No. 25 Wesleyan tops volleyball 3-1 in Alumni

Taylor Stafford-Smith had nine kills, 21 digs and four aces in Bates' 3-1 loss to Wesleyan on Oct. 5, 2019. (File photo by Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- Bella Ahearn had 14 kills and Gabby Bennett added seven kills and five blocks as No. 25 nationally ranked Wesleyan University defeated the Bates volleyball team 3-1 (25-22, 27-25, 21-25, 25-19) on Saturday afternoon in Alumni Gym.

Wesleyan (12-2, 4-1 NESCAC) broke a three-match losing streak in Alumni Gym with the victory, the Cardinals' fourth in a row this season.

Junior Olivia McCulloch (Sunderland, Mass.) led a diverse Bates (10-5, 2-3 NESCAC) attack with 11 kills and junior Delaney Mayfield (Santa Barbara, Calif.) added 10. The Bobcats attacked at a .146 percentage to the Cardinals' .172. Wesleyan had a 10-5 advantage in team blocks and a 13-6 advantage in service errors.

Stasie Litinsky posted seven kills for Wesleyan, five of them in the final set, while Bennett and Ahearn tallied four apiece in the decisive set. Harper Graves and Brina Kuslak tallied five block assists apiece and Phia Bellizzi totaled a match-high 38 digs. Grace Rose (23 assists, 3 kills, 6 digs) and Kaira Muraoka-Robertson (18 assists, 15 digs) split setting duties for the visitors.

Bates senior Taylor Stafford-Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) tallied nine kills against one error on 38 attempts (.211) and led the Bobcats with 21 digs and four aces. Junior Angel Echipue (Munich, Germany) had eight kills with two errors on 17 attempts (.353) and four blocks. Setters Julia Panepinto (Buffalo, N.Y.) and Emma Eide (Ramsey, N.J.) had 18 digs apiece, and 24 and 18 assists, respectively. Junior Ruby Lightbourn (Los Angeles, Calif.) posted nine kills and 14 digs in three sets of action.

Bates took an early 5-2 lead in the first set and held onto a slim lead until Wesleyan tied it for the first time at 14-14. An attack error by Mayfield and a kill by Ahearn gave Wesleyan its first lead at 18-17, and an ace by Muraoka-Robertson out of a Bates timeout gave the Cardinals their first two-point cushion at 21-19. an attack error by Echipue and a kill by Mia Jago made it 23-19. McCulloch racked up consecutive kills to close the gap to 24-22 for Bates, but Litinsky's first kill of the match sealed up the first set for Wesleyan.

Wesleyan maintained a modest lead in the second set until a 3-0 run by the Bobcats, including kills by Echipue and Lightbourn, tied the score at 20-20. Panepinto set up sophomore Sydney Phillips (Plainville, Mass.) and Mayfield for kills on back-to-back plays to give Bates its first lead of the set at 22-21. A service error returned serve to Wesleyan, and the Cardinals took a 24-22 lead with kills by Ahearn and Maddie Kurke. Bates came back with two side-outs before the set was through, on kills by Mayfield and McCulloch, but Wesleyan pulled away from a 25-25 tie with a Bates service error and attack error, putting the Bobcats in a 2-0 hole.

In the third set, Bates took over the lead for good at 2-1, although Wesleyan came back from a 12-6 deficit to within 14-13, with three kills by Ahearn in the 7-2 run. Bates again crept ahead to a five-point lead (19-14) and held off the Cardinals the rest of the way to make it a 2-1 match.

The fourth set was another close affair. Wesleyan never trailed, but led by no more than two points until a 3-0 run, featuring a kill by Graves and back-to-back kills by Litinsky, made it 14-11 and prompted a Bates timeout. Kills by Echipue, Stafford-Smith and Lightbourn narrowed the gap on three occasions to a point, at 16-15, 17-16 and 18-17. A service error made it 19-17 in Wesleyan's favor before Litinsky closed out the match for the Cardinals, pounding four kills in a 5-0 Wesleyan run to make it 23-18. Olivia Guidotti's kill ended the match in victory for the visitors.

Bates will next play at Hamilton Friday at 7pm, then at Williams Saturday at 2pm.