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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, May 27, 2024

Jumbos jump into NESCAC's top spot

Junior Kyra Baum sets the ball during a 3-0 victory over Trinity at Cousens Gym on Oct. 11.

The Tufts volleyball team remained undefeated at home over Parents Weekend, winning all three of its matches to cap off a successful homestand in which it dropped just one set. The Jumbos, now 14-7 on the season, moved into first place in the NESCAC with a stellar 7-1 conference record.

"It was a wonderful weekend," coach Cora Thompson said. "The girls really put it all together at the perfect time. [The coaching staff] was so proud of them for keeping the pressure on Williams and Amherst and playing with such great poise and confidence. Our serve receive kept us in system and allowed [junior] Kyra [Baum] to run an efficient offense. Our offense then made some great decisions and stayed aggressive regardless of the score."

The red-hot Jumbos continued to roll Saturday, sweeping the Lord Jeffs and the Gulls in front of a Fan the Fire-bolstered home crowd. First Tufts faced Amherst, with which the team shared a tie of first place in the NESCACAfter routing the Lord Jeffs 25-13 in the opening set, the Jumbos bounced back from an early deficit in the second set. The score was tied multiple times before Tufts ultimately pulled out a gritty 30-28 victory. The third set was just as competitive, a back-and-forth affair in which neither team led by more than three points. The Lord Jeffs led late, 21-20, before the Jumbos rallied for a 25-23 win to close out the sweep.Senior tri-captain Hayley Hopper, fresh off her NESCAC Player of the Week performance, led the way with 15 kills. She was followed closely by fellow senior tri-captain Isabel Kuhel and junior Maddie Kuppe, both of whom tallied 13 kills.

Kuhel pointed to the hard-fought second set as the turning point against Amherst, the fifth-ranked team in the New England Women's Volleyball Association (NEWVA).

"The second game against Amherst...was a huge test of our consistency and mental toughness," Kuhel said. "We showed ourselves that we can battle with top teams point for point and come out on top."

Saturday's second game proved much easier, as Tufts won each set by at least six points.The Jumbos jumped out to an early lead in the first set and never looked back, winning 25-19. The Gulls took early leads in the second and third sets but were unable to hold them as the Jumbos recovered to win 25-16 and 25-17. First-year Katie Kim came up big for Tufts with a match-high 12 kills, five of which came in the third set, to go along with seven digs and a .421 hitting percentage. Hopper matched her with 12 kills, including the 1,000th of her Tufts career, in addition to 10 digs.

"What stood out to me was how we played as a team and as a unit," sophomore middle-hitter Elizabeth Ahrens said. "Regardless of what the other team threw at us, we refused to let them win."

Tufts showcased that cohesion and determination in its huge win over Williams, the top-ranked team in the NEWVA, on Friday night. After honoring Hopper, Kuhel and senior tri-captain Jessica Ingrum before the game, the Jumbos proceeded to defeat the only team above them in the NESCAC standings. After dropping the first set, Tufts rebounded to win the second one 25-18. The Jumbos carried that momentum into the third set, winning 25-21, despite a late Ephs rally. Williams went ahead early in the fourth set, but Tufts fought back and won 25-17. Kuppe led both teams with 15 kills and seven digs, while Hopper was right behind her at 14 kills and eight digs. Baum stuffed the stat-sheet with 39 assists, 17 digs and two service aces, all of which were match highs.

The first-place Jumbos are excited to sit alone at the top of the standings and are encouraged by their recent play, which has only gotten better as the games have become more meaningful.

"It feels great to be in the top [NESCAC] spot coming out of this weekend," Kuhel said. "I really think the team earned it by playing consistently good volleyball. Williams, Amherst, and Endicott are all very strong teams and I think we proved what we are capable of."

The Jumbos will look to keep their winning streak alive in next weekend's Hall of Fame Invitational, in which Tufts will square off against Westfield State on Friday night and then will play a doubleheader against Wellesley and Brandeis on Saturday. The Jumbos will then close out their season with a pair of NESCAC games..

"We are in the best position we could be in headed into the final two NESCAC matches," Thompson said. "Our success this past weekend ... will serve as an additional motivator as we prepare for our next matches. Anything can happen due to the depth of the NESCAC, but we control our own destiny, and that is something to be proud of."