This Homecoming weekend, women’s volleyball picked up a 2–1 record after defeating NESCAC opponents Colby and Bates and losing an out-of-conference game to Hope College. On Friday, the Jumbos conquered Colby in a tight 3–2 set match, when they came back from a two-set deficit early on. On Saturday, the team had a commanding 3–0 set win over Bates and suffered a close 3–2 set loss to Hope later that day.
On Friday night, in a crowded Cousens Gymnasium, the Jumbos struggled early on, falling behind by two sets to the Colby Mules. Both sets were close, with the Jumbos losing them 22–25 and 20–25, respectively. Offensively, the Jumbos were lacking in the first two sets hitting under .200. However, that turned around in the third set when the offense started to find its rhythm.
“I think we started off kind of slow, and Colby just came out of the gates and they were awesome. They really were making us earn our points,” junior defensive specialist Megan Harrison said. “After the second set, we kind of started thinking about how we needed to put the ball way differently.”
Going into the last three sets of the game, Tufts improved its offensive performance significantly. Middle hitters senior Grace Legris and junior Cora Cunningham were integral in this turnaround as they started connecting with the Tufts setters well. Legris tallied 11 kills in the match, with Cunningham adding eight to help propel the Jumbos to their comeback. In addition to Legris and Cunningham, outside hitters junior Tori Goldin and senior Jessica Sanderson also had impressive performances at the outside position.
“Sanderson came in in the Colby game and [Goldin and Sanderson] together were super reliable, super stable. [They were] people that we could definitely look to this weekend,” Harrison said.
Friday night was the first Homecoming game for many of the Tufts players, as last year the team was away for the weekend. This new experience built a competitive atmosphere in the crowd between Tufts fans and Colby fans, motivating the Jumbos during the game.
On Saturday, after their close game against Colby, the Tufts women faced two more opponents, NESCAC opponent Bates and out-of-conference opponent Hope. The Jumbos started their day with a commanding 3–0 win over Bates, controlling the game from start to finish.
“So Bates, we always realize how they’re a super scrappy team, and they have really awesome serving,” Harrison said. “So I think we were kind of focusing on the things that we could control best like being really in system and having great serve receive and also putting them out of system.”
By focusing on consistency and serve receive, Tufts was able to force Bates out of their system so they could capitalize and remain in control of the game. The Jumbos outperformed the Bates Bobcats in every statistic of the game, while achieving a notable hitting percentage of 0.306 and limiting Bates to 0.012. These wins against Colby and Bates brought Tufts to a 5–1 in-conference record, having suffered their only in-league loss to Wesleyan earlier in the season.
Later that day at 5 p.m., the team faced its second opponent of the day, No. 14 ranked nationally Hope College. Hope posed greater competition for the Jumbos, as reflected in the much closer game statistics. Hope narrowly edged Tufts in hitting percentage, kills and assists. Tufts had another slow start, similar to the Colby game where they went down 0–2 sets. The Hope team was scrappy and greedy, with great offensive play. The Jumbos quickly realized they would have to adapt in order to compete. These adjustments led to a much better performance in the last three sets of the game.
“Obviously, it sucks that we didn’t win that fifth set, but I think it was good that we’ve been challenged so early on in the season. … It’s a good test for what we’ll see later in the season,” Harrison said.
The Jumbos’ next games are this coming weekend at Williams and Amherst on Friday and Saturday, respectively.