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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

Jumbos drop two of three matches during New England Challenge

Tufts senior setter Kyra Baum sets the ball for a teammate in the game against Springfield College on Sept. 9.

After an impressive eight-match winning streak, the volleyball team suffered its first pair of defeats in three weeks at the New England Challenge this past weekend.

The first leg of the tournament, which was played on Friday at Cousens Gym, saw the Jumbos continue their winning ways against the Wellesley Blue. Tufts then played a double-header on Saturday, losing both matches to MIT and Babson.

Overall, the Jumbos moved to 16-6 on the season, and because none of the three matches were played against conference opponents, the team’s record within the NESCAC stood pat at 6-2.

The team traveled to MIT on Saturday for the double-header in which they took on the host and Babson. Both opponents continued their impressive seasons with wins over Tufts.

In its final match of the weekend, Tufts fell to Babson in four sets. According to senior Maddie Kuppe, the disappointment from the close MIT defeat did not carry over into the second match of the day, due in part to the fact that two-match days are a regular part of the team’s schedule -- three other such days have been scheduled this season.

“It’s always hard to let go of losses, especially when you have a team full of passionate and invested competitors like we do," Kuppe told the Daily in an email. "Ultimately, though, you still have to find a way to reset, as a clean mental slate is crucial when heading into any new match."

The Jumbos dropped the first two sets to the Beavers by even 25-18 margins before taking the third 25-23. In the fourth set, Babson jumped to a big lead, going up 23-11. Tufts fought back and got seven straight points on the serve of senior Kyra Baum and pulled within four at 23-19. Ultimately, the comeback fell short and Tufts fell 25-20, while Babson lifted its record to 21-8 on the season.

Prior to that, the team first took on MIT, which, with a record of 25-2, is ranked No. 1 in the New England region of Div. III. The match was an extremely tight one, taking extra points in the fifth and final set to crown MIT the victors.

The first set was a close one that set the tone for the match. The Jumbos staked an early lead, including four straight points on the serve of senior co-captain Carolina Berger to go ahead 17-13. Tufts eventually led 24-20, with a chance to close out the set. However, the Engineers fought back with six consecutive points to win the first frame.

Tufts came back strong, winning the second set by a slightly more comfortable 25-16 margin. The Jumbos took the third set as well, 25-23, putting them in a two-sets-to-one lead in the best-of-five match. Backed against the proverbial wall, MIT won the fourth set 25-16 to force a decisive fifth set.

The hard-fought match came down to the last point. After being locked in a tight battle that saw the teams tied at 12, Tufts got a kill from Kuppe and an MIT error to put them up 14-13, a point away from the win. However, MIT was able to snatch the victory from the jaws of defeat, scoring three straight points to win the set -- and with it, the match -- 16-14.

“Our match against MIT was intense,” Kuppe said. “To get through marathon matches like that with a consistently high level of play, a team truly has to believe that they will win. I know we believed that, right up until the moment we lost the final point -- I think that relentless, trusting mindset is what made that loss so difficult, but it’s also crucial for a team that expects to go far into the post-season. As a senior, I certainly hope we get a chance for redemption in the next few weeks. I think my teammates would agree with my sentiment that things could end differently if we were to play them again. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.”

The weekend, however, began on a high note, with Tufts defeating Wellesley in four sets with scores of 25-21, 20-25, 25-20, 25-13.

“Having our match in our home gym was definitely a huge bonus as the energy of the fans and parents are a big factor during the match," first-year Angela Yu told the Daily in an email. "Wellesley competed well, [but] the energy on and off the court really helped us push through and win the match.”

The first two sets of the match were back-and-forth affairs, with multiple lead changes in each. Tufts took the first set with the help of a diverse attack, including kills from six different players, none of whom tallied more than two apiece. The second set belonged to the visiting Wellesley squad, while Tufts was able to secure the third after jumping to an early lead that it did not relinquish.

The fourth set started off close, with Tufts holding a 10-8 lead. With the help of seven consecutive points on the serve of Kuppe, Tufts pushed to a 20-11 lead before closing out the set for a victory.

The next match for Tufts comes Friday at Hamilton before closing the regular season Saturday at Middlebury.

“We know how important these next two matches are and that our competitors will not just hand us the wins, so we are working hard to become and play as the best team we can be,” Yu said.

As the postseason approaches, Tufts and Middlebury are among the four teams currently tied for second in the NESCAC with records of 6-2 within the conference.

“We know where we stand in the conference and that we need to play well this weekend to secure a good seed in the NESCAC tournament,” Kuppe said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to controlling our side of the net -- minimizing our errors and being efficient on offense will be two points of focus for us, as always.”

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