NEW LONDON, Conn. – Senior captain Maddie Rust (Austin, Texas) smashed a career-high 24 kills, which included providing the match point, to help lead the Connecticut College volleyball team to a thrilling 3-2 victory over Hamilton in the NESCAC opener for both schools on Friday evening at the Luce Field House. Set scores were 22-25, 28-26, 25-21, 22-25 and 15-6.
Connecticut College hit at a jaw-dropping .450 clip in the fifth and deciding set by registering 10 kills on 20 swings and only committing one error. Rust got the Camels going by finishing three passes from junior setter Grace McGee (Portland, Ore.) to give the hosts a quick 5-1 lead. Sophomores Emma Hewlin (Los Gatos, Calif.) and Katie Howley (Scituate, Mass.) teamed up at the net to block Dorothy Poucher's attack attempt to make it 8-3, and Hewlin then forced the Continentals to take a timeout by registering a solo block on an Emma Parkhurst swing to create a 10-5 score. Rust then added two kills down the stretch, which included rocketing home the final point to provide a fitting end to her career night.
The Camels scored the first two points of the opening set, but Hamilton answered with five straight and never surrendered the lead. Consecutive kills by Giuliana Rankin and Jane Fanning along with a Camel attacking error forced the hosts to call a timeout with the score reading 21-16, and a kill by Claire Kiz gave the Continentals a 25-22 set win.
Connecticut College (4-3, NESCAC 1-0) came out strong in the second set and built up a 7-2 advantage on a kill by freshman Avery Light (Sudbury, Mass.) which forced a timeout. Hamilton rallied and tied the set at 10-all on a service ace by Meghan Wilkinson, but the Camels responded by getting a kill from Hewlin to begin a seesaw battle the rest of the way. After 13 more ties and four lead changes, the Camels were able to emerge victorious when McGee found Rust for a kill to give the hosts a 28-26 set victory.
The third set started off just like the second with the Camels bursting out to a 7-2 lead. Hamilton once again tied the match at 10s on a kill by Rankin, setting up another nailbiter with five more deadlocks and four exchanges of the lead. Just like the previous set, Rust ended it with a kill to give the Camels momentum.
Hamilton, however, did not go down easy and found a way to extend the match to a fifth and deciding set despite falling behind by scores of 4-1 and 11-8. Coming out of a timeout and trailing 13-11, the Continentals fought back and went on a 12-4 run to establish control. But even though a service ace by Maddy LaPoint gave the Continentals a 25-22 set victory and momentum, the Camels caught fire the rest of the way with a hot-hitting fifth frame to pull out the win.
Rust registered a career-best 24 kills by also registering a .396 hitting percentage to lead the way for the Camels. McGee added a career-high 49 assists and 13 digs, while Howley also put up a double-double effort by finishing with 10 kills and 19 digs. Junior Dayna McCue (Franklin, Mass.) had a strong night with 19 digs and three assists from the libero position.
Hamilton (2-3, NESCAC 0-1) got double-doubles from Parkhurst and Wilkinson. Parkhurst contributed 31 assists to go along with 14 digs, and Wilkinson added 10 assists and 16 digs. Rankin recorded a team-high 17 kills.
Connecticut College next hosts Williams tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m.