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Volleyball | Jumbos swatted out of NESCAC tournament

Tufts falls to Bowdoin in straight sets, likely ending season

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 06:11

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Lane Florsheim / The Tufts Daily

Senior tri-captain setter Kendall Lord had a strong performance against Bowdoin, with 17 assists and 11 digs, but it wasn’t enough to carry Tufts through the NESCAC quarterfinals.

Despite entering the NESCAC Tournament confident that it could pull off a first−round upset against No. 3 seed Bowdoin, the Tufts volleyball team lost in straight sets Friday night, struggling mightily against the potent Polar Bear attack. The Jumbos, who had lost their previous two matchups against Bowdoin this season, had difficulties maintaining consistency on the court, an issue that has plagued them all season.

Coach Cora Thompson’s squad was unable to find its rhythm right from the beginning. With three players unable to make the trip to Conn. College due to a mix of injuries and personal reasons, including star sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hopper, the team was forced to use new lineups and combinations.

“I think we were all a little bit panicky traveling with only 13 players,” senior tri−captain Kiersten Ellefsen said. “It was a real challenge going into the game without them, but I think we fought hard given the constant mixes of lineups that were on the court.”

The Jumbos finished the contest with a −.017 hitting percentage in one of the team’s worst offensive performances of the season. Bowdoin was also able to take advantage of a weak Jumbo defense, accumulating 37 kills in the three−set match.

“[Bowdoin] did a good job of running a fast offense,” Ellefsen said. “They put together a ton of blocks and did not let a lot of balls go down. It is hard as hitters when you give it your all every swing and the ball never gets down. It is hard being that aggressive when they are consistently picking everything up.”

Sophomore outside hitter Kelly Brennan, who finished third in the NESCAC with 3.20 kills per game, heaped more praise on the Polar Bears’ performance.

“I think they did a great job of staying in system almost the entire game, whereas we were in and out and back and forth the whole game,” she said. “They were more consistent in their system which gave them an extra push at the end.”

Senior tri−captain setter Kendall Lord was among the few bright spots for Tufts on Friday, recording 17 assists and 11 digs in what will probably be her final match in brown and blue. Brennan led the team with five kills, while senior tri−captain libero Natalie Bruck pitched in with a game−high 14 digs.

With the loss on Friday, the Jumbos finish their season at 13−13. Though Tufts had many high points, including good performances at the Brandeis Invitational and the Hall of Fame tournament, the team struggled with its mental focus at times, resulting in inconsistent levels of play.

“I think we would really be holding something back if we didn’t say we were slightly disappointed with the season,” Ellefsen said. “But as I think it would be difficult for any senior to admit, it was a huge building year for the program as a whole.”

Assuming that the team does not get an at−large bid to the NCAA Tournament, which is unlikely, it can still look with hope towards the 2013 campaign. Without a doubt, Tufts has an opportunity to improve on its .500 record this year and capitalize on its developing core of players gaining more and more experience. Losing just three seniors to graduation, the Jumbos will return a majority of their lineup, including a deep and very talented group of now−sophomores led by Brennan, Hopper and 2011 NESCAC Rookie of the Year Isabel Kuhel.

The team is confident it will be a force to be reckoned with in the conference next year, and that the Jumbos will be better off entering the season without a target on their backs.

“We have the talent to be very good, it’s just going to be about putting it together from day one,” Brennan said. “As a program we will be a little more under the radar next season. I think we will react better than if we were known as one of the best teams in New England.”

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