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

Tufts sweeps NESCAC foes

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Senior outside hitter Maddie Kuppe spikes the ball on Oct. 15, 2014. Kuppe lead the team against Conn. College and Western Connecticut State.

With wins over Wesleyan and Trinity last weekend, the Tufts volleyball team vaulted into a tie with Amherst for second place in the NESCAC. Both teams are 5-1 in conference play; only 6-0 Williams is better.

The Jumbos, now 11-7 overall, have steadily improved over the course of the season and have been on a roll lately, winning 10 of their past 14, but coach Cora Thompson felt last weekend's performance was the high point thus far.

"Our play versus both Wesleyan and Trinity was the most consistent it has been all season,"  Thompson said. "Our ball control was there to keep us in system and [junior] Kyra [Baum] made good decisions giving our hitters the best opportunity to put balls away. At the same time, our serving was aggressive and strategic ensuring out-of-system opponents. I was very proud of our team for staying very connected from [the] beginning of every competition until the end. Both Wesleyan and Trinity can be dangerous opponents when they are in system and we did a great job of making sure that rarely happened."

Playing on their home court for the first time in four weeks, the Jumbos responded with a pair of sweeps, the latter a three-set victory over Trinity on Saturday. After winning a back-and-forth first set it was smooth sailing for the Jumbos, who crushed the Bantams in the second and third sets, 25-10 and 25-14, respectively. Senior tri-captain Hayley Hopper compiled a match-high 10 kills and team-high eight digs as well as two service aces. Fellow senior tri-captain Isabel Kuhel  chipped in six kills and led both sides with five blocks -- three solo and two assists.

Tufts was equally dominant in Friday night's sweep of Wesleyan. Though the Cardinals jumped out to an early lead in each of the first two sets, both times the Jumbos rallied and came out on top 25-16. In the third set Tufts took the lead and kept it, taking the match with another 25-16 victory. Junior Maddie Kuppe led both teams with 12 kills in 19 attempts for a stellar .632 hitting percentage. Hopper had 11 kills to go along with five digs and three service aces. Sophomore Elizabeth Ahrens contributed four kills and a match-high five blocks.

Thompson cited strong all-around play and team chemistry as keys to Tufts' success.

"We had more than a few solid individual performances that were only possible because of the solid play of their teammates," Thompson said. "Our offense was incredibly efficient this weekend with our hitters really executing. We passed well overall allowing our setter to create some great opportunities for our hitters, and defensively we survived some pretty intense rallies.  I was very proud of our team's overall effort."

One standout was Hopper, who received her second career NESCAC Player of the Week award. The outside hitter was tremendous in both matches, racking up 21 kills, 13 digs and five service aces. She currently ranks second in the NESCAC with 3.56 kills per set and is sixth in kills with 185. She's also the team-leader in points, kills and kills per set.

"Our team did a great job serving aggressively," Hopper said of the wins. "Our passers were crucial to keeping us in system. We are looking forward to the challenge of another NESCAC weekend."

Tufts has three home games on tap for parents' weekend, starting with a crucial match against Williams Friday night, then a Saturday afternoon doubleheader against Amherst and Endicott in a Fan the Fire sponsored event. The Jumbos hope to remain undefeated at Cousens Gym, where they are 4-0 this year.

Despite her team's recent success and spotless track record at home, Thompson isn't taking anything for granted.

"There is still a lot of season ahead, and with the NESCAC being so deep anything can happen," Thompson cautioned. "We have done a great job of putting ourselves in a very nice position headed into our last four conference matches, but we are well aware that our remaining NESCAC matches will be battles."