SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. – Despite a hard-fought win in the third set, the Mount Holyoke College volleyball team was unable to get past Clark University, falling 3-1 in New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) action on Thursday. With the win, the Cougars are now 6-7 overall and 1-2 in conference play, while the Lyons fall to 8-4 and 0-4 in the NEWMAC.
The visitors jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening set after a nice kill by senior Rachel Spera (North Hollywood, Calif./Immaculate Heart Academy), but MHC battled back and took advantage of several errors and back-to-back points from senior Martina Kneifel (Oro Valley, Ariz/Canyon del Oro) to grab a 9-7 advantage.
The score continued to remain close throughout the first set until late when the Cougars rattled off seven straight points, including two kills from first year outside hitter Savannah Sanford (San Anselmo, Calif./Sir Francis Drake) to give Clark a 22-17 lead. Despite a kill from Kneifel, it was Sanford who would close out the set with a kill for the 25-20 win.
In the second set it was a back-and-forth battle once again until the 5-5 mark as Clark began to pull away. A kill from first year Courtney Pharr (Seattle, Wash./Holy Names Academy) made it an 11-6 game while MHC errors and additional kills from junior Savannah Rowe (New York, N.Y./Ethical Culture Fieldston) and Sanford pushed it to a 17-7 lead.
Mount Holyoke tried to stick with the visitors as sophomore Emma Sweeting (Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y./Hastings) laid down a pair of kills, but it was too much as sophomore Shannon Glass-Smythe (Albuquerque, N.M./Sandia Prep), sophomore Anne Read (Arundel, Maine/Kennebunk) and Pharr all added kills down the stretch for the 25-17 win in the second set.
The homestanding Lyons battled back in the third set and jumped out to a 9-3 behind several Clark errors and kills from junior Kaleen Iwema (Wadsworth, Ill./Warren Township) and Kneifel. MHC continued to maintain the lead, but the Cougars chipped away. Aided by kills from Mel Conde (Union City, Calif./Woodside Priory) and Pharr, Clark tied it at 23-all.
Both teams continued to trade points and the game was locked at 28-all following a kill from Glass-Smythe. Sweeting laid down a kill on the next possession and Iwema sealed the victory off a nice set from sophomore Natalie Lyon (Oakton, Va./Flint Hill School) for the 30-28 win.
In the fourth set, MHC took the early lead, going up 6-3 behind a pair of kills from junior Rebecca Bland (Durham, N.C./Carolina Friends School), but Clark responded and later grabbed a 15-14 lead off a Sanford kill. Mount Holyoke grabbed the lead back on consecutive kills from senior Kristina Weld (Warwick, Mass./Pioneer Valley Regional), but the visitors pulled away and sealed the 25-20 victory behind consecutive kills from Read, Sanford and Rowe.
For the Lyons, Sweeting finished with a game-best 14 kills to go along with three aces and 16 digs. Weld added 11 kills, while Iwema had 21 digs and Lyon added a game-best 34 assists.
Clark saw Glass-Smythe lay down 11 kills and a game-best 22 digs. Pharr had 10 kills and a game-high four aces, while Spera chipped in with 22 assists.
Mount Holyoke returns to action on Saturday in a 1pm conference game at Wheaton. Clark is also in action on Saturday for an 11am NEWMAC-tilt at Babson.
Photo courtesy of RJB Sports Photography.