WELLESLEY, Mass. -- No. 6 Emerson College fought-off match point in the third set to rally for an improbable 3-2 (26-24, 25-23, 26-28, 23-25,15-10) victory over No. 2 Wellesley College volleyball in the semifinals of the 2019 New England Women's & Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Volleyball Championship tournament on Thursday evening at Dorothy Towne Fieldhouse.
The Lions (20-7 overall) will now play top-seeded Babson in the NEWMAC Championship match on Saturday at 1:00 PM in Babson Park. Emerson, who joined the NEWMAC in 2013, will be making the first NEWMAC title game appearance in program history. Babson advanced to the championship with a 3-0 sweep of Coast Guard on Thursday night.
Junior Grace Tepper (Kensington, Md.) had 20 kills, including the 1,000th of her collegiate career, to lead the Lions. Tepper was also one of five Emerson players in double-digits on defense with 10 digs. First year Anna Phillips (Peoria, Ariz.) finished with 22 digs to lead Emerson, while classmate Caroline Bond (Macungie, Pa.) added 21 digs and 52 assists. Junior Albany Alexander (Orlando, Fla.) and first year Logan Steengergen (Glenview, Ill.) chipped in with 14 and 13 kills, respectively.
Junior Lauren Gedney (Huntersville. N.C.) had 19 kills to lead the Blue. Classmate Nikki Jensen (Castro Valley, Calif.) and sophomore Nicole Doerges (San Marino, Calif.) each finished with double-doubles, as Jensen totaled 14 kills and 19 digs and Doerges tallied 13 kills and 13 digs. Senior Meghan Shoop (Cypress, Calif.) tallied a match-high 28 digs and sophomore setter Izzy Seebold (Concord, N.C.) had 55 assists.
Tepper surpassed 1,000 career kills with five in the opening set, but it was Wellesley that held on for a 26-24 victory to take a back-and-forth first frame that featured nine tie scores and three lead changes. With the scored tied 24-24, a Gedney kill pushed the Blue ahead 25-24. The set ended, 26-24, on the next point on an Emerson attack error from Alexander. The next three sets would also be decided by two points.
The Blue erased a 6-1 Lion lead at the start of the second set, turning a five-point deficit into an 11-9 lead following three consecutive Emerson errors. Wellesley was only able to push the lead to three points, at 15-12, as the teams played to four tie scores over the next 13 points, the last of which came at 20-20. Back-to-back kills from Doerges turned the set, as Wellesley took a 22-20 lead and never gave it back, winning 25-23.
Emerson rallied late in the third set, taking a 28-26 victory that saw the Lions hold-off the Blue at match point. With Wellesley leading 24-23, Steenbergen and Tepper put down back-to-back kills to give Emerson a 25-24 lead. Wellesley's Jensen, Tepper, and Blue middle TylerBell Smith (Frisco, Texas) exchanged kills on the next three points, tying the score at 26-26. However, a Doerges error and an ace from Bond extended the game to a fourth set.
The Lions evened the match with a 25-23 victory in the third set. The teams played to nine tie scores and five lead changes in the fourth set, but it was Emerson that found the advantage again late, breaking a 22-all tie to win the game. Back-to-back Blue errors put Wellesley on the brink before an Emerson miscue gave a point back and made the score 24-23, Emerson. Steenbergen followed with a kill that clinched the set and forced a fifth game.
The fifth set was all Emerson, as the Lions trailed only briefly at the start of the game before running out to an 8-5 lead following a Tepper kill. Wellesley cut the deficit to three but would not get any closer, as a Blue service error would eventually end the match in Emerson's favor, 15-10. The loss snapped Wellesley's 25-match home-court winning streak.
Wellesley (22-5 overall) will now wait to see if it has earned an at-large bid to the 2019 NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship. The NCAA Selection Show airs on Monday, November 11, at 12:30 PM on NCAA.com.