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Volleyball | Tufts unable to win third in row, drop match to UMass−Boston

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 07:10

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Oliver Porter / The Tufts Daily

The volleyball team dropped to 8-5 overall after losing to UMass-Boston in straight sets on Tuesday.

After two positive results against NESCAC opponents over Homecoming weekend, the volleyball team finally seemed to be reaching its goal of remaining consistent and constantly attacking the opponent. However, despite a high−energy weekend, UMass−Boston downed Tufts in straight sets on Tuesday in a non−conference game.

Prior to the game, Tufts was looking to use its Homecoming successes as a springboard but knew that the Beacons would prove to be tough opposition.

“We were definitely amped up about our victories on Homecoming,” senior tri−captain Kiersten Ellefsen said. “At the same time, we knew UMass was good and that they were going to be a challenge. We wanted to bring in our mental stride from Homecoming, but at the same time we were bracing for [a] challenge.”

But the sharp mental edge that had contributed heavily to the Homecoming victories was nowhere to be found for Tufts against UMass. The Jumbos were unable to get going in the first set, losing 25−17, and could never recover despite showing flashes of quality play.

“We lost that sense of consistency and suffered,” junior libero Virginia Clay said. “This really affected our confidence.”

Despite strong performances by sophomore Isabel Kuhel, who led the team with six kills, senior tri−captain Kendall Lord and Clay, the Jumbos could not bring together the sporadic successes into a unified and maintained effort.

“I think we had a lot of moments of brilliance, really great blocks and really great defense — little things that showed our technique is absolutely there,” Clay said. “We all know what was really taking away from our ability to seriously challenge them: mental fortitude, we’re lacking that.”

UMass was able to get a jump on Tufts at the beginning of every set in the match, and as a result, Tufts was constantly playing catch−up in an attempt to match the fast−paced style of play of UMass. Although the Jumbos were able to keep it close in the third and final set, eventually losing 25−20, it was too little, too late as Tufts slipped to its fourth nonconference defeat of the season.

“This loss is another chip on our shoulders,” Ellefsen said. “We have now seen how we can fail to rise to the challenge of strong teams, but we have also seen how we can succeed.”

But while losing nonconference games in the middle of the week may be a blow to the team’s overall record, their importance pales in comparison to the NESCAC matchups that Tufts has remaining on the schedule.

In particular, the team will go on a Maine road trip this weekend, facing Bates, Colby and Bowdoin in the span of just 24 hours. Three games in that short a time period is rare for the Jumbos, but the matches are critical if Tufts wants to improve on its NESCAC standing and get in the best possible position for the postseason conference tournament, while they will also provide an opportunity to correct what went wrong against UMass.

“When we face some challenging teams this weekend, we can look back at these games as a piggy bank of wins and losses,” Ellefsen said. “We want to take out and imitate the good mental energy and ... correct what we didn’t do so well.”

Furthermore, the majority of games left on the schedule are against NESCAC teams, meaning that Tufts will need to perform well over the rest of the season in order to hang on to a top−four spot in the conference and host a playoff game. Though they are currently tied for third with Bowdoin, three victories this weekend would go a long way towards helping Tufts fulfill their ultimate goals.

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