Volleyball Falls to Top Seed Wesleyan in NESCAC Semifinals

After sweeping Bowdoin in the quarterfinals, the volleyball team’s 2022 season finished this past weekend with a 3-2 NESCAC semifinal loss to conference No. 1 seed Wesleyan.

Volleyball Falls to Top Seed Wesleyan in NESCAC Semifinals
Volleyball finished their season with a second-straight NESCAC semifinal appearance. Photo courtesy of Clarus Studios.

After earning the NESCAC’s fourth seed this season, the volleyball team traveled to Middletown, Connecticut, for the conference tournament this past weekend. Their quest for a title started on Friday, Nov. 4, against No. 5 seed Bowdoin. While the Firedogs started the tournament strong, winning the game against the Polar Bears in three sets, they fell to No. 1 seed Wesleyan the next day in a 3-2 nailbiter.

Despite being down both 3-0 and 10-7 at points in the first set against defending NESCAC champion Bowdoin, the Mammoths pulled out a win with a comeback effort. After a block from Chloe Chanren ’24E, the Mammoths took the lead 14-13, eventually stretching that lead to 20-16. A few points later, a momentum-sustaining kill from Kinsey Cronin ’25 and an attack error widened the Mammoths’ lead to 20-16. A service ace from junior Katelyn Hamasaki ’24 closed the set.

The second set started with much of the same back-and-forth play as the first: After going down early, a 7-4 run by the Mammoths gave them a small lead of 15-12. Anaya Thomas ’25 and Caroline Tilton ’23 totaled two kills each, which allowed the Mammoths to keep a three-point lead. The Polar Bears scored three points to tie up the game, but after multiple Bowdoin attack errors, the Mammoths got away with another win to go up 2-0.

The Mammoths finished off the night with a bang, jumping out to a 15-9 lead in the third set. To build that lead, Tilton recorded two kills and Cooper put down a service ace. However, Bowdoin bounced back to score six straight points and tie the game 15-15. Kills from Chanren and Sami Underwood ’23 off assists from sophomore Lizzie Papalia ’25 made it 21-17, and Cronin finished the game with three kills to complete the 3-0 sweep.

However, the next day, Saturday, Nov. 5, Amherst tragically lost 3-2 against the top-seeded Wesleyan Cardinals. The Firedogs opened up a 1-0 lead with an exciting first set win by a score of 28-26. After being tied 11-11, Cooper served three of four consecutive points to give the Mammoths the lead, which they increased to 16-12 off of kills from Thomas and Tilton. The Cardinals came back, though, to win five straight points and retake the lead. Battling hard, Tilton, Papalia, and Underwood notched three straight kills to get the Mammoths back in the game. But again, Wesleyan battled back to tie and ultimately take the lead. However, a service error by the Cardinals took away their chance to win the set, and the Mammoths capitalized, blocking two Cardinals attempts to take the two next points and win the set.

Despite this strong start by Amherst, Wesleyan took the next two sets 25-18 and 25-19. A win looked on the horizon for the Cardinals, but the Firedogs weren’t done yet. In the fourth set, they rebounded from being down 11-7 and 15-12 with multiple three-point runs. Senior Lani Uyeno ’23 had two service aces, and kills from Underwood and Tilton helped the Mammoths come back. With another service ace and two more kills from Tilton, the Mammoths were up once more, and ultimately finished the set 25-20. Now tied 2-2, both teams were hungry to take the last set.

In the last set, the Firedogs went back and forth with the Cardinals to take a 7-6 lead. Unfortunately, after a long first four sets, they seemed to run out of steam, and fell behind 14-8. While a four-point run put them back in the game, they ultimately fell short, with the Cardinals winning the next point to send the Mammoths home with a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss.

First-year Charlotte Rasmussen ’26 said the game was a “tough five sets, but we did a great job adjusting to their offense and hitting past their defense.”

The Mammoths end the 2022 season with a 14-7 overall record and their second-straight NESCAC Tournament semifinal appearance. They will look to improve on this result when the 2023 season begins next fall.