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

Tufts hits its stride after 1-3 start

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Junior Carolina Berger prepares to serve the ball during a home game.

Four weeks into its season, the women's volleyball team is firing on all cylinders. After an early rough patch, the Jumbos have picked up steam, winning six of nine games since their 1-3 start.

"We are working hard to better our game every time we step on the court," coach Cora Thompson said. "This team realizes that our focus must remain on the process of improving with every opportunity we get, which means we need to focus on being the best we can during the present moment."

Tufts' most recent match ended in defeat after a back and forth battle at UMass Boston Tuesday night. The Jumbos gave the New England Women's Volleyball Association's top-ranked team everything it could handle, alternating victories with the Beacons during the first four sets. The fifth set was just as close, with UMass ultimately edging Tufts 15-11 for its 12th straight win. On offense, Tufts received standout performances from sophomore breakout Mary Maccabee, who posted 15 kills, and senior tri-captain Isabel Kuhel, who posted 10. Junior setter Kyra Baum recorded 37 assists in the match. Junior defensive specialist Carolina Berger continued her strong season with 13 digs.

The Jumbos scored a pair of big wins in Connecticut last weekend, winning both games of their Saturday afternoon doubleheader. The opener saw Tufts defeat Connecticut College in an incredibly even match, earning a five-set victory over its NESCAC rival. The Jumbos dropped a close first set 25-21, then bounced back to take the next two by two points with scores of 26-24 and 28-26. The Camels dominated the fourth set 25-12 to pull even with the Jumbos, setting up a tightly contested fifth set, which the Jumbos won 15-12. With the hard-fought victory, Tufts improved its conference record to 2-1. Kuhel tallied a match-high 16 kills while junior Maddie Kuppe contributed 14. The team also got plenty of help from Kuppe's classmate Baum, who racked up 43 assists. Defensively, Berger recorded a match-high 31 digs.

"This weekend was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate the hard work we've put forth in response to our first matches of the season," Kuppe said. "We've devoted considerable practice time to working on specific weaknesses that were exposed early on, so it was very exciting to see everybody step up this weekend."

Following its hard-fought win, Tufts immediately took on Framingham State University, 12-2 entering the game. Proving to be up to the challenge, the Jumbos overcame fatigue to trounce their opponents in three sets, winning each by at least nine points and an average of over 12. First-year Alex Garrett stepped up with eight service aces in the win. Given the circumstances and the ease with which they disposed of their opponents, the win over FSU was one of Tufts' most resounding accomplishments of the season.

"For us, those games are another step in our process of developing into the best team we can be," Thompson said. "I thought we did an excellent job focusing on our side of the court while adjusting to the teams we were playing."

The Jumbos, now 7-6 for the season, travel to Maine on Friday to play the Bates Bobcats in pursuit of their third NESCAC victory. At 8-6, Bates is in a similar position to Tufts, so the match will likely be competitive. Tufts will then travel to MIT on Saturday for an afternoon doubleheader against Simmons College and MIT. The Jumbos recently played there at the MIT Invitational, splitting a doubleheader on Sept. 13, and will look to match or improve upon those results this time around.