COLCHESTER, Vt. - After rallying from a 2-0 deficit to force a fifth and deciding set, the Saint Michael's College women's volleyball team slipped by a 3-2 (25-21, 25-21, 23-25, 24-26, 15-9) count to a surging Middlebury College team on Tuesday in the Ross Sports Center. The Purple Knights are now 14-17, while the Panthers won for the eighth time in nine tries, improving to 19-7.
Junior Tracy Peterka (Newport Beach, Calif./Mater Dei) had a match-best 18 kills for the hosts, while classmate Katie Walsh (North Kingstown, R.I./The Prout School) added 16 kills and 10 digs. Sophomore setter Jess McLeod (Medfield, Mass./Medfield) stood out on both sides of the ball, dishing out 47 assists and recording 19 digs. With 906 helpers this year, she is 43 short of tying the 17-year-old school mark with two matches remaining.
Sophomore Chelsey Covitz (Marshfield, Mass./Marshfield) tacked on 11 kills, as she is 12 short of becoming the second Purple Knight in the last two decades with 300 in a campaign, while junior Samantha Clairemont (Conway, Mass./Frontier Regional) added eight. Classmate Courtney Dunne (Hopkinton, Mass./Bancroft School) picked up 13 digs.
For Middlebury, senior Jane Handel (Evanston, Ill./Evanston) tallied 17 kills and 13 digs, while sophomore Amy Hart (Kenilworth, Ill./New Trier) finished with 16 kills. Junior Julia Gibbs (Houston, Texas/Saint John's School) collected 51 assists, 11 digs, five aces and three blocks, while classmate Caitlin Barrett (Medfield, Mass./Medfield) posted a match-high 21 digs.
Middlebury forged a 19-10 lead in the opener before the Purple Knights crept to within 22-20, but the Panthers scored three of the final four points. A Peterka kill in the second set had the hosts up by a 6-5 count before a pair of Handel kills sparked the visitors' 6-1 counter, and they never again trailed. Dunne's ace made it 23-21 before Middlebury scored the final two points.
Saint Michael's overcame a 14-7 deficit in the third set, slowly chipping away thanks to a set-ending 18-9 run. In the fourth set, which produced 11 ties, Walsh dropped kills for the 25th and 26th points to give her squad a 26-24 win and force the deciding fifth. There, Covitz's kill put the hosts on top, 6-5, before Barrett and Gibbs served during an ensuing 7-1 run, with Gibbs' ace making it 12-7. The Purple and Gold crept no closer than four points.
The Purple Knights head back into Northeast-10 Conference play on Friday at 7 p.m. when they welcome Pace University to the Ross Sports Center.