November 8, 2013

Nickel Swings Volleyball to Victory over Cornell, 3-2

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Senior Amanda Nickel (Corona Del Mar, Calif.) swatted 18 kills, nine of which came in the last two sets, to help the Brown volleyball team endure a 3-2 decision (25-20, 25-16, 23-25, 20-25, 15-13) over Cornell in Ivy League action at the Pizzitola Sports Center on Friday evening. The Bears improve to 10-12 overall and 6-5 in Ivy League play to exceed five league wins for the first time since 2005. The Big Red falls to 7-14 overall and 3-8 in the Ancient Eight, while victories for Harvard and Penn keep the Bears locked into fourth place in the Ivy standings.

Nickel's 18 kills set a career high on a .410 hitting percentage, while senior Thea Derrough (La Jolla, Calif.) recorded 12 kills and junior Maddie Lord (La Jolla, Calif.) added 10. Freshman Sarah Lucenti (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) handed out 28 assists and junior Maryl Vanden Bos (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) chipped in 25 to help Brown reach 64 assists for its second-best total of the season. Lucenti converted the double-double with 16 digs, junior Kathryn Conner (Newport Beach, Calif.) matched that total and senior Alexandra Rieckhoff (Laguna Beach, Calif.) tallied 14 bumps as the Bears sprawled for 80 digs, tying their highest mark of the year.

For Cornell, Rachel D'Epagnier tied for the match high with 18 kills and Breanna Wong added 16 on an aggressive 48 attempts. Alyssa Phelps led all setters with 42 assists, while Natasha Rowland grabbed 20 digs to lead a pack of four Big Red players in double figures.

Authoritative attacking by Brown led to several Cornell digs that lofted back over the net, allowing the Bears to pick up a handful of uncontested spikes early in the first set. Lord and freshman Payton Smith (Atherton, Calif.) each knocked two kills to build a 7-2 lead, but the Big Red stormed with a 5-0 run to tie it at 7-7. Brown regained the lead on a tight set by Vanden Bos with little room near the net, feeding Nickel who blasted the kill to go up 9-8. The Bears fell behind briefly on an attack error, but a soft hit by Derrough snuffed a long rally and forced a 16-16 tie. Junior Taylor Bantle (Pacific Palisades, Calif.) smacked a crosscourt shot to pick up one of her seven kills and help Brown be the first to 20, while two from Nickel and a spike by Rieckhoff closed out set one.

The Bears posted their most dominant showing of the night in a 25-16 second set effort, limiting the Big Red to a .057 hitting clip. Brown never trailed in the frame and the hosts used three kills each from Lord and Bantle to rev the offense. Lucenti and Vanden Bos combined for nine assists and strategically kept the ball away from D'Epagnier, who struck for just two kills in the set.

Set three saw Lucenti and Lord deliver sharp serves that forced high arching Cornell receptions, giving Phelps plenty of time to set up D'Epagnier for a slew of kills that gave her squad an 11-7 advantage. Just as the Big Red threatened to run away with the set, Brown stole three quick points to cut the deficit to 17-14, but a Cornell timeout snapped the Bears' rhythm and helped the visitors win the race to 20. Smith plunked a timely kill and a Big Red miscue tied things at 22-22, but Macey Wilson pounced on an easy freebie to force set point after Conner's diving dig sailed across the net. Wong atoned for an earlier attack error and capped the set, 25-23.

Nickel went to battle with D'Epagnier and Wong in the fourth set as each player racked up five kills. D'Epagnier continued to jump on free balls after errant Brown digs, but Nickel began to heat up from the right side and swung for three kills in four plays to push a 10-10 tie. Consecutive Cornell errors put the Bears ahead, 13-12, although Phelps and D'Epagnier regrouped and attacked for a 9-2 run that vaulted the Big Red in front, 22-16. Cornell seemingly prevailed on every extended rally and wore down the Brown back row to eventually win, 25-20.

Brown jumped ahead 5-3 on a rare missed hit by D'Epagnier to open the deciding frame. Vanden Bos continued to find Nickel on the right side with kills from Derrough and Smith sprinkled in for good measure. With tension mounting, Conner lunged for a dig to preserve an extended rally and Derrough delivered the spike to put the Bears ahead 8-6 before the switch. Brown stood strong and rose for timely kills each time Cornell snuck back, including a decisive smash from Nickel on her third attempt after two continuations that made it 11-9 in Brown's favor. Another swing from Nickel fell despite a near-impossible angle from the right antenna, but D'Epagnier paired a block with a gentle shot that found empty floor to swing the Big Red in front, 13-12. Right on cue, Nickel struck again on a Vanden Bos set, Derrough converted a spike from Conner and Lucenti dropped in an ace to finish the nail-biting set, 15-13.

The Bears close out their home slate tomorrow when they take on Columbia at 5 p.m. in Ivy League action.