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

Volleyball gets back on track, completes 3–0 weekend

The volleyball secured victories over Trinity University, Trinity College and Coast Guard last weekend.

Coming off a tough loss to NESCAC rival Williams, Tufts volleyball bounced back in strong fashion, winning three consecutive games over the weekend to improve its record to 13–4 overall and 4–2 in NESCAC competition. The wins included victories over the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a non-conference opponent, Trinity University (Texas), the nation's No. 3-ranked team, and Trinity College (Conn.), a NESCAC rival. Head coach Cora Thompson spoke about the benefits of playing a variety of non-conference teams.

“They really took care of the ball and limited unforced errors, which forced our opponents to earn their points, putting us in the driver's seat more often than not," Thompson said. “We really enjoyed how the tempo of play increased with each team and loved getting challenged.”

Tufts played a Saturday doubleheader against Trinity (Conn.) and No. 3 Trinity (Texas). Tufts beat Trinity (Conn.) in straight sets (2515, 2522, 2517). Senior outside/opposite hitter and co-captain Cate Desler led the way with eight kills, while junior libero Stephanie Lee recorded 19 digs. 

In arguably the biggest win of the season for Tufts so far, the Jumbos defeated No. 3 Trinity in five back-and-forth sets (1225, 2521, 2523, 1725, 1917). Once again, Desler led the team with 25 kills, while junior middle/opposite hitter and co-captain Grace Legris tallied 10 kills. Tufts had 75 digs in total, continuing to show strong defense against very tough opponents. Sophomore middle hitter Cora Cunningham, who tallied three block assists of her own, stressed the importance of strong defense at the net.

“Putting up a strong block and being a big presence at the net has been incredibly successful in limiting our opponents' offense and from there, giving our back row the ability to put the ball up so we can run a quick offense in transition,” said Cunningham.

The opportunity to square off against the No. 3 team in the country would intimidate most teams, but Tufts is not like most teams. 

“Our players were resilient, gritty and relentless against Trinity [(Texas)], and although we all respect Trinity [(Texas)] for their talent, we were not intimidated," Thompson said. “When our team plays loose and relaxed, they have a lot of fun together and that results in some great on-court performances.”

Tufts opened the weekend by defeating Coast Guard 3–1 (2522, 2510, 2025, 2523). Desler led the way with 17 kills, while super-senior middle/opposite hitter and co-captain Jen Ryan and sophomore setter/opposite hitter Rileigh Farragher followed close behind, with nine and eight kills, respectively. Lee and sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Christine Audette combined for 45 out of 76 total digs for Tufts.

Coast Guard’s six-game winning streak heading into the matchup did not faze Tufts, as the Jumbos comfortably adjusted to their opponent and emerged victorious.

“We went into the weekend focused on playing our game at our preferred speed,” Thompson said. “We knew we would have to adjust after we saw their athleticism, but again, that is always part of the plan as we expect teams to prepare game plans to challenge us. I was proud of us for finding our groove quickly and staying with it.”

As Tufts heads toward the end of its regular season schedule, games like the one against Trinity (Texas) provide the Jumbos with excellent opportunities to keep improving their game and provide some momentum for the final stretch.

“Beating Trinity was just further proof that the work we put into practice allows us to effectively execute our game, which is critical as we enter the final stretch of the regular season,” Cunningham said. 

As the season has progressed, many of the sophomores on the roster, who are now playing in their first collegiate season, have begun to see more playing time. The experience gained from in-game opportunities has proven invaluable for players like Cunningham, who have seen vast improvements in their game. 

“Over the course of this season thus far, I feel that I have grown much more confident in my playing abilities,” Cunningham said. “My game has progressed by increasing my tempo offensively and by being a bigger presence at the net.”

A lot of this can also be attributed to the leadership of upperclassmen on the roster, who helped acclimate sophomore and first-year players to the speed of NESCAC collegiate volleyball. 

“Our tri-captains [Ryan], [Desler] and [Legris] are incredible role models and teammates who have welcomed me, along with the rest of our team, with open arms,” Cunningham said. 

With the NESCAC tournament approaching in November, the Jumbos' preparation continues with two NESCAC matchups this weekend. Tufts will host Amherst on Friday and Middlebury on Saturday before heading back to Williamstown to play in the New England Challenge next weekend.

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