The Hamilton College volleyball team defeated Middlebury College in five sets on Friday night at Margaret Bundy Scott Field House to close their regular season NESCAC schedule with a program-best 7-3 conference record.
Hamilton (13-7 overall) won the first set 25-20, but Middlebury claimed the next two by scores of 25-22 and 25-21. The Continentals commanded the fourth set 25-12 and closed the match with a 15-10 score in the fifth and deciding set.
The Panthers (16-7, 5-4 NESCAC) are ranked sixth in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Division III New England Region this week.
The Continentals have defeated five straight NESCAC opponents and are guaranteed the fourth seed in the 2017 NESCAC Volleyball Championship, which is the highest seeding in program history.
Middlebury remains fifth in the NESCAC standings and faces sixth place Williams (4-5) on Saturday, Oct. 28. Williams and Amherst (4-5) are currently tied for sixth place after Amherst defeated eighth-place Bates (3-6) on Friday night. Amherst faces last-place Colby (0-9) on Saturday.
Dorothy Poucher '21 smashed a season-high 16 kills with three errors in 29 attempts for a .448 hitting percentage. Giuliana Rankin '20 added 13 kills while Erin Donahue '18 and Courtney Brown '18 chipped in 12 apiece.
Kyndal Burdin '18 matched a career high with 55 assists and added 10 digs en route to her ninth double-double in the last 10 matches. The senior setter now tallies 2,082 career assists, 98 assists shy of tying the all-time record set by Sarah Tschampel '00.
Becca Raffel and Emma Walsh both recorded double-doubles for Middlebury. Raffel totaled 14 kills and 15 digs while Walsh tallied 51 assists and 17 digs. Eliana Schaefer and Isabel Sessions had 15 kills each, and Gigi Alper picked up a match-high 29 digs.
Hamilton came from behind in the first set after Middlebury built a 5-0 lead. Hamilton tied the score three times before earning their first lead at 13-12. Middlebury responded with five unanswered points and held a 19-16 advantage when a Poucher kill ignited a 9-1 Hamilton run to close the set.
Middlebury started the second set with five unanswered points again and grew a comfortable 14-7 advantage. Hamilton battled back to within two points on a solo block by Margaret O'Brien '18, who finished with four, to make the score 22-20 in favor of Middlebury. But a kill by Sessions and two Hamilton attack errors gave the second set to the Panthers.
The Continentals gained a 13-9 lead in the third set before it was Middlebury's turn for a comeback. The Panthers scored seven unanswered to take the 16-13 lead and they did not surrender it for the remainder of the set.
Hamilton commanded their home court in the fourth set with a .375 hitting percentage. The Continentals built a quick 7-1 lead and never let up. Poucher notched seven of her 16 kills in the fourth set alone.
Searcy kept the Continentals on track as she tallied three service aces to open the fifth set en route to a 6-0 advantage. Middlebury got within three points in the final set but after the Panthers committed a service error and a bad set, Hamilton's Rankin recorded the final kill of the night for the win.
Hamilton is back in action at Margaret Bundy Scott Field House on Saturday, Oct. 28 to end the regular season with a tri-match against Morrisville State (20-5) and St. Lawrence University (17-10). Hamilton will play Morrisville at 11 a.m. and St. Lawrence at 3 p.m. Morrisville and St. Lawrence will face off at 1 p.m. The Continentals will be celebrating Senior Day before the match against St. Lawrence.