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

Jumbos seek another strong season after last year's mid-season run

Tufts senior Kyra Baum, a setter and defensive specialist, looks to continue her impressive performances from last season.

Last year, the Tufts volleyball team's magical season ended in the second round of the NCAA Championship when they were defeated by Clarkson, three games to Tufts' one. The way the Jumbos got there, however, was rather unusual.

After a slow September start that saw the team go 7-6, the Jumbos eventually recovered -- they went 15-3 through November. During the postseason, the team made it to the NESCAC volleyball finals, where it faced off against Williams.

Going into the match, the Jumbos were the underdogs, but they battled tooth and nail with the Ephs throughout the entire contest. In what seemed like a parking lot brawl in which neither side would give in, Williams eventually pulled away in the deciding fifth set with a score of 15-13 to take the NESCAC title from Tufts in front of the Cousens faithful, who had begun to flock to the gym in droves during the team's 12-game hot streak.

Although the Jumbos lost in the NESCAC finals, they still earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships, where they lost to Clarkson in round two. Clarkson had also defeated Tufts three sets to zero in September.

"Last September, we turned [our season] around because we communicated with each other," senior co-captain Carolina Berger said. "We discussed our goals for the season and how we would achieve them. Eventually, the turning point came when we beat Conn. College -- a team we believed would be very hard to beat."

Tufts has had some big shoes to fill with the losses of outside hitters Hayley Hopper (E '15) and Jessica Ingrum (LA '15), as well as middle hitter Isabel Kuhel (E '15). However, Berger and senior setter Kyra Baum, both of whom played crucial roles in the Jumbos' playoff run last year, will be looking to lead the team in the right direction under the guidance of coach Cora Thompson. A multiple-time NESCAC coach of the year, Thompson has led the Jumbos to five NCAA tournament berths since becoming head coach of the program in 2002.

Tufts will be looking to get back to the NESCAC title game and advance further into the NCAA tournament if it receives a bid, but as of now, they are taking each day as it comes.

"This season, we just want to keep improving daily and play to our potential," Berger said. "We can accomplish that by keeping our bodies healthy and putting in 100% everyday. We took our spring and summer lifts very seriously and have been working on the basics at practice, so hopefully that will allow us to build upon the success we had last year."

This season's kick-off game will be against Springfield College, a historically good program that lost to Tufts in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament. Earlier in the 2014 season, however, the Springfield Pride handily defeated the Jumbos 3-2, so getting through their first game will not be easy. Conference play begins on Sept. 18 in Williamstown, Mass., where the Jumbos will have a chance to redeem themselves against last year's NESCAC champions, the Ephs. On Oct. 3, they face a tough opponent in the Bowdoin Polar Bears, who destroyed the Jumbos three games to none last September. On Oct. 24, in one of the final games of the regular season, the Jumbos will face off against the MIT Engineers, who also defeated them 3-0 last fall.

"We want to get to the point where we play as one cohesive unit and are connecting on and off the court," Baum said. "Getting to that point comes with time, but we're already way ahead of where we started last season, so I have no fears about the future."

Overall, Tufts will have some tough games down the stretch, but with solid senior leadership and a talented first-year class, the team feels that it will be in good hands.

"This year we have four freshmen as well as one junior transfer on our team," Berger said. "So far, they have been bringing a new batch of energy to practices, which has really been complementing us well."

"We've all learned that we need to start off the season with fire," Baum added. "We need to start off strong and hungry to win."