Volleyball | Tufts loses hold of first place in NESCAC after dropping pair of games
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 01:10
The Tufts volleyball team suffered consecutive losses for the first time this season after dropping both of its games on the road this weekend. The Jumbos were swept by the Ephs of Williams College on Friday before losing again to the Lord Jeffs of Amherst on Saturday, lowering their NESCAC record to 3-2 and their overall record to 11-6.
The better of the two games for Tufts came on Saturday, coming up just short at Amherst. The Jumbos took the Lord Jeffs down to the wire in a back-and-forth first set, coming within two points of victory before surrendering three straight points to the Lord Jeffs and losing in heartbreaking fashion, 23-25.
Tufts rebounded and won the second set easily, 25-15, and then took an early lead in the pivotal third set, only to watch Amherst rally for the victory. The Lord Jeffs jumped to a big lead in the fourth set, and Tufts was unable to recover, falling 18-25 as Amherst picked up its eighth win in the past 10 games.
Junior outside hitter Hayley Hopper continued her excellent season with a team-high 13 kills. Hopper now leads the team with 169 kills overall. Classmate middle hitter Isabel Kuhel, who tallied 11 kills of her own, along with four digs, versus Amherst, was disappointed with this weekend’s results but stressed the importance of not dwelling on them.
“The NESCAC is a very competitive conference and all the teams have a lot of talent,” Kuhel said. “Going forward, we need to keep playing strong and consistent because we have some very challenging games ahead of us. We are always working to improve and play better.”
The first game of the weekend on Friday night against another Massachusetts NESCAC Rival — Williams — turned out no better for the Jumbos. Tufts entered play on Friday tied with Williams for first place in the NESCAC. Both teams were 3-0 in league play, but the superior overall record of the Ephs — just one loss to the Jumbos’ four — made Williams the odds-on favorite to win the showdown between the league’s top two teams.
The Ephs — ranked 25th by the American Volleyball Coaches Association — swept the overmatched Jumbos to hand Tufts its first NESCAC defeat of the season and take sole possession of first place. Though the Jumbos out-blocked Williams and played well overall, the Ephs proved themselves to be the better team.
The bright spots for the Jumbos against the Ephs came primarily from the underclassmen. Freshman middle hitter Elizabeth Ahrens contributed seven kills on nine attempts, while classmate Mary Maccabee and Kuhel each added three assists to the Jumbos’ attack. Sophomores Carolina Berger and Kyra Baum led the team defensively with eight and nine digs, respectively.
Head coach Cora Thompson remained positive after watching her team lose its biggest game of the season up to this point. They did not roll over against one of the toughest competitors in the NESCAC and kept the matches close, losing to Williams 25-20, 25-19 and 25-21.
“I think any time you lose a close match or set it is frustrating, but overall we were really proud of our ability to fight a team like Williams,” she said. “We really made Williams earn their win against us and for that reason alone we are more proud of our efforts than disappointed in our loss.”
The Jumbos, now tied for fourth in the NESCAC and 11-6 overall, will look to snap their first losing streak of the season this weekend with conference games at Bates and Bowdoin. Bates, a sub-.500 team, should provide a good opportunity for Tufts to get back on track. Bowdoin, on the other hand, who is second in the NESCAC, will provide a more formidable foe. The Jumbos will also have to overcome the added challenge of playing both games on the road, where they are just 2-3 this year, if they hope to remain near the top of the NESCAC.