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Volleyball edged 3-2 at home by Hamilton

Gabi Eustache had a match-high 35 digs in Bates' 3-2 loss to Hamilton on Oct. 6, 2017. (File photo by Josh Kuckens/Bates College)

LEWISTON, Maine -- A pair of first-year players led Hamilton College to a 3-2 (25-19, 15-25, 25-21, 18-25, 15-13) NESCAC victory over the Bates College volleyball team Friday night in Alumni Gymnasium.

The visiting Continentals (7-5, 3-3 NESCAC) got big games from 5-foot-3 defensive specialist Nikki Matsuoka and 6-foot-0 middle blocker Dorothy Poucher in defeating the Bobcats for the first time since 2014. Matsuoka led Hamilton with 33 digs to go with 10 kills against only one attack error in the match, while Poucher registered team highs in kills (15), blocks (6) and aces (3).

Bates (7-7, 1-4 NESCAC), playing its first home match since Sept. 12, fought back to even the match from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1, and the Bobcats led the fifth set 10-8 before Hamilton finished the match on a 7-3 spurt, including the final three points. Hamilton's Courtney Brown tied the final set 13-13 with her 12th kill, and Hamilton moved ahead on a Bates attack error, prompting a final Bates timeout. A match-point rally ended on Giuliana Rankin's kill.

Rankin finished with 13 kills and Brown posted 12. Setter Kyndal Burdin totaled 47 assists, 19 digs and four kills, and libero Christine Zizzi contributed 25 digs and eight assists. The Continentals' outstanding back-row defense, which frustrated the Bobcats all night, included a fourth player with double-digit digs, as Meghan Wilkinson totaled 17.

Bates senior captain Jacqueline Forney (Bloomington, Ind.) totaled a match-high 50 assists to go with 16 digs, and sophomore Gabi Eustache (New York, N.Y.) led all players with 35 digs. Sophomore Taylor Stafford-Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) had a match-high 17 kills on a career-high 68 attack attempts, and she added a career-high 25 digs for her sixth double-double of the season. First-year Ruby Lightbourn (Los Angeles, Calif.) turned in her fourth double-double with 10 kills and 19 digs, to go with a match-high four aces.

Hamilton also pulled away down the stretch of the match's other close set, the third. Bates led 20-19 as Lightbourn served for five straight points. Matsuoka ended the rally with a kill, but Stafford-Smith answered with a kill for a 21-20 Bates edge. Rankin put down a kill to tie it up and return service to the Continentals' Wilkinson. Poucher's kill moved Hamilton ahead by a point, and Matsuoka's kill made it 23-21, prompting a Bates timeout. An attack error out of the timeout was followed by a Poucher kill to give Hamilton the 2-1 lead.

Both teams return to NESCAC action on Saturday, with Hamilton traveling to Colby for a 1pm match and Bates hosting Williams at 2pm.