Volleyball | Rare Homecoming game results in victory for Jumbos
Volleyball takes down Wesleyan, Conn. College in weekend NESCAC sweep
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 06:10
For the past several years, the volleyball team has been hoping to have the opportunity to play in front of a loud Tufts crowd on a Homecoming Saturday. This weekend, the Jumbos took full advantage of the occasion, crushing NESCAC rival Wesleyan 3−1 in Cousens Gymnasium.
“We were all really excited to play on homecoming weekend,” said senior tri−captain Kendall Lord, who finished Saturday’s match with 34 assists and is now fifth in the conference with an average of 9.09 assists per set. “We went into the weekend with a focus to improve on last weekend where we struggled a lot against some competitive teams, and we knew we had two more competitive games.”
Coach Cora Thompson’s squad started strong right off the bat, taking the first set 25−15 and showing that the Cardinals had no answer for the Jumbos’ dominating presence at the net.
Tufts, which leads the NESCAC in blocks per game, combined for a staggering 27 blocks in the match, which proved crucial in slowing down the Cardinals’ offensive strategy.
The Cardinals did manage to take the second set 26−24, but were then overwhelmed by the potent Jumbos offense in the final two sets.
“We just wanted to keep our energy and keep our momentum going,” senior tri−captain Kiersten Ellefsen said. “We were all very excited. We could finally own some of the homecoming spirit that we had been feeling on campus all week. It felt good to take part in that.”
Tufts’ best individual performance was the impressive showing from sophomore outside hitter Kelly Brennan.
Brennan, who has paced the Jumbos’ offense all season, recorded 23 kills and seven digs on a .422 hitting percentage and has now climbed to fourth in the NESCAC in kills per game.
“Kelly has been great,” Lord said. “She is such a hard worker, and she works 110 percent every day in practice and brings that intensity into every game. She’s stepped up her game a lot this year, but she’s also stepped up as a leader. With a small upper class, she really has taken on a leadership role on the team.”
On Friday night, the Jumbos managed to rally from behind to take down conference foe Conn. College in four sets. Tufts looked sluggish out of the gate and quickly fell behind to the Camels 5−0. Conn. College maintained its high level of play to take the first set 25−13.
Down early, Tufts knew that something had to change.
“We took a beating in the first set [on Friday,]” Lord said. “In between the first and second set, we decided it was time to go all out and start playing as hard as we could. We decided to start playing like a team.”
“We were kind of forced with a choice, to allow ourselves to be flustered mentally or simply choose to go all out like we had been talking about and ramp it up for the rest of the game,” Ellefsen added. “We were able to be successful because we all put in the effort, both on the court and on the bench. We fed each other well and worked well as one cohesive unit.”
The Jumbos came out of the huddle with fire and, after going back and forth with the Camels for a few points, took control of the set behind two momentum−swinging service aces by sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hopper. Tufts took a seven−point lead before eventually winning the set 25−19, and went on to win the second and third sets 25−21 and 29−27, respectively.
“We kept our momentum and positive energy going,” Lord said. “We were also able to dictate the tempo of play. That was our focus, and I think we accomplished it.”
Sophomore middle blocker Isabel Kuhel led the attack with nine kills with no errors and one block assist while Lord provided her usual steady play, accumulating 36 assists and 22 digs. Hopper and Brennan combined for 24 kills and 30 digs.
The Jumbos improved to 8−4 on the season and now sit in a tie for third place in the NESCAC. Tufts plays UMass Boston on Tuesday before traveling up to Lewiston, Maine to take on Bates this weekend.