William and Mary (4-4) powered past North Carolina Greensboro in the Tribe’s home opener Friday, Sept. 13, as part of the Colonial Classic tournament hosted in Kaplan Arena. Junior middle blocker Julia Brown carried the Tribe to victory with five kills and an .833 hitting percentage in the first set alone.
Brown and the rest of the offense were supported by an extremely effective Tribe defense, led by freshman libero Anna Porter who earned seven digs in the first frame, boosting the Tribe to a narrow 26-24 victory. The second set was just as close, but Brown contributed another five kills and sophomore outside hitter Lauren Merrill added three kills of her own, allowing the Tribe to scrape by 25-22.
The third frame saw the Spartans fight back to close the gap off the strength of a .243 hitting percentage and 15 kills. The game itself wasn’t nearly as clear cut as the statistics suggest, though. The Tribe refused to roll over, and it forced four separate ties and a lead change before admitting defeat 25-21.
Brown was once again the key to victory for the Tribe in the fourth and final set. Despite holding the Spartans to a hitting percentage of just .182, the game was still tied at 23-23 when a Spartan error and a critical solo block from Brown gave the Tribe the final push it needed to end the frame 25-23, and with it the match.
As the weekend continued, the Tribe continued its trend of splitting doubleheaders Saturday, Sept. 14, defeating Iona in four sets before falling to Georgetown in three decisive frames. This win-loss pairing brings the Tribe’s record for the weekend to 2-1.
The Tribe set the pace of the first frame against the Gaels, jumping to a 6-0 lead right out of the gate, and refusing to relinquish that lead, despite a late surge by the Gaels that brought them within just four points of the Tribe. Having allowed the lead to shrink to 17-13, the Tribe went on an aggressive offensive run, putting down eight of the game’s final 10 points, including three kills from Merrill.
Feeding off this momentum, the Tribe continued its dominance in the second set. An early Gael lead was quickly erased, and the Tribe tied things up at 6-6 before yet another 10-2 scoring run that gave it a comfortable 16-8 cushion. However, the offense was just getting started, as aces from sophomore outside hitter Anne Louise Seekford and senior setter Autumn Brenner paired with kills from Brown and sophomore outside hitter Claire Farrell captured six of the last eight points, pushing the Tribe over the edge of a 25-15 win in the second frame.
The energy waned in the third frame, and the Tribe let an early lead slip into a 20-20 tie before consecutive kills from Brown and Farrell contributed to a three-point run that put the Tribe up 23-20. The Gaels began an offensive campaign of their own late in the game, pulling themselves even with the Tribe with a well-placed ace, successfully rattling the Tribe’s defense, and allowing a second ace to determine the game’s outcome. Overall, the Gaels earned five of the final seven points to take the third set by a razor-thin 27-25 margin.
The College continued to falter in the opening ten points of the fourth frame, trading points with the Gaels and failing to establish a solid lead. For their part, the Gaels were only able to draw within three points of the Tribe, making the score 20-17 before junior opposite hitter Kate Dedrick put down consecutive kills to restart the Tribe’s offense, which was able to close out the game 25-19.
The second match of the day saw a lethargic Tribe outpaced 14-4 by the Hoyas early on in game one. Despite some stirrings of life for the College, the Hoyas coasted to a 25-11 victory in the opening set, never in danger of surrendering their decisive lead.
The second and third sets proceeded in a similar fashion, and despite nine Dedrick kills, the College trailed the Hoyas for the duration of both sets, dropping both frames by a 25-17 margin, effectively handing the match to the Hoyas.
The College will return to the road for the George Mason Invitational, its final tournament before Colonial Athletic Association play begins. In Fairfax, the Tribe will face off against host. George Mason as well as Wake Forest and Seton Hall.