Tufts volleyball finished its regular season on a high note by winning both games of Saturdays doubleheader, against Colby and Simmons, at Cousens Gym.
Colby and Simmons brought a lot of fight to our court this past weekend, and we were proud of our teams effort to fight them point for point, coach Cora Thompson said. When our serve-receive passing was on, we dominated offensively. We looked for our opportunities and capitalized.
In their final NESCAC game before the playoffs, the Jumbos clinched fourth place in the conference by beating Colby in four sets. Tufts took the first set 25-20, but the Mules came right back to win the second set 25-22. The Jumbos rebounded to take a commanding 10-2 lead early in the third and cruised to an easy 25-17 win.
The fourth set was a nail-biter in which there were 16 ties and five lead changes. With the score knotted at 24-24, Colby committed a ball-handling error to give Tufts the lead, setting the stage for freshman middle hitter Elizabeth Ahrenss match-winning block on the following play.
The defensive stop punctuated Ahrens stellar performance throughout the match. She registered a season-high 12 kills, six of which came in the first set, while adding four solo blocks and four block assists to finish with a season-high 18 points. Senior tri-captain Virginia Clay, a defensive specialist who was honored before the game for her four years with the Tufts volleyball program, played well in her final regular season match, contributing seven digs, two service aces and an assist.
We have to give a lot of credit to Colby for playing really scrappy defense, Thompson said. Our team had to stay disciplined long enough to outlast some great rallies. We also did a good job identifying Colbys attack plans and adjusting to them defensively.
Tufts was even sharper against Simmons College in the second game, sweeping the Sharks in three sets. Though Simmons had also defeated Colby earlier in the day in five sets, they were clearly outmatched versus the Jumbos. The first set went down to the wire, with Tufts pulling out a 30-28 win despite trailing for most of the game. The Sharks were unable to recover from the demoralizing defeat, falling to the Jumbos in the second and third sets as well.
Tufts finished the regular season on a season-high seven game winning streak its longest since 2011 to go 19-7 overall. Among NESCAC teams, only first-place Williams and second-place Bowdoin won more games.
It is nice to have something to be proud of going into the postseason, junior tri-captain middle hitter Juliana Goodbar said. But we worked hard for those wins, so we know that no win is ever going to come easy for us. We have to continue to hold ourselves to a high standard and stay focused.
This is especially true as Tufts prepares for the playoffs, which begin Friday against Conn. College. The Jumbos are the higher seed but wont gain any home-court advantage, as the match is hosted by No. 1-seed Williams. The No. 5 seed Camels are a formidable opponent, having won eight of their past 10 games to cement a 15-11 overall record. When the two teams last played each other on Sept. 28, Tufts swept the Camels, 25-15, 25-20, 25-23.
The Jumbos would like to have a repeat performance on Friday, but they arent taking anything for granted. Conn. College was much improved in the second half of the season and figures to pose more of a challenge this time around. Accordingly, junior tri-captain outside hitter Jessica Ingrum is trying to keep things in perspective.
In the playoffs, [regular season] records do not matter, Ingrum said. The only thing that matters is beating [Conn. College]. We just need to focus on what is in front of us in order to succeed throughout the weekend.