Volleyball rallies for dramatic 3-2 win over Emerson

Kaisa Newberg celebrates a Brandeis point
Kaisa Newberg '22 (photo by Sportspix.com/Mike Tureski)

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Brandeis University volleyball team trailed by two sets and faced three match points in the fifth, but the Judges prevailed over both deficits to defeat visiting Emerson College, 3-2, in a non-conference showdown in Red Auerbach Arena tonight. Set scores were 19-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-22, 16-14.

With the win, the Judges improve to 3-2 on the season, while the Lions fall to 3-1.

Emerson jumped out early in this one, opening the first set on an 8-1 run and never looking back, 25-19, the most lopsided set of the match. The Lions never trailed in the second set, either, after going up 4-0. Brandeis rallied to tie the second at 18 and at 20, but Emerson ended it on a 5-1 streak to take the 2-0 lead, 25-21. The Lions were led by Carolyn Vaimoso, who had 10 kills through the first two sets, five in each.

The visitors looked like they might sweep the match after taking another early 4-1 lead. Emerson was ahead, 15-8, midway through the third when the Judges caught fire. They scored nine of the next 11 points in the match, with senior Stephanie Borr (Westfield, N.J./Westfield) kicking off the run with a kill and a block assist. Brandeis evened the set at 17-all on a block from senior middle blocker Kaisa Newberg (Reno, Nev. / Sage Ridge School) and sophomore setter Ines Grom-Mansenecal (Cincinnati, Ohio/Wyoming). The rest of the set featured seven ties and three lead changes before Newberg's second block solo of the match claimed the set for the Judges, 26-24. Rookie outside hitter Lara Verstovsek (Bellaire, Texas / Episcopal) had five kills to lead the Judges in the third, while Emerson's Logan Steenburgen had seven. Newberg had three kills and five of her seven blocks in the third.

The fourth set featured six ties and two lead changes. Brandeis trailed, 19-14, but closed on an 11-3 run to take it, 25-22, and force the decisive fifth set. Verstovsek had three kills and Borr had two in the decisive run, while Emerson committed two attacking errors and one service error, while they were trailing, 23-22. Junior Amelia Oppenheimer (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) had the kill on the next point.

In the fifth, it again looked like Emerson would get to the finish line first, as the Lions took a 12-7 lead on a kill by Brooke Maynez. Verstovsek had two of the next three kills to cut the deficit to two, 12-10. Maynez and Vaimoso answered with the next two points for Emerson, sandwiching a kill from Oppenheimer, giving Emerson three match points at 14-11.

The Judges responded, with sophomore libero Ella Pereira (Redondo Beach, Calif. / Rolling Hills Prep) getting a free ball to drop in and make it 14-12. An attack error by EC made it 14-13, and an Oppenheimer kill knotted the score at 14-all. The match's final points came from a kill by Newberg and a service ace from Verstovsek to give the Judges the dramatic victory.

The Judges had a number of outstanding performances. Verstovsek, Oppenheimer and Grom-Mansenecal each delivered double-double performances. Verstovsek had a match- and career-high 19 kills to go with a career-high 13 digs, while Oppenheimer had a career-best 15 kills and 15 digs, the third-highest total of her career. Grom-Mansenecal had a career-high 54 assists along with 10 digs. It was the second, fourth and second double-doubles of their respective careers.

At the net, Newberg finished with nine kills and a career-high seven blocks (two solo). Perreira led the defense with 25 digs, followed by 19 for Borr, who just missed a double-double with nine kills. Borr also had a team-high three service aces.

The Brandeis offense came alive in the fourth and fifth sets, hitting .350 in the fourth (18K-4E-40TA) and .400 in the fifth (11-1-25) after being held below .200 in each of the first three sets. The Judges also had the better of net play, recording nine blocks to just three for EC.

Emerson put four players in double figures in kills, led by 16 from Vaimoso and 14 from Steenbergen. Caroline Bond had 58 assists for the Lions, while Caroline Davis had 36 digs. Parker Cummings had  four service aces, leading the visitors to a 10-5 advantage.

Brandeis returns to action with two matches on Saturday at Tufts, against the host Jumbos and the Illinois Institute of Technology.