Women’s volleyball defeats nationally ranked Babson

The+Lions+defeated+nationally+ranked+Babson+College+and+celebrated+on+the+court.+Cho+Yin+Rachel+Lo+%2F+Beacon+Staff

The Lions defeated nationally ranked Babson College and celebrated on the court. Cho Yin Rachel Lo / Beacon Staff

By Ethan McDowell

The Lions ended their two-game losing streak Tuesday night in dramatic fashion against one of the nation’s top-ranked teams. Following the deciding point of the game, the Lions cleared the bench to celebrate their first conference win of the season.

Babson College came into the game with an 11-0 record and ranked as the 17th best team in Division III, according to the NCAA. In this poll, two coaches voted the Babson Beavers as the top-ranked team in the country, the only team outside of the top four to receive first place votes. In their first 11 games, the Beavers only lost two sets in total.

Before the match, the Lions held a 0-2 record in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference and a 6-2 record in non-conference play.

The Lions have two players in the top-five of the NEWMAC for their individual stats. Junior outside hitter Grace Tepper leads the conference in kills per set and is fourth in total kills with 171. Freshman setter Caroline Bond is fifth in the conference in assists per set with 8.46.

One of the team’s non-conference losses included a match against nationally ranked Tufts University, to whom the Lions lost in five sets. Head coach Ben Read said testing a strong opponent early in the season gave him confidence in the team.

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“We have the potential, but we’re such a young team,” Read said in an interview. “We get in our heads at times. I told the team beforehand that I don’t care if you win or lose today.”

The Beavers took an early lead in the first set, but the Lions never trailed by more than four points. 

Freshman middle blocker Jillian Kay contributed nine kills and one assist in the game. She said the team’s early success proved it could compete throughout the game. 

“When I got that kill within the first couple of minutes, I just thought to myself, ‘Yeah, we got this'” Kay said. 

Kay tied the set at 24, the first of three straight points the Lions scored. They won the set 26-24.

In the second set, Emerson scored on an attacking error by Babson, decreasing the Beavers’ lead to 16-12. The Beavers scored seven of the next eight points and won the set 25-15.

“I think we kind of lost our energy a little bit, and we just had to find it again,” Kay said. 

The Lions fell behind in the third set 15-11 but regained momentum. After three Babson errors and two kills by Tepper and junior outside hitter Albany Alexander, the Lions took a 16-15 lead. They kept the lead for the rest of the set and won 25-21. 

“I think we kind of figured out the secret formula,” Kay said. “It goes back to just having fun and not overthinking it.” 

The two teams went back and forth in an intense fourth set, tying the score on ten separate occasions. With Emerson leading the game 24-23, a Babson player committed an attacking error and gave the Lions their first conference win of the season.

In each of the last nine seasons, the Lions’ only other victory over the Beavers came in the 2013 season. Out of the seven losses against Babson, five of them were 3-0 sweeps.  

“That’s one of those wins that you can hang your hat on for the season, but we’re not done,” Read said. “We just showed that we can compete with the first ranked team in the [NEWMAC] coaches poll, a nationally ranked team.” 

The Lions will play their next match against Emmanuel College on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.

Updated 9/25/19: This story was updated to include statistics and information on the team.