After starting off the season 3-0 without dropping a single set, the Judges played their first set of away games of the season. The first game was just 20 minutes away at Emerson College. Last year the two teams faced off in a similar early season matchup, however the game was at Brandeis. After going down two sets, the Judges won three consecutive sets to beat Emerson 3-2, so the pressure was on Brandeis to repeat that success this year.
Emerson started the Sept. 8 game with a 3-0 run before Sydney Bent (GRAD) got the first kill of the game for Brandeis. Two more kills from Bent led Brandeis’ first lead at 6-5. Two kills from sophomore Lara Verstovsek ’25 and a kill from sophomore Arianna Jackson ’25 brought the lead to 9-7. Then the set slowly started to slip away from the Judges. Emerson went on two 4-0 runs and one 3-0 run that made it very difficult for Brandeis to keep up. The Judges got a few points from service errors by Emerson, but it wasn’t enough. Emerson finished off the set with another 4-0 run to win the set 25-16.
In the second set, Emerson maintained their momentum with a 4-0 run. First-year Anna Ertischek ’26 stopped the eight consecutive points from Emerson with a kill. Bent and Ertischek proceeded to combine for five kills out of the team’s first seven points. However, the Judges were behind early in the set 7-11. The deficit continued to grow after a 3-0 run from Emerson. Brandeis scored a few points on attacking errors from Emerson, but ultimately the set was decided by a 6-0 run by Emerson to seal the win. Junior Ines Grom-Mansencal ’24 and senior Emerson White ’23 added kills of their own towards the end of the set, but the deficit proved to be too large. Emerson took the second set 25-13. This was a somewhat familiar situation for this Judges team. Last year, they were down two sets before making a remarkable comeback to win 3-2.
Set three was very competitive to start. Early kills from White and Ertischek helped Brandeis keep up with Emerson. They took the lead 12-11 after consecutive kills from junior Rita Lai ’24, Bent and White. Emerson immediately followed with a 3-0 run to take the lead right back. Shortly after, the Judges had their own 3-0 run to once again take the lead. The two teams were just going back and forth. Every time one team went on a run, the other would answer with one of their own; that is, until the Judges had a 4-0 run to put them up 21-18. Emerson scored a few more points to get closer, but Brandeis moved forward and were just two points away from winning. Then everything fell apart for the Judges. After playing a very strong third set, just four points made the difference, as Emerson finished the set off with a 4-0 run to win the match 3-0.
Bent led the team in kills with nine and Ertischek followed with six. Grom-Mansencal led the team in assists with 21 out of the 26 for the team. Junior Ella Pereira ’24 led the team in digs with 15. Emerson had 12 aces compared to the Judges’ four.
Just one day later, the Judges went on to Williams College, whom they had not faced since 2009. That match 13 years ago resulted in a Williams 3-1 victory over Brandeis. This time, the matchup was a different story.
Set one started out very well for the Judges. Kills from Grom-Mansencal, Bent, Ertischek and Lai paved the way to a commanding 14-8 lead. They continued their lead all the way up to a seven-point difference between the two teams. However, Williams showed resilience as they went on a 4-0 run to cut down the deficit. After a few attacking errors from Williams, the Judges led 24-20 and needed just one point to win the set. Williams proceeded to score five consecutive points to take a 25-24 lead. Brandeis then tied it on an attacking error from Williams, but then proceeded to drop the set after two kills from Williams. The Judges lost the set 25-27.
The next set had a similar start. Brandeis started off strong as they built a 13-8 lead. After a few 3-0 runs from Williams, once again the Judges’ large lead was cut down. However, this time Brandeis did not let up. Kills from Verstovsek and White helped maintain a lead for the Judges. They also got a few points on attacking errors by Williams. Ultimately it was 23-20 as Brandeis needed just two more points. Williams quickly responded with two points but could not finish the comeback after a bad set. White then finished off the set with a kill to end the set loss streak at four. Brandeis narrowly won set two 25-22.
