|Kills||Corrine Bain (14)||Zoe Jacobs (21)|
|Assists||Erin McCarthy (29)||Grace Campbell (56)|
|Digs||Corinne Bain (12)||Cassie Wes (23)|
|Blocks||Jocelyn Meyer (3)||Kesi Neblett (7)|
NEW YORK — It was all about the seniors Saturday night at Levien Gymnasium, putting together memorable performances to will the Columbia volleyball team to a four-set victory over Harvard (25-20, 30-32, 29-27, 25-14).
The careers of seniors Sarah Gurbach, Zoe Jacobs, Kesi Neblett and Cassie Wes were all recognized as part of Senior Night. The graduating quartet was joined by their families on the court for a ceremony prior to the start of the match.
In what was the final time any of them would take to the Levien Gymnasium floor in collegiate competition, Columbia’s seniors did not disappoint. Jacobs recorded a career-high 21 kills, Neblett posted a match-high seven blocks to reach 300 in her career, Wes led all players with 23 digs and Gurbach collected six digs.
The turning point of the match came in the third set. After Harvard outlasted the Lions 32-30 to win the second, the two sides battled down to the wire once more in the third. Columbia earned triple set point, 24-21, on a Jacobs kill, only to see Harvard respond with the next four points to take a 25-24 lead. The Lions saved two Crimson set points and retook the lead when another Jacobs kill and ensuing attacking error by Corrine Bain put them in front 27-26. A couple points later, first-year Kalie Wood pulled through with an ace to win the set and push the Lions ahead 2-1 heading to the fourth.
Columbia (13-9, 8-4 Ivy) burst out to an 8-3 lead in the fourth and never trailed. Harvard (7-14, 5-7 Ivy) came back to tie the set once, 9-9, but the Lions won five of the next six points to rebuild a 14-10 advantage. Leading by three, Columbia put the match away with a 9-2 run that resulted in a 10-point cushion. Jacobs earned her career-high 21st kill to give the Lions match point at 24-14 and junior Anja Malesevic clinched it with Columbia’s 16th ace of the evening.
“The seniors were motivated tonight. They showed tremendous commitment and focus to win this match,” said third-year head coach Brie Katz. “We knew that how we responded after losing the second set would determine the outcome. I’m proud of us for being able to put it behind us and the seniors were a huge part of that. They’ve been the emotional leaders of this team all season.”
Jacobs’ 21 kills were one better than her previous career-high of 20, which she accomplished back on September 11, 2015 against Northeastern. The New York City product rung up a .381 hitting percentage as well Saturday night, leading the Lions to a 70-52 advantage in kills and .274 to .236 edge in hitting. Malesevic and rookie Chichi Ikwuazom also contributed with 15 kills apiece, including a .458 attacking night from Ikwuazom.
Neblett came into the night needing seven blocks to become the third Lion in program history to achieve 300, and she did exactly that. The senior from Russellville, Kentucky, earned her 300th with a block solo that put Columbia ahead 11-9 in the fourth, joining Monique Roberts (2008-11) and all-time blocks leader Kathy Lavold (2000-02) in the 300 club. Neblett’s efforts led Columbia to a 10-7 advantage on the block.
Wes entered the week third in program history in career digs and used her final two home matches to surpass Katie Beauregard (1999-02) for second. Her 23 Saturday night bumped her career total to 1,272, which includes 425 this season. With two matches remaining, Wes has a chance to break Ellie Thomas’ single-season Columbia record of 473 in 2009.
Columbia’s final two matches of the 2016 season take place on the road next weekend. The Lions head to Penn (5-7 Ivy) on Friday, followed by the season finale at first-place Princeton (11-1).