No. 4 Southern Vermont Clipped 3-2 at Top-seeded Elms in NECC Women’s Volleyball Semifinals

abigail landon sets the ball

CHICOPEE, Mass. – Southern Vermont College gave it a valiant effort Friday Night in the semifinal round of the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) women's volleyball postseason tournament, but the fourth-seeded Mountaineers eventually fell by a 3-2 margin to No. 1 Elms College at Picknelly Arena.

After EC won the opening set 25-19, the visitors came back to take the next two at 25-23 and 25-18 to grab an advantage in the match. The Blazers stayed alive with a 25-22 victory in the fourth, and the hosts were then able to close it out in the final set with a 15-10 tally.

SVC concludes the year at 9-19 overall after having been selected to finish seventh in the league's preseason poll.

Leading the way on the offensive end for Southern Vermont was freshman Nikki Ramirez (West Covina, Calif.) who notched 16 kills while adding 19 digs and two service aces. Junior captain Liv Sowles (Sacramento, Calif.) followed with 14 kills, 16 digs, and three total blocks while classmate and libero Heidy Benitez (Tulare, Calif.) popped up a match-high 27 digs. Sophomore setter Abigail Landon (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) facilitated the offense with 31 assists on the night.

Elms jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the onset of the first set, and an 8-1 run by the hosts would ensue for the Blazers to go up by eight. SVC would take four in-a-row—with kills from both Benitez and Sowles—to cut it to five and force an EC timeout. The Blazers extended it to an eight-point separation with a 4-1 spurt—only to see the Mountaineers take seven of the next eight behind a Landon ace and a Ramirez kill. Points were traded in the late going until EC scored five of the last six to take the set.

SVC scored four straight to go on top 8-5 in the beginning of the seconds, but Elms came back to take a one-point edge with a 5-1 run. Southern Vermont responded with a 5-2 spurt behind a pair of Ramirez kills, and the Mountaineers would never trail the rest of the set. A 4-1 SVC run, aided by a kill from both Ramirez and Sowles, put the visitors up by four—only to have the Blazers score three straight to get back within one. Points went back-and-forth the rest of the way with an EC attacking error making way for the Mountaineers to close out the frame and tie up the night.

Southern Vermont carried its momentum into the third set and stormed out to a 12-3 lead; Ramirez tallied a pair of aces in that time while Sowles had one of her own. Elms inched closer by taking four of the next six, but service would be traded through the remainder of the game with Ramirez landing kills for SVC's last two points as the visitors pulled ahead with a 2-1 lead in the match.

Down to what was potentially their last set of the year, the Blazers took to a 5-2 upper hand in the fourth; the Mountaineers came back with four unanswered to tie it at 8-8 as a Sowles kill was followed by three straight from Ramirez. EC won the next two—only to see the visitors respond with five in-a-row behind another pair of Ramirez kills. A 4-1 Blazer spurt tied it midway through the set, and four consecutive from the hosts then put them ahead at 19-16. Southern Vermont pushed to end the match as a 6-2 run put the Mountaineers up 22-21, but Elms seized control and took the last four to close out the game and send the evening to the decisive fifth.

Points were traded in the start of the final frame until EC won four-of-five to go in front 6-3. SVC was able to close it down to a one-point deficit as Benitez tallied an ace before Ramirez notched a kill; Elms would extend its upper hand, however, by winning five of the next six to set it to match-point. Sowles landed her final kill of the season to prevent the contest from ending, but the Blazers knocked down the last point of the night to send themselves into the finals.