By: River Plouffe Vogul, Sports Editor
On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the USM women’s volleyball team traveled to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine for their seventh match of the season. The lady Huskies were just coming off of a two game winning streak and sitting comfortably at 5-1 overall. Bates had just dropped their last two matches. They were looking to make a statement at their home opener as they were heading into the middle of the season. Although not in the same conference, Bates and USM often play each other in almost every sport. Because the two universities are fairly close, the games almost always take on a conference play feel.
To start the game the Huskies looked like they picked up right where they left off, jumping out to an early lead and winning the first set in dominating fashion, 25-14. In college they play 5-set matches. 5-set matches are four sets to 25 points and fifth set to 15. The team must win by two points, unless tournament rules dictate otherwise. The winner is the first team to win three sets. In the first set USM was led by senior Jess Williamson from Goffstown, NH, and freshman Jamie Jannarone from Windham, ME. USM controlled the first set easily. Both Jannarone and Williamson registered 12 kills combined, leading the team to a .441 attacking percentage in the first set. A kill is an attack that results directly in a point or sideout, which is also a point. Williamson had 7 of the 12 kills and no errors.
Bates seemed to brush off the first set with ease and quickly came back in the second looking like an entirely different team. Led by a balanced attack from multiple players, Bates jumped to a 11-2 lead thanks to early kills by Reilly Murphy, a junior from Marshfield, MA, Ruby Lightbourn a freshman from Los Angeles, CA, and then three straight kills by Junior Claire Naughton from Darien, CT. Bates scored the final four points in a row and bested the lady huskies 25-10. USM senior Mariah Garcia, from Brighton, CO did all she could with 7 digs in the set. A dig is passing a spiked or rapidly hit ball. Digs are huge defensive plays that take athleticism and a quick reaction time. A dig is essentially stopping a kill. In the third set Bates jumped out to the quick lead, but down 9-4, the Huskies battled back with a 5-3 run of their own. Led again by Williamson with two kills, the Huskies looked to be right back in the game, but Bates kept riding their wave of balanced play as sophomore Taylor Stafford-Smith, from Calabasas, CA and Naughton combined for nine kills with no errors in 14 attempts, closing out the third set 25-14. Stafford-Smith posted five kills again in the decisive fourth set, and senior setter Jacqueline Forney, from Bloomington, IN. was pressed into making seven digs to close out the match. Although momentum and home court advantage was on Bates side, the Huskies showed a lot of resilience in the final set, staying within striking distance the whole time. Had the game gone to a fifth set it could have been anyone’s game as the Huskies seemed to dial it in just a little too late, dropping the last set 25-20.
Williamson led all players with 17 kills for the Huskies. Junior Nicole Schmitz, St. Paul, MN, posted a double-double passing out 35 assists and collecting 10 digs. Garcia had a match-high 18 digs.
Stafford-Smith finished with a team-high 15 kills against only two attack errors for a .361 attack percentage. Her 10 digs marked her third double-double this season and she added three blocks. Forney led the Bobcats with 41 assists and 15 digs while Eustache added 14 digs. Lightbourn served up a match-high four aces with five kills and nine digs. USM head coach Diane Newell had this to say in response to the loss, “ We take the time to break down what we need to work on, but we have to move forward, not dwell on the loss and focus on conference play coming up. We made some mistakes but we did a lot of things right and it’s important to focus on those as well.”
Southern Maine opens Little East Conference play this weekend at Western Connecticut State University on Saturday (12:00 p.m.). USM will also play a non-conference match against Kean University.