32 and 28 digs, respectively, in a big effort on the back row. Eustache also had nine assists and Lightbourn added eight kills and three aces.

Julia Panepinto and Emma Eide split setting responsibilities for Bates, with 22 and 16 assists, respectively, along with double-digit totals in digs for both players. Delaney Mayfield and Samantha Schecter each tallied nine kills, with Mayfield adding four blocks and Shecter adding three.

Amherst trailed 21-19 in the first set before consecutive kills by Dailey tied the match and started a run of six straight points to clinch behind the service of Sierra Cox.

The Mammoths controlled the second set with an early 10-4 lead, growing it to 19-11 after Bates closed the gap to 10-9. The Bobcats bowed out of the second set with consecutive attack errors, as Amherst seized a 2-0 lead.

Amherst seemed poised to run away with a sweep for the night, taking a 5-0 lead in the third set and extending it to 10-4. But a kill by McCulloch closed the deficit to 16-11 to begin a 7-0 Bates run with Eide serving, finally taking the lead at 17-16. Amherst committed nine attack errors in the set, and Bates earned its final three points in the set on kills by Echipue, Lightbourn and Stafford-Smith for the clincher.

A determined Bates team then fought back from an 11-9 deficit in the fourth set to seize an 18-11 lead. Lightbourn began the run with a kill and went on to serve the next nine points, tallying three aces as Bates grabed an 18-11 lead. Amherst came back within 24-20 before a Sydney Phillips kill gave Bates the set, and the match was tied 2-2 before a roaring crowd in Alumni Gym.

Amherst notched the first two points of the fifth set on Bates attack errors, the used two kills by Cameron Hendricks and another by Launsback to grab a 5-1 lead, prompting a Bates timeout. Bates fought back with kills by Stafford-Smith, Mayfield and Schecter but couldn't establish the momentum needed to make up the deficit.

Bates will host Middlebury Saturday at 2pm, while Amherst will travel to Colby Saturday to play the Mules at 11am, then Endicott at 1pm.