After dropping the previous set, Williams started off set three with an incredible 8-1 run. However, White stopped their momentum with a kill to start a 4-0 run. Williams began building up their lead again and ended up getting to a 12-6 lead. The Judges responded with a 4-0 run that led Williams to take a timeout. This timeout didn’t seem to help as Brandeis went on a 4-1 run to take the lead 14-13. During the run for the lead, Bent had two kills while Verstovsek and Lai added kills of their own. Williams stayed competitive throughout the entire set, but Verstovsek and Bent could not be stopped. The two combined for six out of the teams’ last 11 points. Brandeis took set three 25-21.
Set four saw the offense start again with kills from Bent and Verstovsek. Brandeis took the lead early 6-5 and made sure that they were leading or barely losing for the rest of the set. The team went on two 3-0 runs, but Williams countered with a big 4-0 run that gave them their only lead for the rest of the set. After that Brandeis seemed to be in firm control of the game. The Judges would score a few points and hold Williams to a point every once in a while. Following a 3-0 run that was capped by a Vervstovsek kill, Brandeis led 21-18. Bent proceeded to complete her strong performance by having three kills to end the set 25-21. Brandeis got their first win against Williams since 2008.
Bent led the team in kills with 16 and also had 12 digs to give her a double-double. As a graduate student transfer from the University of Notre Dame, this was her first double-double with the Judges after having 10 with the Fighting Irish. Vervstovsek had a great game as well with 12 kills and seven digs. Grom-Mansencal led the team in assists with 36, which is currently her season high. Pereira led the team in digs with 23, which is also currently her season high.
The next matchup was against the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) on the afternoon of Sept. 13. Last year, UMB got the better of Brandeis with a 3-0 sweep, however this year the team is different. The Judges once again got off to a strong start in the first set. Back-to-back aces from Verstovsek and three early kills from Ertischek set the tone early. Brandeis went up 10-6 on a kill from Lai. This forced UMB to take a timeout to regroup and Lai proceeded to follow the break with another kill to make the score 11-6. UMB responded with a 5-0 run to tie the game at 11. Bent stopped the run with a kill and took the lead back. The rest of the set was a lot of back and forth. There were two lead changes and five ties. As the set approached its end, the score was 23-22 in favor of Brandeis. The team won the set 25-22 with a kill from Bent and an ace from Pereira.
Set two began with the two teams neck and neck, but UMB had an early 9-8 lead. Brandeis proceeded to go on a 4-0 run to take the lead and never look back. Ertischek and Vervstovsek led the way with a combined eight kills in the set. The Judges’ lead got up to 22-14, before UMB went on a 5-0 run. Brandeis took a timeout to recollect and get ready to finish the set. With just three more points to go, Bent got a point with a clutch kill and was followed by an attack error from UMB. Then just like the previous set, it was finished with an ace, but this time by Ertischek. The final score of set two was 25-19.
Lai got the first point of the third set with a kill and proceeded to start an offensive explosion from the Judges. The entire team got involved early as the Judges went on a 14-2 run to start the game. Bent had three aces and Grom-Mansencal had two kills during the run. UMB had a few runs, but they were halted by kills throughout the set. Ertischek was especially effective in stopping UMB from coming back, as she had four kills to contribute to four out of the Judges’ last seven points. She even finished off the set with two consecutive kills to make the score 25-14. The first two sets were close, but the final one saw Brandeis go on an early run that UMB could not come back from.
Ertischek had a strong offensive performance as she led the team in kills with 14 and a .522 kill percentage. Verstovsek had an all-around great game with seven kills, two assists, two aces and 10 digs. Pereira and Bent tied the lead in digs with 13 each. Grom-Mansencal led the team in assists with 26 and also had four kills. The all-around great performance from everyone helped Brandeis complete the 3-0 sweep in their rematch.
The win against UMB gave the Judges a 5-1 record, which is their best start since 2010. Their next two games will be at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Round Robin in St. Louis. On Sept. 17 the team will first play against Carnegie Mellon University, before playing New York University (NYU) later that day. Last year, the Judges lost to Carnegie Mellon 2-3 in Chicago for their first UAA game of the season. Brandeis also lost to NYU last year 1-3 in a matchup during the second half of the season.