Women’s Volleyball Bested 3-2 in NECC Opener at Becker

abigial landon sets the ball

LEICESTER, Mass. – Southern Vermont College began New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) women's volleyball action Tuesday night at Leicester Gymnasium—being edged 3-2 by Becker College in a tightly-contested league matchup.

SVC topped Becker 25-17 in the opening set before the Hawks came back to tie the tilt with a 25-19 win in the second. The Mountaineers erased a late deficit to tie the third at 24-24, but the hosts were able to win the next two points to go up by a game on the night. After Southern Vermont extended the evening with a 25-20 fourth-frame victory, Becker narrowly escaped with the Conference win by taking the fifth at a 15-7 margin.

The Mountaineers (1-16, 0-1 NECC) continue the league schedule on Friday when they host Mitchell College for a 6 p.m. first serve on the SVC campus.

Southern Vermont junior captain Liv Sowles (Sacramento, Calif.) set a new season high with a match-best 28 kills, and she also had 22 digs, three aces and two blocks on the night. Freshman Nikki Ramirez (West Covina, Calif.) followed with 16 kills and 13 digs while junior Heidy Benitez (Tulare, Calif.) tied the match high of 40 digs. Sophomore Abigail Landon (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) popped up 48 assists and 17 digs in the effort, and classmate Sarah Billow (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) registered 14 digs and five kills.

53 of SVC's 58 kills were assisted while just 44 of the Hawks' 53 kills had a helper.

Two kills from both Billow and Sowles put the Mountaineers up 5-1 early in the first, and they would remain ahead through the rest of the set. Becker cut it to a one-point lead for Southern Vermont, but the visitors then went on a 6-1 run to gain some breathing room; Sowles had a pair of kills in that stretch while Benitez and Bennington College freshman Kemly Derby (New York City, N.Y.) each added another. A Ramirez kill helped push it to a seven-point difference, and Sowles landed a set from Landon to close out the stanza.

The Hawks won four-straight points in the onset of the second to force an early Southern Vermont timeout. SVC came back with an 8-3 spurt highlighted by a pair of kills from both Billow and Sowles to go on top—only to see Becker respond with an 8-1 run to regain the lead. Back-to-back Sowles kills later in the game cut it to a 21-17 upper hand for the hosts, but that would be as close as the Mountaineers would get as the Hawks finished off the set.

Neither side could sustain momentum in the third as the lead went back-and-forth in the beginning of the frame. With Becker up 10-9, Sowles put down a pair of kills during a 4-1 run to give her team the edge. The Hawks came back, however, by taking seven of the next nine to pull in front by three. The hosts would eventually go ahead by a 23-19 clip, and they pushed it to set-point after a Sowles kill. Sowles put down her seventh kill of the game, however, and then registered consecutive service aces to tie it at 24-24. Becker would follow with a kill of its own, and an SVC attacking miscue then put the Hawks on top in the match.

After Becker grabbed an early lead in the fourth, Southern Vermont went on an 11-2 surge to open up a comfortable advantage; Sowles and Derby each had a pair of kills in that time as Ramirez provided another three. The Hawks trimmed their deficit to four—only to see the Mountaineers win five of the next six behind two Sowles kills and a third from senior captain Julia Florence (Salem, Mass.). The hosts chipped away late in the stanza to get within four, but Ramirez put down three kills—including one final strike—to force the decisive fifth set.

After three straight by the Hawks made it a 3-1 Becker lead to start the fifth, Southern Vermont tied it up at 4-4 with two more Sowles kills. The Hawks won the next six, however, and finished off the night with another four unanswered for the league victory.