Surrounded by screaming fans decked in blue gear and the sounds of vuvuzelas on Saturday, Annette Bell ’16 fired off eight unanswered service points in the third set to help Andover Volleyball comeback against Phillips Exeter Academy and take the set 25-14.
Andover, however, was unable to secure a victory, and the team lost 3-1 in front of the Andover-Exeter crowd.
Unable to avenge the loss, Andover lost again to Exeter 0-3 on Wednesday in the NEPSAC quarterfinals.
These two losses did not come without a fight. Andover outscored Exeter by one point Saturday and lost by two points in each set on Wednesday.
Despite dominating Exeter 3-0 in under an hour earlier in the season, Andover struggled against the improved team.
“Exeter was much more consistent than [it] used to be. [It] didn’t make errors often, so that means we had to keep up the rallies for a long time,” said Eden Livingston ’15.
On Saturday, the first set foreshadowed what would be a back and forth game.
Andover and Exeter were tied a total of 11 times by the time the score was 16-16. Andover battled to see its first set point at 24-23, and another set point at 25-24, but ultimately could not close out the set.
Exeter held on and executed a side out and two service points to win the set 27-25.
“Our strategy was to go big or go home—literally. We had some really powerful hits that got us points, and came out swinging really hard,” said Livingston.
The second set followed the same pattern as the first with the teams tieing 13 times in total. At 17-17, Exeter pulled ahead 22-17 and used that momentum to close it out 25-21, grabbing a 2-0 lead over Andover.
Andover rallied to take control of the third set, closing it out 25-14 and forcing Exeter to battle out another set.
The fourth set came down to the wire. The teams going head to head until the score reached 19-19, when Exeter pulled ahead with a final burst of energy to take the set 25-21 and ultimately the match 3-1.
“The serve was switching back and forth really often, and that made it difficult for us to keep up solid momentum,” said Co-Captain Alex Becker ’15.
After such a close loss, Andover had high hopes going into Wednesday. They fell to Exeter in a heartbreaking match 23-25, 24-26 and 28-30.
“When we played Exeter on Saturday, we had a lot more spikes and hard hits. On Wednesday, we played more flatline and more consistent, but it wasn’t as high of a level as we would’ve liked to play,” said Co-Captain Kate Wincek ’14.
Andover jumped ahead in the first set early, leading 7-3 and 10-7 until Exeter fired off five serves and take the lead 12-10. The two teams fought closely, and although Andover came back to tie the set at 23, Exeter pulled ahead 25-23.
The second set was a brutal back and forth between the two teams. Andover tied the score at 9, 14 and 19. The pressure was on to close out the set.
One of the most exciting plays this season came in the middle of the second set. Bell picked up an Exeter serve that hit the net as it came over, a shot most players are unable to execute, giving Andover some needed momentum.
“As [Bell] was walking across the net to get to her position, she popped up the ball with her wrist and we made a play on it. It was gorgeous,” said Becker.
With this confidence boost, Andover went up 21-20 and 23-22 until the teams tied at 24 all.
Once again, Exeter came out on top, seizing the set 26-24.
The third set followed the same pattern as the first two. At 24-23, Andover saw its first set point of the match. Despite losing the point, Andover fought for another set point at 25-24.
Exeter countered with a match point at 26-25, yet Andover came back with its third and fourth set points at 27-26 and 28-27.
In a final push, Exeter went ahead 30-28, finishing a grueling battle and capturing its second win over Andover in five days.
“Exeter didn’t outplay us, they outscrapped us. They picked up a lot of balls that teams normally wouldn’t have and never let a ball drop,” said Becker.
Although it may seem that two losses to Exeter end the season on a bad note, both matches demonstrated team unity, which Andover has worked hard to improve on this year.
“This may not have been the best we played, but it was the most together we’ve played all season in my opinion. Everyone on the court seemed like we all really loved to be there, and at the end of the day we came together and played as one unit instead of six individuals, which was a huge stepping stone for us,” said Wincek.
Andover Volleyball finished the season with an 8-7 record.