(with contributions from Bates College Sports Information)
LEWISTON, Maine -- The University of Southern Maine women's volleyball team could not sustain a hot start before losing a 3-1 decision (14-25, 25-10, 25-14, 25-20) to the Bates College Bobcats in a non-conference match Tuesday night at Alumni Gymnasium.
The Bobcats snapped a two-match losing skid to improve to 3-2 on the season. The match was the Bobcats home opener. The Huskies had their modest two-match win streak snapped and fell to 5-2 overall.
Led by senior Jess Williamson (Goffstown, N.H.) and rookie Jamie Jannarone (Windham, Maine), USM (5-2) attacked at a scorching .441 percentage in the first set, building leads of 6-2, 9-4, 12-5, and 16-6 en route to the 25-14 set win. Jannarone's three consecutive kills put the Huskies ahead 16-6, and she registered five kills in the set against no errors on seven attempts. Williamson pounded seven kills in the set on nine attempts with no errors. USM closed out the set with four straight points, clinching the set on a Bates attack error.
Bates (3-2) regrouped right away for the second set, starting out with a kill by junior Reilly Murphy (Marshfield, Mass.) and posting a 7-1 lead on rookie Ruby Lightbourn's (Los Angeles, Calif.) kill. Junior Claire Naughton (Darien, Conn.) put down three straight kills and rookie Angel Echipue (Munich, Germany) made it four points in a row for an 11-2 Bates advantage. Bates scored the set's final four points, two on Naughton kills. Sophomore Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y./Columbia Prep) totaled five digs in the set, while USM senior Mariah Garcia (Brighton, Colo./Central) countered with seven digs.
The Bobcats again established early control in the third set, posting a 9-4 lead before USM fought back with a 5-3 run, featuring two kills by Williamson. A counter surge by Bates finished out the set for a 25-14 final count. Sophomore Taylor Stafford-Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) and Naughton combined for nine kills with no attack errors on 14 attempts in the set.
Stafford-Smith posted five kills again in the decisive fourth set, and senior setter Jacqueline Forney (Bloomington, Ind.) was pressed into making seven digs to close out the match.
Williamson led all players with 17 kills for the Huskies. Junior Nicole Schmitz (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin-Derham) posted a double-double passing out 35 assists and collecting 10 digs. Garcia had a match-high 18 digs.
Stafford-Smith finished with a team-high 15 kills against only two attack errors for a .361 attack percentage. Her 10 digs marked her third double-double this season and she added three blocks. Forney led the Bobcats with 41 assists and 15 digs while Eustache added 14 digs. Lightbourn served up a match-high four aces with five kills and nine digs.
Southern Maine opens Little East Conference play this weekend at Western Connecticut State University on Saturday (12:00 p.m.). USM will also play a non-conference match against Kean University. Bates begins NESCAC play on Friday (8:00 p.m.) at Tufts University.