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Ithaca edges Panther volleyball in NCAA tournament

BROCKPORT, N.Y. — The Middlebury College volleyball nearly rallied from a two-set deficit on Friday in an NCAA Division III Regional at SUNY Brockport, but Ithaca (27-5) edged the Panthers in five sets (27-25, 26-24, 21-25, 18-25, 16-14).
The Panthers, who earned their NCAA berth by winning the NESCAC playoff title the weekend before, conclude their season with an 18-9 record.
During Friday’s opening set, Middlebury jumped out to a 13-5 lead after a solo block by Hannah Blackburn. But Ithaca rattled off a 7-1 run to make it 14-12, finishing the run on a kill by Joelle Goldstein. The Panthers scored the next four points, but the Bombers tied the set at 20-20 on a kill from Taylor McCarthy. With the set knotted at 25-25, a kill by Goldstein and a Panther error gave the Bombers the set victory.
The second set saw the Bombers leading, 16-11, after a kill by Hailey Adler. The Panthers tied the set on a 5-0 run that included kills by Melanie English and Isabel Sessions. Ithaca pulled out to a 21-18 lead, but kills by Sessions and Sarah Staver helped tie the score at 21-21. With the score deadlocked at 24-24, a kill by Goldstein and a Panther attack error put the Bombers ahead by two sets.
In the third set, each team put together runs before Middlebury had a 13-12 lead and went on a 7-0 run that included blocks from Alice Roberts and English. The Bombers sliced the deficit to 23-20 but kills by Staver and Eliana Schaefer gave the Panthers the 25-21 victory.
The fourth set saw a 16-16 tie after which the Panthers tallied a 6-1 spurt, highlighted by a pair of service aces from Chellsa Ferdinand, for a 22-17 advantage. Middlebury recorded three of the set’s final four points, including a service ace from Staver for the winning point.
In the decisive fifth set, the Panthers led, 7-4, on a service ace by Ferdinand, but the Bombers grabbed a 10-9 edge via a kill by McCarthy. Middlebury reeled off a 5-1 spurt, including two kills from Sessions, for a 14-11 lead. Middlebury had three shots at match point, but the Bombers tallied the next five points, with the clinching tally on a kill from Goldstein.
Raffel led the Panther attack with 18 kills to go along with 10 digs, while Sessions added 13 kills. Blackburn had 32 assists and a pair of service aces, while Gigi Alper and Kolodka had 17 and 11 digs, respectively. Ferdinand dished out 10 assists and tallied a match-best five service aces. English led the Panthers at the net with seven block assists, while Roberts added four block assists.
McCarthy and Goldstein paced Ithaca with 20 kills each.

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