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

Volleyball closes regular season on high note before NESCAC championship

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Tufts women's volleyball is pictured playing Amherst on Oct. 16, 2021.

The Tufts volleyball team's regular season came to a positive end with back-to-back wins against Bates and Colby this past weekend. The wins improved their record to 17–4 overall and 8–2 in NESCAC play.

With Bates and Colby both heading into the weekend fighting for a spot in the NESCAC tournament, the Jumbos had their work cut out for them.

“We knew both Bates and Colby would bring strong efforts to the table as they were both fighting for the opportunity to extend their seasons into the postseason," head coach Cora Thompson said. “Both opponents were challenging and it took full team efforts on both days to pull off the wins. I was proud of how our team adjusted throughout both matches.”

Tufts opened the weekend defeating Bates in three sets (25–22, 25–21, 25–15). Junior outside/opposite hitter Jennelle Yarwood led the team with 13 kills, while senior outside/opposite hitter and co-captain Cate Desler followed suit with nine of her own. Sophomore setter Maddie Yu logged 11 of the Jumbos’ 46 digs on the night. As a team, Tufts hit .276.

Despite losing in straight sets, Bates jumped out to early leads in each of the three sets, forcing Tufts to make in-set adjustments to come out on top. 

“Bates challenged us in certain ways that forced us to adjust," Thompson said. "We had multiple players come off the bench with different skill sets that were a better match for what Bates was throwing at us."

In the regular-season finale, the Jumbos also knocked off the Colby Mules in three sets (25–16, 25–21, 25–22). Yarwood once again led the team with 11 kills, while Desler and junior outside/opposite hitter Maya Lightfoot each had eight of their own. Junior libero Stephanie Lee led the team with 20 digs. The Jumbos' defense held its own, holding the Mules to a .113 hitting percentage while tallying nine blocks and a whopping 57 digs.

Even in the midst of a pandemic season, the Jumbos have seen tremendous on- and off-court growth from many players, specifically the sophomores and first-years. 

“It’s been fun to watch [the first-years’] confidence grow, to finally see them so comfortable in practice and on the court, and to see them start to realize their potential as they continue to improve daily," Thompson said. 

Senior setter Ariel Zedric also spoke about the growth of the team as a whole.

“I think throughout the season we’ve started to establish who we are and really focus on our side of the court," Zedric said. “We’ve been working on pushing tempo since the first week in the gym and it just keeps getting better.”

The Jumbos finished the regular season third overall in the NESCAC standings, giving them a spot in the NESCAC Championship tournament. Tufts will face off in the quarterfinals against Williams, who back in October handed Tufts a five-set loss. 

“We know postseason won’t be easy — the NESCAC is so incredibly evenly matched — so we are going to have to bring our A game," Zedric said. “This weekend was a really good test for us to be able to stay composed when the other team is serving tough, so I think that’s something that we will continue to work on in practice and carry into the postseason.” 

Despite Tufts losing its only game against Williams this season, both Thompson and Zedric are not worried about the challenge that lies ahead. 

“Since we last played them, we have grown tremendously both mentally and physically, making us a much stronger, different team," Thompson said. 

The Jumbos’ rematch against the Ephs in the quarterfinals will be on Friday at 7:30 p.m. Bowdoin will host the entire NESCAC tournament over the course of Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

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