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Wesleyan Outlasts Volleyball in Five-Set Thriller

Eliza Wolcott

NEW LONDON, Conn. - Freshman Eliza Wolcott (San Francisco, Calif.) registered her first double-double as a collegian, but it wasn't enough, as Wesleyan outlasted the Connecticut College volleyball team in a five-set thriller on Thursday evening at the Luce Field House. Set scores were 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 22-25 and 15-6.

Connecticut College (4-5, NESCAC 1-2) led for most of the opening set and used a 3-0 run, which was capped by a service ace off the hand of Wolcott, to move ahead by a 6-4 score and gain the upper hand. A ballhandling error by Wesleyan starting setter Kaira Muraoka-Robertson made it 10-6, forcing the Cardinals to change the quarterback of their offense, and an ace by Camel junior setter Grace McGee (Portland, Ore.) put the hosts up 12-8.

The Camels maintained a four-point advantage when Wolcott finished a pass from McGee to make it 16-12, but the Cardinals began to rally with Grace Rose leading the charge. Wesleyan responded with an 8-2 run, as Mia Jago smashed a kill off a feed from Rose to give the visitors a 19-18 lead before the duo teamed up for a block to make it a two-point difference. Harper Graves registered the final point to give the Cardinals a 25-23 set win and the upper hand at the time.

In the second set, the teams stayed within two points of each other through the first 10 rallies. A yellow card was then issued to Madeleine Lundberg for trying to substitute at the wrong time, and the hosts started to gain momentum from there. Connecticut College went up 7-6 shortly afterwards on another ballhandling error by Muraoka-Robertson and never trailed for the remainder of the set.

The Camels earned a 19-14 advantage when freshman Avery Light (Sudbury, Mass.) registered a kill, and a red card issued to the Wesleyan head coach allowed them to earn a free point and seize the momentum. An attacking error by Nicole Hilton put the hosts up by a touchdown at 21-14 before senior Maddie Rust (Austin, Texas) finished a pass from McGee to give her team a 25-21 set victory to even the score.

Despite surrendering the opening point, Wesleyan arguably had its strongest frame at the time in the third set. A Camel service error sparked a 5-0 run for the Cardinals which the hosts would never recover from. The margin grew to as many as seven at 13-6 to prompt a Connecticut College timeout, and Phia Bellizzi finished it off with the third of three Cardinal service aces.

Connecticut College responded with a stronger fourth set and a late rally to prolong the match. Even though Light put the Camels up by a 7-2 score on an ace, the Cardinals came back and went ahead by a 14-13 score on a Mia Hogan kill. A fourth ballhandling error by Muraoka-Robertson, however, tied the game up at 20s and the Camels took control the rest of the way. Sophomore Emma Hewlin (Los Gatos, Calif.) teamed up with Light for a block and followed with a kill to give her team a 22-20 advantage, and Light completed a long rally with a kill to give the Camels the set win.

In the fifth and final set, Wesleyan easily secured their third NESCAC win by dominating the service game. Jago, Hogan and Rose all registered points at the net due to serve receive miscues by the Camels to make it 6-1 and prompt a timeout. Later in the set, Nicole Hilton added a fourth point when the Camels could not handle a serve by Jenna Otaola, and the Cardinal freshman then ended the match with an ace to keep the visitors unbeaten in NESCAC play.

Wesleyan (5-1, NESCAC 3-0), which is receiving votes in the AVCA national poll, was led by Hogan, who registered 17 kills, hit at a .333 clip, and added five assists and three digs. Muraoka-Robertson and Rose recorded 29 and 14 assists, respectively, by splitting the setting duties, and Bellizzi added a team-high 24 digs from the libero position.

Wolcott paced Connecticut College by posting her first double-double as a collegian with 12 kills and 28 digs. McGee also had a double-double effort with 42 assists and 11 digs, while Light finished with 10 kills and eight digs and junior Dayna McCue (Franklin, Mass.) contributed 20 digs.

Connecticut College (4-5, NESCAC 1-2) next heads to Wheaton College on Saturday for a tri-match with the host Lyons and Clark University.