The volleyball team kicked off NESCAC play over the weekend by splitting two games, beating Colby on Friday and losing to Bowdoin on Saturday, leaving the Jumbos at .500 both overall (5-5) and in conference play (1-1).
Coach Cora Thompson was impressed by her team’s tenacity in both games.
“There were highlights in both matches,” Thompson said. “We had some players step up in challenging situations and there were more than a few extended rallies that we were able to finish off which were exciting.”
There weren’t many highlights, however, against Bowdoin, the top team in the most recent New England Women’s Volleyball Association poll. Though the Polar Bears were coming off their first home defeat in two years, they were in top form on Saturday and dispatched the Jumbos in three sets. Tufts put in a good effort in the first set, keeping pace with Bowdoin for much of the match and losing by only five points. The Polar Bears controlled the following sets as the Jumbos lost 25-16 and 25-12. After mounting numerous comebacks the day before, Tufts was unable to catch up to a superior Bowdoin squad that has now won seven consecutive matchups against Tufts.
After seeing Tufts fall behind early and often in both games, Thompson was concerned about her team’s obvious discomfort at the start of matches.
“We struggled to set the pace in both matches this weekend, which we are very capable of doing,” she said.
Tufts fared better on Friday, earning its first conference victory with a four-set win over Colby. The resilient Jumbos overcame multiple deficits to emerge with a hard-earned W. After losing the first set 19-25, they bounced back to take the second set 25-17. Down 19-13 in the pivotal third set, they responded with a 14-6 run to stun the Mules. Colby opened the fourth set with a 4-0 run, but once again Tufts fought back and wrestled the lead away. Though the Mules kept it close, staying within two points for much of the match, the Jumbos held on for the 25-22 victory.
Junior Maddie Kuppe was proud of the way her teammates fended off Colby, citing their cohesion and determination as leading factors in the comeback.
“Our performance as a unit at the end of our match against [Colby] stood out to me in particular, as it takes considerable resilience and strong chemistry within a team to come back from a deficit like that,” Kuppe said. “The fact that this was possible for us so early on in our season is something I find very promising.”
Offensively, the Jumbos were led by Kuppe’s team-high 17 kills, including the go-ahead kill in the third set. Classmate Kyra Baum handed out 41 assists and added 10 digs on the defensive end. Senior tri-captain Hayley Hopper also played well on both sides of the net, contributing 10 kills and 13 digs.
The Jumbos will aim to get above .500 next weekend in Connecticut. Tufts has a Saturday afternoon doubleheader scheduled against Conn. College and Framingham State. At 3-6 the Camels are certainly beatable, but FSU (10-2) figures to pose a formidable challenge. Thompson knows that in order for the Jumbos to have a chance, they must get off to better starts and dictate the game-flow.
“Right now we need to work on being more aggressive from the get-go, and our overall ball control needs to improve,” Thompson said. “Improving as a team is a season-long process, and as long as we learn from every opportunity and adjust, we are moving forward towards our goals. I am looking forward to more competitive matches this weekend.”