No. 4 Southern Vermont Sweeps Fifth-seeded Bay Path in NECC First-round Playoff

No. 4 Southern Vermont Sweeps Fifth-seeded Bay Path in NECC First-round Playoff

BENNINGTON, Vt. – Southern Vermont College picked up its third-straight win Tuesday night at the Mountaineer Athletic Center as the fourth-seeded hosts defeated No. 5 Bay Path University in the first round of the 2017 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) women's volleyball playoffs.

SVC was down midway through each of the first two sets but battled back to take them 25-16 and then 25-23. The Mountaineers led most of the way in the third and won it with a convincing 25-16 margin to complete the sweep and move on in the bracket.

Southern Vermont (9-18) will next head to Elms College on Friday for a semifinal showdown; the Blazers took the regular season matchup by a 3-1 tally on October 17. Bay Path finishes the year at 9-14 overall.

Leading the way offensively for the Mountaineers was junior captain Liv Sowles (Sacramento, Calif.) who had a match-high 20 kills while committing just three attacking errors on 45 swings for a .378 hitting percentage; she also provided nine digs and a pair of aces in the win.

Southern Vermont freshman Nikki Ramirez (West Covina, Calif.) notched 10 kills and 10 digs while sophomore setter Abigail Landon (South Glens Falls, N.Y.) assisted on each of the 31 SVC kills. Junior libero Heidy Benitez (Tulare, Calif.) chalked up a match-best 12 digs, and Bennington College freshman Kemly Derby (New York, N.Y.) had a pair of kills while having a good showing at the net defensively with four total blocks (two solo).

BPU senior Lauren Vallee (Bristol, Conn.) notched a team-leading 10 kills, and she tied the Wildcat-high of 10 digs on the other end. Senior Ashlee Connors (Springfield, Mass.) also had 10 digs while adding three kills, and junior Taylor Heinbokel (Agawam, Mass.) registered six digs and five kills for the visitors. Junior setter Lexi Cears (Agawam, Mass.) facilitated the Bay Path offense as she assisted on 18 of the team's 21 kills.

Bay Path went on top 6-3 in the onset of the first with the help of a 4-1 run which included a Vallee kill and a Cears service ace. The Wildcats were then in front 10-6 before SVC rallied to pull ahead by one on a 6-1 spurt highlighted by three-straight Sowles kills. The Mountaineers continued to click and took to a 9-1 surge behind four Sowles points (two kills, two aces) and a pair of service aces from sophomore Sarah Billow (South Glens Falls, N.Y.). The visitors took three unanswered points to force an SVC timeout—only to see Benitez land two aces as Southern Vermont won the last four to take the game.

The Wildcats put down five kills early in the second as they went ahead 8-2; Vallee had two in that stretch while Heinbokel tallied three straight. Points were then traded with an SVC service error making it a 13-7 Bay Path lead, but the Mountaineers started to chip away at their deficit after that. Down 16-12, the hosts stormed to a 7-1 run with a pair of Ramirez kills and a put-back at the net by senior captain Julia Florence (Salem, Mass.). The next six serves went back-and-forth before a BPU miscue made it a 23-20 SVC advantage. After Sowles sent it to set-point with a kill, Vallee notched a kill before freshman Cameille Keith (Pawtucket, R.I.) added an ace to make it a 24-23 score. Sowles would end it on the next point, however, as she put down her 13th kill of the night to make it a 2-0 lead in the contest.

Sowles had two kills during a 4-0 spurt in the front-end of the third to give her team a three-point edge, but Heinbokel and Cears notched kills of their own to come back and tie it. A 5-1 Southern Vermont run ensued, however, before the Mountaineers won eight of a nine-point stretch to go up by double digits. Sowles would register three-straight kills late in the frame, and a Ramirez kill then set the score at 24-13. BPU benefitted from three consecutive SVC mishaps, but an attacking error by the visitors closed out the night and sent the Mountaineers into Friday night's semifinal round.