Volleyball | Jumbos rebound from tough Bowdoin loss to finish 2−1 at Mount Holyoke
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 08:10
The volleyball team had been waiting nearly two weeks for another shot at Bowdoin, after losing a thrilling match in five sets against the Polar Bears in Maine on Oct. 6. This weekend, Tufts finally got its opportunity to settle the score at the Hall of Fame tournament hosted by Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges.
The team understood what was riding on this game, with an opportunity not only to beat a strong Bowdoin squad, but also to avenge the tough loss from earlier in the year.
“I think we all wanted it so badly after [the] last game [against Bowdoin],” senior tri−captain outside hitter Kiersten Ellefsen said. “We came into the game with a lot of intensity. Our goal in practice was to continue to play loosely and relaxed.”
But despite a focused week of practice and strong performances in the rest of the tournament, the Jumbos could not gain serious momentum to take control of Friday’s game. Bowdoin dominated the first set, winning 25−9 and then were able to lock down the following two sets 25−21 and 25−22. The team−high 10 kills for sophomore outside hitter Kelly Brennan and team−high 11 digs for junior libero Virginia Clay were not enough to lift Tufts in a match in which Bowdoin was able to halt any offensive momentum that the Jumbos generated.
“I think we played very well; they are a really, really good team,” sophomore middle blocker Isabel Kuhel said. “We might get a lead, but then they don’t back down — they fight to the very end. Our mental game broke down and we let them go on runs.”
The Bowdoin game, however, undeniably served as a wake−up call for Tufts. The next day of play showed a totally different, fired−up squad ready to take on Swarthmore and Bridgewater State, two squads that it had not yet seen.
“We had never played these other teams like Swarthmore, or at least I haven’t in my four years,” Ellefsen said. “It was refreshing to have teams we knew nothing about. We could just play our game at our level and just have fun with it. We didn’t have to worry about who they were.”
The Jumbos jumped on the opportunity to display their ability to the new opponents, starting with a straight−set win over a very talented Swarthmore team.
The third set came down to a close 29−27 win for the Jumbos, as standout offensive performances by sophomore outside hitter Haley Hopper and Kuhel, along with an outstanding 45−assist performance by senior tri−captain Kendall Lord, led the Jumbos to a strong victory.
Tufts followed its win with another straight−set victory over Bridgewater State to end the weekend on a positive note. Again, Kuhel had a breakout game, tying with Brennan for the team−high of 11 kills.
“We were really consistent in the next games,” Kuhel said. “We had a lot of fire from the match against Bowdoin; it got out competitive spirit going again and helped us compete all the way through to the last game.”
Kuhel was a star performer for the Jumbos this weekend as she was selected to the All−Tournament team.
Tufts now enter its last weekend of regular season and conference play, as they travel to play Williams on Friday and Middlebury on Saturday. The Jumbos are currently 13−10 overall and sit in fourth place in the NESCAC at 6−2. The next two games of this regular season will prove crucial to the start of their postseason play, and they feel poised to take on that challenge after such a strong weekend.
“This was a huge accomplishment to show off what we are capable of,” Ellefsen said. “We came out strong in the first sets of the last two matches. I’m really looking forward to taking that new attitude and running with it.”