CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—First-year Allie Puccio (New Hartford, N.Y.) finished with career highs of 22 kills and 16 digs, but the second-seeded Babson College women's volleyball team suffered a five-set loss (23-25, 25-18, 29-27, 18-25, 15-12) to third-seeded Wellesley College in a New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament semifinal on Saturday afternoon at Rockwell Cage.
Babson (20-9), which was making its fourth straight semifinal appearance, must now wait to see if it receives one of 20 NCAA Tournament at-large bids when the selections are announced on Monday. Wellesley (22-5), which is ranked fifth in the NCAA regional rankings, advances to its first conference final since 2013.
First-year Gaby Miller (Miami, Fla.) recorded 13 kills, sophomore Elizabeth Cameron (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) totaled 47 assists and 11 digs, and sophomore Kristin Carosotto (East Greenwich, R.I.) added eight kills and a team-high six blocks for the Beavers. Junior Abby Beecher (Pittsford, N.Y.) led all players with 22 digs, while first-year Cassidy Witten (Honolulu, Hawaii) registered a career-high 16 digs in the loss.
Junior Yasmine Reece (New Rochelle, N.Y.) registered 19 kills and a match-high seven blocks, while first-year Lauren Gedney (Huntersville, N.C.) hit .333 to go along with 18 kills for the Blue. Junior Michelle Li (Scarsdale, N.Y.) dished out 50 assists and recorded 11 digs in the victory.
The opening set featured 16 ties and nine lead changes before the Green and White prevailed 25-23. Wellesley took the biggest lead of the frame at 11-8 only to see the Beavers responded with six of the next seven points to go in front 14-12 on a service ace by Witten. The Blue pulled even for the final time at 23 on a kill by Reece, but back-to-back errors by junior Samantha Ostenso (Hopkins, Minn.) helped Babson close out the frame.
The Beavers never led in game two and trailed 24-20 in the third set before ripping off five consecutive points to go in front 25-24 on a kill by Puccio. Babson was unable to take advantage of set two-point opportunities, and killed off a pair of Wellesley set-point chances before a kill by Gedney and an attack error gave the Blue a 29-27 triumph.
The Green and White jumped out to a 13-3 lead in the fourth and hit .261 while taking advantage of nine errors by the Blue to force a decisive fifth set. Puccio and Carosotto combined for seven kills early in the final frame, but a pair of blocks by first-year Darina Postupaka (Tinley Park, Ill.) keyed a 4-1 spurt that gave Wellesley a 13-9 lead. Babson got as close as one, but a kill by Reece and a service error by first-year Nikki Jensen (Castro Valley, Calif.) helped close out the match.
The Beavers, who hit .171 on the day, recorded a season-high 81 digs and matched their season highs in kills (62) and total blocks (9). The Blue also recorded 81 digs and hit .175 to go along with 11 total blocks.
The NCAA Division III selection show can be viewed live on NCAA.com on Monday beginning at 12:30 p.m.
• Prior to Saturday's loss, Babson had won four straight matches against Wellesley going back to 2015.
• With 22 kills on Saturday Puccio now has 315 on the year, which ranks sixth on the program's single-season list and is the second most by a Babson first-year behind Mary Donahue's '16 384 in 2012.
• Cameron set a new career high and moved into fifth place on the Beavers' single-season chart with 875 assists.
• Beecher became just the eighth player in school history to surpass 400 digs in a season on Saturday.
• The Beavers are now 18-2 on the year when recording more kills than their opponents. Their only other loss came in five sets to nationally-ranked MIT on October 3.