Volleyball opens HCAC play with four-set win over Bluffton

Abbey Zanatta

RICHMOND, Ind. – With one of its key offensive contributors sidelined due to illness, Earlham College volleyball had to fight through four sets before posting a 3-1 (15-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-17) win over Bluffton, in both teams' Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference opener on Saturday afternoon at the Druley Performance Gym.

Sophomore outside hitter Abbey Zanatta paced the Quakers with 17 kills on 46 swings for a .239 attack percentage, while sophomores Caroline Mulvihill and Giselle Mora each charted 11 kills. Mulvihill turned the double-double with 15 digs on the afternoon.

Senior setter Lauren Jackson was credited with 42 assists while running an Earlham offense that hit .151 for the match.

The Beavers' Remi Bower tallied a match-high 21 kills and was the only Bluffton player to post a double-digit kills total. Carley Lester was next among Bluffton kills leaders with eight.

After the two teams split the first two sets, Earlham (13-5, 1-0 HCAC) jumped out to a 7-3 lead in set three following a kill from Zanatta, and still had a three-point advantage at 10-7. Bluffton chiseled away at the Quakers' lead, eventually knotting the set at 10-10 on a Brooke Kleman kill, forcing Earlham to call a timeout.

Bluffton eventually carved out a 20-17 lead after three straight points for the Beavers off the serve of Courtney Weekley, before a Sarah Dickman termination ended the Bluffton run at 20-18. The Quakers rattled off the next three points, including a pair of Jackson service aces, to take a 21-20 advantage. With the score knotted a 22-22 following a Mora kill, Earlham posted three straight points off Dickman's serve to complete the set three victory and take a 2-1 lead.

The set three win for Earlham gave the Quakers the momentum they needed heading into set four, and the Maroon and White jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Bluffton eventually tied the set at 12-12, but Earlham won 12 of the next 14 points to advance to match point; after a pair of late points by the Beavers, the Quakers' Mulvihill finished off the set.

Earlham returns to action on Wednesday, Oct. 9, when it hosts No. 23 Transylvania at 7:00 p.m. at the Druley Performance Gym.