CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Third-seeded Wellesley College volleyball earned a 15-12 victory in the deciding fifth game to defeat second-seeded Babson College, 3-2 (23-25, 25-18, 29-27, 18-25, 15-12) in the semifinals of the New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Volleyball Championship on Saturday afternoon at MIT's Rockwell Cage.
Wellesley is now 22-5 overall and will face top-seed and tournament host MIT at Rockwell Cage on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM in the NEWMAC Championship match. Babson drops to 20-9 and will have to wait until Monday to find out if they have been selected to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Junior Yasmine Reece (New Rochelle, N.Y.) and first year Lauren Gedney (Huntersville, N.C.) combined for 37 kills and junior setter Michelle Li (Scarsdale, N.Y.) dished out 50 assists to lead the Blue attack. Reece finished with a team-high 19 kills and added 11 digs to finish with her third double-double of the season. Gedney totaled 18 kills on 42 attempts. Junior libero Samantha Hoang (Elk Grove, Calif.) racked-up 18 digs to lead the Blue, while sophomore Meghan Shoop (Cypress, Calif.) finished with 17.
Babson first year Allie Puccio (New Hartford, N.Y.) finished with a match-high 22 kills and 16 digs in the setback, while classmate Gabby Miller (Miami, Fla.) chipped in with 13 kills and junior Shannon Roseen (Malden, Mass.) added eight kills. Junior libero Abby Beecher (Pittsford, N.Y.) finished with a match-best 22 digs. First year Cassidy Witten (Honolulu, Hawaii) and sophomore setter Elizabeth Cameron (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) added 18 and 11 digs, respectively. Cameron also tallied 47 assists.
Babson took the upper hand thanks to a pair of Wellesley errors at the end of a back-and-forth opening set that featured 17 tie scores and eight lead changes. Trailing 23-22, Reece powered down a kill to draw the Blue even, but back-to-back Wellesley attacking errors set the Blue back 1-0 in the match with a 25-23 setback.
Wellesley tied the match with a convincing win in the second set, hitting .333, while limiting the Beavers to an .094 clip on offense to take a 25-18 win. Reece had five kills to lead Wellesley in the frame, while first year Darina Postupka (Tinley Park, Ill) added four. Wellesley never trailed, opening the set with a 9-4 lead and holding off a Babson rally that made the score 17-16 to draw even with the Beavers.
Babson turned a 14-9 deficit midway through the third set into a 14-13 game with a 4-0 run punctuated by a service ace from Witten, but failed to tie the match until late, as Wellesley moved within one point of taking the set, at 24-20. Babson then mounted a late rally to extend the set past the 25-point plateau. Trailing by four, the Beavers scored five-straight points to take a 25-24 lead. The teams then exchanged points, running the score to 26-26, before Wellesley scored three of the final four points in the set to take a 29-27 victory on a Babson error.
It was Babson's turn to respond in the fourth set, as the Beavers led throughout the frame, limiting Wellesley to just .043 attacking while taking a 25-18 win. Puccio had six kills in the set, while Witten picked up eight digs. Babson built a 13-4 edge early as Wellesley never threatened in a 25-18 setback.
The teams played to an 8-8 tie to open the fifth game before Wellesley broke free with a 3-0 run to take an 11-8 lead. Babson got one point back, making the score 11-9 on a Wellesley error, but Reece followed with a kill and Babson faltered to help extend the Blue lead to 13-9. Babson followed with three-straight points, making the score 13-12, but the Blue cut the rally short on a Reece kill to take a 14-12 lead. First year Nikki Jensen (Castro Valley, Calif.) sealed the win on the next serve, ending the match with an ace.
Wellesley will make the program's first appearance in the NEWMAC title game since the Blue dropped a 3-2 final to Springfield in 2013.