WALTHAM, Mass. – In a showdown between Brandeis University volleyball head coach Alesia Vaccari's current and previous teams, the host Judges outlasted the visiting Simmons College Sharks in five sets, twice rallying from a set down to even the match. Set scores were 15-25, 26-24, 21-25, 25-20, 15-12. The win was Brandeis's third in a row and improved their record to 5-7 overall, 2-2 in five-set matches. Simmons falls to 0-10, 0-2 when they go the distance.
Brandeis had two players record double-doubles. Senior Liz Hood (Albuquerque, N.M./Albuquerque Acad.) led all players with 16 kills, 11 coming in sets won the Judges. She also had a season-high 15 digs for her first double-double of the season. Rookie setter Julie Kim (Fullerton, Calif./Troy) had her fourth, all in the last five matches, with 42 assists and 13 digs.
Junior middle blocker Maddie Engeler (Sandusky, Ohio/St. Mary's Central Catholic) added 10 kills for the home team. Also reaching double figures in digs were sophomore Jessica Kaufman (Tucson, Ariz./Cienega) with 16, and senior libero Elsie Bernaiche (Plansville, Conn./Southington), who led the team with 19. The Judges had 13 service aces for the match, with Kaufman serving three and four different players recording two.
For Simmons, rookie outside hitter Sarah Woodward (Deerfield, Mass./Frontier Regional) led the way offensively with 14 kills, while classmate and middle blocker Emmee Ashby (Payson, Ariz./Payson) had 11 and a match-best .308 hitting percentage (11 K-3 E-26 TA). Ashby also led all players with six blocks, three of which were solo. Sophomore libero Alex Itasca (Bradford, Mass./Haverhill) led all players with 24 digs, one of five Sharks to finish with 10 or more digs. Woodward added 13 digs for a double-double, while sophomore setter Andalyn Duke (Litchfield Park, Ariz./Millennium) had 39 assists and 18 digs.
Simmons got off to a quick start, using a string of eight-straight points served by junior defensive specialist Chanel Thomas (Phoenix, Ariz./North) to turn an 8-5 deficit into a 13-8 lead. The Sharks never looked back, as they took advantage of 12 attack errors by the Judges to win the first set, 25-15.
The second set was extremely tight, featuring 11 ties and two lead changes. The set was tied at 20 when an Engeler kill kicked off a 4-1 run that got the Judges to set-point, 24-21. Woodward stopped the bleeding with a kill of her own, the visitors bounced back to tie the stanza at 24-24. An attack error by Simmons gave Brandeis another set point, and Judge senior Carly Gutner-Davis (Del Mar, Calif./Canyon Crest Acad.) recorded a solo block to clinch the set, 26-24.
The third set featured a come-from-behind performance by the visitors. Trailing 17-12, they closed on a 13-4 run, paced by two kills each from Ashby and Woodward to take it 25-21. The Judges got off to a quick start in the fourth, scoring seven of the first eight points on runs served by Kim and junior Maggie Swenson (East Lyme, Conn./East Lyme). Hood and Kaufman each had two kills in the opening string. Simmons battled back to tie the set at 15 and 16, but a closing 9-4 run by the home team, punctuated by Hood's fifth kill of the set, forced the deciding set, 25-20.
The final set was close in the early going. Two Ashby kills tied it up at 6-6, but an Engeler block on an attack by Duke gave Brandeis a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Brandeis was able to take the final two sets with their finest hitting performances of the match, swinging for .171 in the fourth and .238 in the fifth after not cracking .100 in the first three stanzas.
Brandeis returns to action on Saturday with a tri-match at Colby-Sawyer College with Emmanuel College, starting at 1 p.m.