Panthers fall to Babson in four sets, rebound to beat Endicott in five
BABSON PARK, Mass. – The Plymouth State University women's volleyball team split two matches against a pair of regionally-ranked teams at Staake Gymnasium on Saturday. Plymouth State opened with a 3-1 (22-25, 26-24, 14-25, 17-25) setback to Babson College, ranked fourth in the most recent New England Women's Volleyball Association (NEWVA) regional poll, but rebounded to knock off Endicott College, 3-2 (23-25, 25-22, 16-25, 25-21, 15-12). The Gulls held the 10-spot in the NEWVA poll.
With the split the Panthers move to 14-7 on the season. Babson, who defeated Endicott in the day's final match 3-1, improves to 16-3 while Endicott drops to 11-8.
Plymouth State came out strong in the opener against Babson. An attack error on the Beavers gave PSU a 14-9 lead, forcing a timeout. Babson cut the margin to 14-13, then pulled in front 18-17. Kills from sophomore Alexis Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and junior Ari Linden (Lena, Ill.) coupled with a Babson error put PSU up 20-18, and the Panthers extended the lead to 22-19 after a pair of Beavers' errors, but the hosts responded with strong net play to run six straight points and steal the first set, 25-22.
PSU responded, holding a lead through much of the second set. The Panthers pulled ahead 20-17 after a kill from freshman Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.), but Babson rallied to tie the score at 22-22. The teams traded points until a service error gave PSU a 25-24 edge, and Linden and senior Megan Bailey (Canterbury, N.H.) combined for a block to give the Panthers the 26-24 win.
Babson built an early 15-7 lead in the third set and despite a string of kills from Shaffer and Linden late, the Panthers couldn't rally as the Beavers' offense hit .379 for the set to win 25-14. Babson ran out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth set, but the Panthers cut the margin to 9-8 after consecutive kills from Shaffer. The Panthers trailed 18-16, when the Beavers ran six points to take a 24-16 lead. Shaffer stopped the run with another kill, but the hosts closed out the win with a kill.
Shaffer led the Panthers with nine kills, with senior Claire Sporer (Medford, Ore.) added seven. Bailey posted 20 assists and senior Brenna Peruch (Cave Creek, Ariz.) paced the defense with 14 digs. Sophomore Shannon Howland (Delmar, N.Y.) was solid, delivering five aces in the setback.
Endicott used a three point run to pull ahead 17-13 in the opening set, forcing a PSU timeout. The Panthers responded, eventually knotting the score at 20-20 after a kill from sophomore Samantha Walker (Barrington, N.H.). Endicott went ahead 24-21, but PSU continued to claw back. Consecutive kills from Sporer cut the deficit to 24-23, but a Gulls' kill gave EC the first set, 25-23.
Howland served the Panthers to an 8-4 lead, at one point registering three straight aces. PSU pushed the lead and kills from junior Jill Tiner (Salem, N.H.) and Walker put the Panthers ahead 16-9. EC rallied, cutting the margin to 17-15, but PSU answered. Kills from Bailey, Sporer and Tiner, followed by an ace from Bailey put PSU ahead 21-15. Endicott's late rally fell short as the Panthers held on for a 25-22 win.
The third set was all Endicott, as the Gulls raced out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back. A Shaffer kill started a small rally for PSU late in the set, and a block from Sporer and Shaffer cut the margin to 21-16, but EC responded with four straight points to take the third set 25-16.
Linden's kill gave the Panthers a 14-8 lead in the fourth set, but Endicott scored the next six points to even the set at 14-14. Sporer had back-to-back aces put PSU ahead 21-17 and force an Endicott timeout. Bowers dropped a kill out of the timeout and the Panthers closed out the 25-21 win, forcing a fifth set.
Senior Grace Sporer (Medford, Ore.) got the Panthers started with some aggressive serving. PSU jumped ahead 5-1. After an EC timeout the Gulls were able to cut the margin to 7-5, but C. Sporer answered with consecutive kills. The teams traded points and Linden's kill gave the Panthers a 13-8 lead. Endicott scored four of the next five points to pull within 14-12, but C. Sporer delivered the win with a thunderous kill.
C. Sporer led the Panthers with 14 kills and 15 digs, with Linden adding 11 winners. Shaffer chipped in with seven kills and six blocks, while Bailey notched 40 assists. Peruch had a match-high 25 digs, with G. Sporer adding 13. Howland was dangerous behind the service line again, adding another five aces to her season total.
Plymouth State remains on the road for three more matches next week. The Panthers travel to UMass Boston for a Little East Conference game on Wednesday (Oct. 11), looking to exact revenge after last season's loss in the LEC Championship game. First serve is set for 6:00 p.m.
– 30 –