Volleyball edged 3-2 by Middlebury at home

Ruby Lightbourn's 14 kills and 28 digs weren't quite enough for Bates in a 3-2 loss to Middlebury at home on Sept. 20, 2019. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Middlebury prevailed 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 19-25, 25-20, 15-12) in a see-saw battle with the Bates volleyball team on Saturday afternoon in Alumni Gymnasium.

Sophomore Sydney Phillips (Plainville, Mass.) led Bates (8-2, 0-2 NESCAC) with 15 kills against six errors on 55 attempts (.164). Junior Ruby Lightbourn (Los Angeles, Calif.) had a big match with 14 kills on a .282 attack percentage, with a team-high 28 digs as well as three service aces.

Junior Angel Echipue (Munich, Germany) posted 12 kills while hitting at a .391 rate, and junior Olivia McCulloch (Sunderland, Mass.) added 10 kills with 27 digs. Senior Julia Panepinto (Buffalo, N.Y.) led Bates with 33 assists while first-year Emma Eide (Ramsey, N.J.) dished out 21 assists to go with four kills. Both Bates setters tallied 11 digs apiece.

Maggie Wise led the Panthers (7-2, 2-0 NESCAC) with a match-high 19 kills, with only two errors on 55 attacks (.309). Jane Nelson added 12 kills with a .300 hitting percentage, while Shea Golden pitched in with 11 kills with one error on 32 attempts (.312).

Emma Walsh and Chellsa Ferdinand tallied 26 assists apiece for Middlebury, and Gigi Alper came up with a match-high 40 digs and six assists. Corley Doyle pitched in with eight kills and Isabella Marcus added five kills and a match-high five blocks.

Wise paced Middlebury in the opening set with six kills and four digs, as the Panthers hit at a .297 rate in the opening frame, their best performance of the afternoon. Echipue was also hot early, with five kills in the set for Bates while Lightbourn came up with eight digs and three kills. Middlebury led by no more than four points in the set (22-18). The set was tied 23-23 before back-to-back kills by Wise gave Middlebury a 1-0 lead.

Bates maintained a lead throughout the second set, on the strength of a .300 attack percentage. The Bobcats committed only one attack error in the frame, as Phillips led the way with six kills, including the final point, while McCulloch, Lightbourn and senior Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y.) posted six digs apiece. Wise also tallied six kills in the set, and Alper totaled eight digs.

Bates continued its momentum into the third set, seizing a 2-1 lead as the Bobcats attacked at a .244 rate while Middlebury posted a match-low .068 mark. Bates jumped out to leads of 4-0, 10-3 and 17-9 on the way to picking up the point. Lightbourn was a force in the set with seven kills while Eustache tallied seven digs.

Middlebury turned things around in the fourth set, holding a slight lead for most of the way. After a 3-0 Bates spurt closed Middlebury's lead to 18-17, the Panthers scored four straight with Alper serving, thanks to back-to-back kills by Nelson and two straight attack errors by the Bobcats. With a 22-17 lead, Middlebury happily traded points with Bates until a kill by Isabella Marcus clinched the set and tied the match at 2-2.

For the second match in less than 24 hours, Bates fell behind early in the fifth set, as a kill by Nelson and a service ace by Golden made it 4-1 in the visitors' favor. In an evenly played set the rest of the way, Bates couldn't get closer than within a point at 8-7, 9-8 and 10-9 without Middlebury reclaiming serve. After a kill by McCulloch closed the gap to 14-12 for Bates, Nelson sealed the match with the final kill of the day.

Bates next plays at Maine Maritime Tuesday at 7pm. Middlebury next plays at Amherst Friday at 7pm.