WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis volleyball team kicked off
its home season with the first of two tournaments to be held on
campus. The Judges split their two matches at the Brandeis
Invitational, defeating Rhode Island College, 3-0, in their
Auerbach Arena debut before falling to Williams, 3-1, in the
Brandeis had little problem with RIC in the opener, winning 25-14, 25-12, 25-20. Brandeis jumped out to leads of 8-1 in the first set and 8-2 in the second en route to their big wins, while an early 7-0 run in set three pushed a 4-3 lead to 11-3 and the hosts never looked back. The Judges got fantastic performances from their middles, as senior Bridget McAllister (Santa Clara, Calif/Presentation) had 14 kills and just two errors in 25 attempts for a .480 percentage, while rookie Becca Fischer (San Antonio, Texas/Clark) led the team with a .538 percentage. Fischer had seven kills and no errors in 13 attempts. Senior right side player Piera Carfagno (Los Angeles, Calif./Campbell Hall School) also hit better than .400 with 11 kills and two errors in 22 attempts for a .409 percentage. Junior setter Abby Blasco (Greeley, Colo./Frontier Acad.) had 39 assists in guiding the team to a .327 hitting percentage. Twin sister Paige had a fine defensive effort with a team-high 10 digs.
In the nightcap against Williams, the Judges jumped out to a one-set lead, but the Ephs stormed back to win three in a row, 20-25, 25-23, 25-14, 25-22. After Brandeis scored the first three points of the first set, Williams answered with the next four. Neither team was able to pull away, as the lead was never larger than three until a 19-19 tie. At that point, Paige Blasco sent home a kill, sparking the Judges to a 6-1 run to end the set. The second set went in a similar fashion, with the Ephs taking an early 4-1 lead and the Judges battling back. Brandeis led, 20-17, but Williams was able to score eight of the final 11 points after taking their second timeout. Eph senior captain Chelsea Kubal (Atherton, Calif./Crystal Springs Uplands) had a pair of kills in the decisive run, while classmate Andrea Scoscia (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine Richland) evened the match with a service ace.
In the third set, Williams opened up an early 7-3 lead and were able to keep the Judges at arms' length the rest of the way. Leading by just three, 11-8, after a service ace by Brandeis rookie libero Anna Homitsky (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seneca Valley), the visitors embarked on a decisive 11-3 run, going ahead 22-11 on the third-straight kill by junior middle blocker Nicole Ballon-Landa (La Jolla, Calif./The Bishops School) before cruising to the 25-14 win. Set four looked to be a similar Williams runaway, as they took an early 9-3 lead. They maintained the six-point lead until late in the set. Down 19-13, Fischer started a Brandeis run with a kill and block that was assisted by McAllister, who followed with a kill of her own to cut the lead to 19-16. Paige Blasco served an ace out of a timeout to trim the deficit to two, but Carfagno was called for a net violation, giving the Ephs a sideout. Paige Blasco just missed down the line from the back row on the next point and another Brandeis error put the lead back to five, 22-17. The visitors were on the brink, 23-18, when the Judges made one last push. A tip by junior Nicole Smith (Marietta, Ga./Alan C. Pope), a Williams error and a Carfagno service forced Williams into another timeout at 23-21. Smith added another kill out of the timeout, but Carfagno's next serve floated long, giving the Ephs the sideout to match-point, which they converted on a kill by junior opposite Kate Anderson (Berlin, Mass./Bancroft School).
For the match, Smith and Paige Blasco led the Judges with 14 kills each. Smith registered an impressive .600 hitting percentage, making just two errors in 20 attempts. As a team, the Judges were on fire in the first set, hitting at a .448 clip (13 kills, 0 errors, 29 attempts), but were no higher than .211 in any of the other three sets. McAllister had 15 digs to lead the team, while Abby Blasco finished with 37 assists and 13 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. Fischer finished with eight kills and five block assists.
The Judges finished second in their pool with a 1-1 record and will take on fellow 1-1 squads Tufts and Babson tomorrow.