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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Jumbos climb to 9-7 after two weekend wins

Junior Isabel Kuhel prepares for a serve during a home win over Hamilton on Oct. 18, 2013.

The volleyball team stayed hot over the weekend, taking two of three games to improve its season record to 9-7 overall. The Jumbos have now won eight of their last 12 games after starting the year 1-3.

Coach Cora Thompson was impressed with her team's winning performances, all of which featured strong play on both sides of the net.

"We played aggressively from the outset against Bates and Simmons while staying loose and confident," Thompson said. "We served them aggressively, knocking them out of system early and often, and then we capitalized on the opportunity to stay in system on our side of the net."

Tufts split Saturday afternoon's doubleheader by beating Simmons College in the opener before falling to MIT in the second game. The team swept Simmons easily, winning the first two sets by a combined 28 points. The third set was much closer, but again the Jumbos prevailed and polished off the Sharks with a 25-20 win. Senior tri-captain Hayley Hopper paced Tufts' attack with a match-high 16 kills, aided by junior Kyra Baum's 39 assists. Defensively, sophomore Elizabeth Ahrens led both sides with six blocks and also contributed five kills. Baum and her classmates, Carolina Berger and Maddie Kuppe, as well as freshman Alex Garrett, all contributed eight digs apiece.

Thompson commended Tufts' stingy defense for keeping Simmons at bay.

"Our blockers blocked very well, and our back row defense was solid from beginning to end," she said.

Tufts took on MIT immediately following the blowout against Simmons, but the squad suffered a tough loss despite playing well in the second match of the day. All three sets were close, with the Jumbos never losing by more than five, but the Engineers edged them each time for the sweep.  Tufts received strong defensive showings from senior tri-captain Isabel Kuhel, who recorded a match-high five blocks, and Berger, who delivered 10 digs. Kuhel also excelled offensively with seven kills and a .500 hitting percentage, while Hopper paced the Jumbos with 11 kills and three aces.

"Our ball control broke down early against MIT, and it was hard for us to stay in system," Thompson said of the defeat. "We were inconsistent with our play, and against solid teams like MIT it's hard to recover and stage comebacks time and time again. We put ourselves in good positions here and there, but struggled to finish due to unforced errors on our side of the net."

Tufts did a better job limiting such miscues in its sweep of Bates on Friday night, improving its conference record to 3-1 in the process. The Jumbos handed the Bobcats their first home loss of the season, winning all three sets by identical 25-16 scores.

Bates was its own worst enemy, committing 19 attack errors compared to Tufts' seven. The Jumbos dominated their NESCAC rivals on offense, compiling 10 more service aces and easily besting the Bobcats in hitting percentage, .293 to .128. Hopper and Kuppe were efficient, combining for 19 kills against only two attack errors.

After playing just two home games to date, Tufts will host five in a row at Cousens Gym starting on Friday. Four of those games are against stiff NESCAC competition, including Friday night's tilt against Wesleyan and Saturday afternoon's bout with Trinity. The Jumbos, who have yet to suffer a loss on their home court this year, are excited to return to competition on the Hill after extensive traveling.

"I'm looking forward to this week of practice so we can sharpen up in time to finally play at home again," Kuppe said of the upcoming homestand. "We are incredibly lucky to have amazing fans, so I'm very much looking forward to it."