QUINCY, Mass. - Fourth-seeded Mitchell College gave top-seeded Eastern Nazarene College all it could handle on Friday night in the semifinals of the New England Collegiate Conference Women's Volleyball Championship at the Lahue Physical Education Center.
The Lions (16-6 overall) held off the Mariners in a thrilling five-set finish to advance to Sunday's title game, winning by set scores of 19-25, 25-20, 25-15, 22-25 and 15-12. Mitchell's Olivia DeLoach recorded a match- and season-high 23 kills to go with 25 digs while Lexi Hubbard dished out 30 assists and Cameron Childs chipped in with 33 digs. Courtney McCarthy paced ENC with 16 kills and 23 digs while Ruth Aguilar posted her fifth triple-double of the season with 27 assists, 16 digs, and 13 kills.
In the opening set, the visitors pulled ahead 15-12 on the strength of a 5-0 run and never looked back. A pair of kills by Bree Rudolph, who finished with eight on the night, helped cement things down the stretch as the Mariners claimed the 1-0 advantage.
The Lions responded by taking the next two sets to seize control. ENC later led 21-16 in the fourth set and looked poised to close out the match, but Mitchell had other ideas. Brianna Ley helped turn the tide, sparking a 6-0 run with a kill before serving the Mariners into the lead with five straight points. After the Lions tied the score at 22-22, Ciera Moore and Claire Binfield provided back-to-back kills to bring up set point, and an ENC error evened the match at 2-2.
Mitchell fell behind 5-1 in the fifth set but never stopped fighting. The Mariners eventually pulled even at 11-11 thanks to a 4-0 run that included a pair of kills by Ley and another by Moore. However, Eastern Nazarene won four of the next five points to end any hopes of an upset.
The Mariners finished the year with a 14-12 overall record, recording the most wins as well as the program's first winning season at the Division III level.