In a hard-fought match against a tough opponent, William and Mary (7-16, 3-9 Colonial Athletic Association) defeated Charleston (5-18, 2-9 CAA) in five games at Kaplan Arena Friday, Nov. 1. Breaking its four-game losing streak in the CAA, the Tribe earned a much-needed win to keep its hopes of a tournament bid alive. For the second-to-last home game of the season, it evened its record against the Cougars, who beat the Tribe earlier in the season Oct. 6.
The match saw career nights for junior middle blocker Julia Brown, sophomore outside hitter Lauren Merrill and freshman libero Anna Porter. Brown finished the night with 13 kills for a .650 hitting percentage — the second-straight match she has hit above .600 — and she made a career-high 10 blocks, marking her first career double-double. Meanwhile, Merrill finished with a career-high 19 digs and 13 kills for her eighth double-double of the season, and Porter finished with a career-high 25 digs — her second-straight match with at least 17 digs.
The match began with the Tribe struggling against the Cougars, who kept the lead throughout the entire first set. Porter earned three of her 25 digs during the first set and Brown made three kills on three attempts, but neither proved enough to catch the Cougars, who hit .310 while the Tribe hit only .074. The Cougars won the first set handily, 25-14.
Head coach Tim Doyle said he blamed the loss of the first set on not following the game plan.
“We had a game plan going into the match,” Doyle said. “They didn’t even try to execute the game plan on our side. We missed blocking assignments. We missed serving assignments. We missed opportunities and simple plays, and so we said, if we want to win, we need to give our game plan a shot.”
After a discouraging first set, the Tribe regrouped and took control of the second set, keeping the lead throughout the entire period even as the Cougars narrowed the score. Brown made four more kills and junior opposite hitter Kate Dedrick added four of her own as the Tribe rose to a .320 hitting percentage. While Brown and Dedrick attacked, senior setter Autumn Brenner tallied 12 assists to four different teammates. Brown made three blocks as the Tribe held the Cougars to a much lower .088 hitting percentage. Tying the match, the Tribe won the second set 25-23.
The third set saw the Tribe wage a pulse-pounding, back-and-forth battle against the Cougars. During the third set, the Tribe tied the Cougars seven times and traded advantages four times.
The Tribe fell behind as far as 21-17 before the Tribe took a timeout and then fell further still to 23-17 afterward. The Tribe did manage to narrow the Cougars’ lead and almost won the set.
Despite a 6-0 scoring run to tie the score 23-23, the Tribe lost the third set 26-24. The Tribe outhit the Cougars .208 to .190, but Charleston caught hold of the set, giving them a 2-1 lead in the match. In the third set, Merrill came out swinging with five kills and eight digs, while Porter hit five more digs and Brown added four more kills and two more blocks. Coming off the bench at the start of the set, sophomore outside hitter Anne Louise Seekford made her first two kills of the match.
From the start, the Tribe dominated the Cougars in the fourth set. Taking the set by storm in a 25-9 blitz to tie the match, the Tribe kept the lead well ahead of the Cougars throughout the entire period. Junior opposite hitter Kate Dedrick made four kills and Merrill added three, while Seekford continued to shine off the bench with another three kills of her own. Porter guarded the back row with another six digs and Brown added two blocks to the defense. The Tribe forced Charleston down to a .187 hitting percentage as it rose to a .423 mark of its own.
The Tribe began the deciding fifth set with a 2-0 lead, but it soon found its early lead checked by the Cougars. A dogfight until the end, the fifth set featured a match-high nine ties and four lead changes. But the Tribe pulled away later in the set and beat the Cougars 15-10, winning the match.
Brown played a major role in taking the fifth set as she made a pair of kills and blocks, while Porter made eight more digs as the Tribe kept Charleston to a .000 offensive performance. Freshman middle blocker Kaitlyn Ferguson aided the effort with a kill and a pair of solo blocks.
Brown said she felt proud of the team for pulling off a big win against Charleston.
“This was huge,” she said. “We knew going into the game that we had a couple critical losses recently and we really needed this win to get our way into the tournament … so I’m really proud of the team for stepping up and getting it done.”
Doyle said the performances of Brown, Seekford and Porter stood out to him in the match, but he credited Friday’s win to the entire team’s effort.
“Julia Brown was an animal tonight,” Doyle said. “Anne Louise Seekford came off the bench and was a huge contributor. Anna Porter was digging stuff like I hadn’t seen her dig all season. Those three stick out in my mind, but it takes a team to do it.”
After Friday’s win, the College will face North Carolina-Wilmington (13-11, 3-8 CAA) Sunday, Nov. 3, for the final home game of the season.