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

Volleyball sweeps Tufts Invitational, continues undefeated start to season

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The Tufts University women's volleyball team plays the Williams College team in Cousens Gym on Sept. 11, 2021.

Riding on the heels of a season-opening win against Roger Williams, Tufts Volleyball continued its strong start to the season, sweeping the Tufts Invitational over the weekend. The Jumbos won games against the visiting Illinois Tech Scarlet Hawks, the Brandeis University Judges and the Wellesley College Blue. Head coach Cora Thompson expressed her excitement to have the team be back with fans in Cousens Gymnasium in an email to the Daily. 

“We were just so grateful and excited to be competing again," Coach Thompson wrote. "These players have worked so hard to prepare for this opportunity and finally they have their chance to compete as a full team for what we hope will be a full season."

In the opening game of the invitational against Illinois Tech, the Jumbos dispatched the Scarlet Hawks in three sets (25–14, 25–13, 25–19). Junior outside/opposite hitter Jennelle Yarwood led the team with 11 kills on 19 attempts, good for a .526 hitting percentage. Yarwood also logged six digs, contributing to a total of 44 digs as a team. 

“If you can serve the other team really well, and pass on your side, then you can really be successful for the hitter,” Yarwood said. “And our serves have been great, getting a lot of aces and just getting them out of system.”

Yarwood and fellow junior outside/opposite hitter Maya Lightfoot combined for 21 of the Jumbo’s 39 kills on the night. Senior setter Ariel Zedric and sophomore setter Maddie Yu combined for 32 assists, and senior outside/opposite hitter and co-captain Cate Desler logged eight kills and 12 digs.

In what may have been the toughest game so far this season, Tufts defeated Brandeis 3–1 (17–25, 25–21, 25–21, 25–20) on Saturday. The Judges opened by handing the Jumbos their first set loss of the season, before the Jumbos clawed back to take the next three and win the game.

“They did not make a lot of unforced errors which forced us to take better care of the ball both offensively and defensively,” Thompson wrote. “ There was a lot of fight on their side and we were challenged to better our game, immediately.”

Junior libero Stephanie Lee tallied 21 digs for the Jumbos, while junior middle/opposite hitter and co-captain Grace Legris and Desler both led the team with 10 kills each. After Brandeis came back from an early Jumbos-lead of 10–4 in the third set to tie it at 17–17, Tufts pulled together to grind out a 25–21 win to take a 2–1 lead in the game.

To close out the Tufts Invitational, the Jumbos handily defeated the Wellesley Blue 3–0 (25–10, 25–12, 25–16). The majority of Tufts players saw the court, with Yarwood and fifth-year senior middle/opposite hitter and co-captain Jen Ryan leading the team with 9 kills a piece. Sophomore libero Megan Harrison led the team in digs with 12, while Yu led the team with 14 assists. 

With their underclassmen all playing in their first collegiate season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jumbos’ upperclassmen have provided leadership in order to build chemistry within the team. This chemistry has proven to be strong from the start, as the undefeated Jumbos have seen contributions from 16 different players.

“Playing experience doesn't matter because you could easily step onto the court,” Yarwood said. “We all are here because our coach saw something great in us.”

Yu in particular has impressed in her first few collegiate games, acting as one of the primary setters for the Jumbos early on.

“Gotta give a lot of props to [Yu], she's really stepped up and so especially being a setter, you have to have a lot of court presence, which I know can be hard when you're an underclassmen and in her first season,” Yarwood said. "She's done a really good job of commanding the court in that way, really calling plays, taking a lot of feedback on her sets, and she just shows up in the gym at practice every day and works really hard.”

Yu also praised Zedric for helping guide her through her first collegiate season, providing leadership and mentorship on and off the court.

"[Zedric] has been an amazing teammate and mentor to me this season," Yu said. "I am very lucky to be learning as much as I am from her, not only about volleyball, but also team culture and tradition too."

Using her extra year of eligibility, Ryan returned to the Jumbos for a fifth season and has played an instrumental role in leading a relatively younger Jumbos squad.

“I can’t say enough about how important [Ryan’s] presence is on this team,” Coach Thompson wrote. “As a super senior, she brings invaluable information and experience to the court and can truly lead in the way that she knows this program needs to be led.”

The Jumbos season continues on Friday when they host NESCAC rival Connecticut College.

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