Tufts volleyball won the NESCAC championship last Sunday, defeating the Wesleyan Cardinals to clinch the title. Previously, the Jumbos had taken down Trinity and Williams in order to secure their shot to take down the top-seeded host, Wesleyan, in the finals. The Jumbos had a 21–5 regular season record and 9–1 record in conference. The team avenged its only conference loss of the regular season to Wesleyan on Sunday by beating them to claim the NESCAC title.
This year, the Jumbos encountered a very challenging schedule, facing several nationally ranked opponents, to help prepare them for their postseason run. Throughout the season, the team focused on treating every opponent on the other side of the net the same. They did not focus on the other teams’ strength or record and instead focused on achieving their highest level of play for every game by keeping energy up throughout games and prioritizing team bonding throughout the season.
Through the entire season, four of the Jumbos’ five losses took place after playing another game earlier that day, with their most recent loss to MIT occurring just after they played Babson. This trend was something the Jumbos focused on. Their only loss that didn’t follow the trend was to Wesleyan on Sept. 16. The strength of the Jumbos’ season this year was not something that members of the team were not used to. In playing many highly ranked teams and having many successes and some losses, the Jumbos learned about their own capabilities and pushed themselves to new places. The team walked away from these games having learned to believe in themselves knowing that if they play the way they normally do, they could compete against any team they encountered.
The 2022 roster includes six seniors. As a large senior class, the members of the class of 2023 recognized the influence they had on the team’s behavior on- and off-court.
“[As seniors] we just make sure to have our whole class as that example. Like in practice, we're the ones working hard, we're talking loud, encouraging our teammates just to make sure that we foster that environment of connection and support that we want to have,” captain and senior middle hitter Grace Legris said.
The senior class’ leadership was successful in fostering a tight-knit team dynamic that helped lead to success on the court. Many team members this year have been on the team since the pandemic, with the addition of five new first-years. The seniors wanted to make sure the new class was integrated into the team seamlessly. The importance of open communication has been integral in making sure the whole team is on the same page.
“If there’s ever a problem that arises, we deal with it right away,” Legris said. “It’s awesome … to have that connection with your teammates.”
This past weekend the Tufts team's strong team dynamic and the lessons they learned helped them claim victory over their NESCAC foes. The NESCAC tournament was hosted in Middletown, Conn., the home of the Wesleyan Cardinals who were the No. 1. The Jumbos defeated Trinity in a 3–0 set match on Friday to start off the weekend. The next morning, the team woke up and took on their next opponent, Williams, dominating the match three sets to zero again. The last day of the tournament brought the team’s final test. They had another chance to beat the only NESCAC team that had beaten them in the regular season, Wesleyan, in the championship. Leading up to the weekend the team recognized their growth and improvement throughout the season.
“I think we've changed a lot throughout the season. We are hoping to have an opportunity to play [Wesleyan] again,” Legris said prior to the championship game.
The Jumbos' hard work and learning from earlier losses in the season paid off, and the team emerged as NESCAC champions over Wesleyan in a 3–1 win, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, starting Thursday. Tufts will take on Johnson and Wales to kick off their regional tournament. Due to their impressive season and finish in the NESCAC tournament, Tufts will host the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament in Cousens Gymnasium this weekend.