Women's Volleyball Clipped 3-1 at Home by MCLA

nikki ramirez bumps the ball

BENNINGTON, Vt. – Southern Vermont College fell 3-1 to Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Friday night in a tightly-contested non-conference women's volleyball match at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.

SVC came back for a thrilling 28-26 win in the opening set before the Trailblazers tied the evening with a 25-19 victory in the second. MCLA took the third 25-21 for an edge on the night, and the visitors were able to bounce back from a late Mountaineer push to capture the fourth by a 27-25 margin.

Southern Vermont (1-13) is right back in action on Saturday with a tri-match at Utica College; SVC will take on Morrisville State at 2:30 p.m. before playing the hosting Pioneers at 5 p.m. Next up for the Trailblazers is a 7 p.m. non-league contest at The Sage Colleges.

Mountaineer junior captain Liv Sowles (Sacramento, Calif.) tied the match-high of 15 kills while adding 23 digs and a pair of service aces to her line. Freshman teammate Nikki Ramirez (West Covina, Calif.) also had 15 kills in addition to her 10 digs and three aces, and junior libero Heidy Benitez (Tulare, Calif.) registered a team-best 25 digs in the effort. Sophomore setter Abigail Landon (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) facilitated the offense with 36 assists, and she also had seven digs and two kills on the night.

MCLA was led offensively by sophomore Brooke Queripel (Palmer, Ark.) who had 13 kills and three aces, and she also chipped in with 11 digs on the defensive side. Senior libero Mele Enomoto (Wailuki, Hawaii) recorded a match-best 26 digs to go along with her six assists, and senior Michelle Laga (Mahopac, N.Y.) had 17 digs on the night. The setting for the visitors was split between senior Taylor Wiese (Las Vegas, Nev.) and freshman Natasha Stewart (North Andover, Mass.) who had 20 and 16 assists, respectively.

The Trailblazers used an 8-1 run to go up by nine in the opening set—using three team kills and a pair of Queripel aces during that stretch. MCLA maintained that separation through the midway point of the frame before extending it to a 22-15 lead later on. SVC would not be deterred and inched back with the help of back-to-back kills off of Ramirez's hand, but the Trailblazers made it set-point with a Stewart ace.

The Southern Vermont resiliency continued, however, and the Mountaineers rattled off six-straight points to pull ahead by one; Ramirez had two aces in that surge while Sowles landed a kill. Points were traded to make it 26-26, and that's when Sowles landed consecutive kills for the triumphant win.

MCLA took the opening four points of the next game—only to see the Mountaineers come back and tie it at 6-6 with kills from Landon, Sowles, and Bennington College freshman Kemly Derby (New York City, N.Y.). Neither side led by more than two until MCLA went on top 17-13 with five unanswered points. The Trailblazers pushed it a 22-15 lead soon-after, but SVC started to grab the momentum again with three in-a-row. Neither side could capture consecutive points the rest of the way before a kill from MCLA junior Brianne O'Rourke (Piseco, N.Y.) tied the contest at 1-1.

After the visitors went up early in the third set, SVC inched back to tie it at 7-7 with kills by Derby, Sowles, and Ramirez. An 8-1 run by MCLA—which included three O'Rourke kills and another two from senior Melissa Hopkins (Ware, Mass.)—put the Trailblazers on top by seven and forced a Southern Vermont timeout. Two Sowles kills helped cut it to a four-point deficit for the hosts, but MCLA was able to get to set-point with a late pair of Queripel kills. Sophomore Sarah Billow (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) and Sowles then landed attacks to make it a 24-21 game and give the Mountaineers hope, but a service error out of a Trailblazer stoppage squashed that and gave MCLA the edge on the night.

Southern Vermont came out in the fourth with some tenacity and grabbed a quick 5-1 lead with kills by Ramirez, Sowles, and Billow. MCLA got right back in it and pulled ahead with a 6-1 spurt—three of those points being kills from senior Margaret Allen (East Patchogue, N.Y.). After Ramirez tied it at 11-11, the two sides traded runs for MCLA to sit ahead at 16-15. The Trailblazers won six of the next eight with five kills over that stretch, and the visitors then made it set-point for a chance to end the night.

SVC wouldn't go quietly, however, and pushed to force the decisive fifth set. Ramirez started the surge with a kill, and she followed that with an ace behind the line. An MCLA attacking error preceded the Trailblazers using a timeout, but they came out of it and committed another pair of mishaps before Sowles landed a kill for Southern Vermont to go on top 25-24 and force another MCLA stoppage. The visitors got one back with a Mountaineer attacking error for the set to get tied up, and a final Allen kill followed an MCLA service ace for the Trailblazers to celebrate the win.