The Hamilton College Continentals dropped their final NESCAC match of the season against the Middlebury College Panthers in four sets at Middlebury's Pepin Gymnasium on Friday night.
The Panthers (16-5, 6-3 NESCAC) won the first two sets by scores of 25-23 and 25-14. Hamilton surged back in the third set with a 25-16 win, and Middlebury took the fourth and deciding set 25-20. The Panthers received votes in the latest Division III Top 25 coaches poll and they are ranked eighth in the New England Region by the NCAA.
Dorothy Poucher '21 led Hamilton (7-13, 1-9) with a match-high 12 kills. Jane Fanning '22, Giuliana Rankin '20, Claire Kitz '19 and Emma Parkhurst '21 tallied seven kills apiece. Meghan Wilkinson '19 dished out 22 assists, and Parkhurst added 13 assists and 12 digs for her 13th double-double of the season. Nikki Matsuoka '21 led the defense with 17 digs and Kendall Boxe '22 totaled three blocks. Matsuoka ranks third in the conference with 378 digs and 5.18 digs per set.
Sarah Staver led a balanced Middlebury attack with 11 kills, while Shea Golden added 10 kills and 10 digs. Chellsa Ferdinand handed out 35 assists to go along with 10 digs, while Gigi Alper had a match-high 26 digs. Corley Doyle finished the contest with four block assists.
In a back-and-forth opening set, the home squad held a 14-9 cushion before the Continentals battled back to take their largest lead at 20-16. Middlebury responded with an 8-2 run to gain a 24-22 edge and closed the set on a Continental attack error.
The seesaw battle continued in the second set. The Panthers turned a narrow 12-10 advantage into an 11-point lead with an 11-2 spurt and won the set off a kill by Jane Nelson.
Poucher kicked off the third set with a solo block to give Hamilton a lead it never relinquished. A kill by Parkhurst made the score 14-10. Middlebury's Staver responded with a kill of her own, but Hamilton built a comfortable 21-11 lead with seven unanswered points. Fanning slammed the final two kills for the set win.
After Middlebury moved out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth set, the Continentals battled back to within two points at 11-9 on a kill by Fanning. The Panthers gradually pulled away by scoring 10 of the next 14 points. The Continentals came back to within 23-18 on a service ace by Poucher, but Middlebury clinched the set and the match after a Hamilton attack error and a kill by Staver.
Hamilton concludes its season at home on Saturday, Oct. 27 with a non-conference match against Utica College at 3 p.m. inside Margaret Bundy Scott Field House.