William and Mary earned its first Colonial Athletic Association conference win on the road against North Carolina–Wilmington Friday, Oct. 4. The five-game match was a nail-biter that featured frequent lead changes and scoring runs on both sides.
Junior opposite hitter Kate Dedrick continued to dominate at the net, playing a crucial role in the Tribe’s 10-2 scoring run to start the first set. The College’s 25-15 victory in the opening frame was due to extremely well-distributed scoring and varied offensive contributions. Senior setter Autumn Brenner chipped in a kill as well as several assists, freshman libero Gabi Ganley contributed a well-timed ace, and junior middle blocker Julia Brown closed out the set with a massive kill of her own.
The College’s momentum continued early in the second set, where it captured five of the first six points, but the Seahawks were undeterred and put up a four–point run of their own to take the lead 8-7. Two more Seahawks scoring runs put them up 21-14 heading into the final stretch of the game, which would ultimately close out 25-14 in their favor.
The Seahawks rolled into the third frame with yet another scoring run, this one 4-1, which gave them a 6-2 lead. The Tribe’s offense remained quiet, never taking a lead in the set and allowing the Seahawks to coast to a 25-21 win. The College’s defense, however, held the Seahawks to a hitting percentage of just .100 in the game.
On the verge of losing its third–consecutive CAA game and remaining winless in the conference, the Tribe battled back from the brink of defeat on the strength of a pair of kills from sophomore outside hitter Lauren Merrill, which gave the Tribe a 4-2 lead early on in the fourth set. Merrill continued to carry the College with two aces, extending the lead to 7-3 in the Tribe’s favor. Although three consecutive Seahawk points would bring the score to a tight 7-6 margin, Merrill remained unphased at the net. Her tenth kill of the match put the Tribe up 13-10. Dedrick also found her stride once again, breaking a 15-15 tie with two kills and a pair of aces. Merrill sealed the deal with two more put-downs, handing the Tribe a 25-21 win and forcing a fifth game.
Head coach Tim Doyle didn’t mince words when asked about Merrill’s role in the win.
“She was amazing,” Doyle said. “She put away balls at critical moments of the match, played all the way around for the entirety of the match and put together a complete performance. Without her we would not have won.”
The final frame was contentious, with several lead changes and drawn-out volleys. The College held the lead for the majority of the fifteen–point set, until the Seahawks earned a narrow 13-12 advantage as the game wound to a close. A kill from sophomore outside hitter Claire Farrell as well as two Seahawks errors effectively handed the Tribe the game, and with it, the match by a 3-2 margin.
This victory not only ended the drought for the Tribe but also snapped a three-game win streak for the Seahawks.
“We will enjoy this one tonight and get back to work tomorrow,” Doyle said.
In the coming days, the College will travel to Charleston, S.C. to face Charleston Sunday, Oct. 6.