The volleyball team continued its recent string of success over the weekend, ripping off three straight wins to extend its winning steak to eight games.
The Jumbos, who have not lost since Oct. 4, won all three of their games at last weekend’s Hall of Fame Invitational. Tufts took both games of its doubleheader on Saturday the 25th, beating Wellesley at Smith College and then Brandeis at Amherst. The Jumbos defeated the Wellesley Blue in four sets after narrowly dropping the first set by a score of 27-25. Tufts won the next two sets easily, 25-14 and 25-16, before squeaking out a 25-23 victory in the fourth set to secure the win. Senior tri-captain Jessica Ingrum led Tufts with 12 kills, while classmates and fellow tri-captains Isabel Kuhel and Hayley Hopper contributed 10 and eight, respectively. Junior Kyra Baum compiled 33 assists and 13 digs, both of which were team highs.
Assistant coach Kelly Bonja explained the team’s dominant stretch as the culmination of outstanding preparation in practice combined with an aggressive approach on the court.
“The team has been working hard everyday in practice and has done a great job of transferring its hard work at practice into the matches,” Bonja said. “We are playing strong and consistent with high energy every match.”
Tufts flashed plenty of energy during its second game on Saturday, sweeping an underwhelming Brandeis squad to finish the tournament at a perfect 3-0. The Jumbos torched the Judges 25-14, 25-9 and 25-16, taking early leads in all three sets and cruising to a decisive victory each time. Once again, the senior tri-captains led the way on offense, as Kuhel tallied a match-high seven kills with Hopper and Ingrum recording six apiece. Junior Carolina Berger paced Tufts defensively with 10 digs, while Baum chipped in six to go along with her 18 assists.
Many Jumbos played well over the weekend, but Ingrum’s performance was one that stood out to Bonja in particular.
“Her contributions on and off the court played a vital role in our wins this weekend,” Bonja said about the outside hitter. “She was a dominant hitter in the front row with hitting percentages of .391, .346 and .462. She also had consistent serve receive and played scrappy defense for us.”
Ingrum and her teammates were outstanding on Friday night as well, sweeping the Westfield State Owls at Smith College. Unfazed by the power outage that delayed its match by nearly two hours, Tufts took all three sets of the tournament opener. Hopper paced the Jumbos with 11 kills and added eight digs on defense. Berger anchored the defense with 13 digs, while first-years Alex Garrett and Katie Kim pitched in with eight and five digs, respectively.
Kuhel was named to the All-Tournament team for her impressive all-around performance resulting in 25 kills, 12 block assists, four solo blocks and four service aces. Encouraged by Tufts’ current win streak, she expressed excitement over how much the Jumbos have progressed this year.
“I think we have been improving all season, and this weekend we put it all together to play at a high level,” Kuhel said. “It was great to see everybody step up and play a role this weekend. Everyone … played their hearts out.”
The first-place Jumbos, now 17-7 on the year, will look to clinch the NESCAC title this weekend with road games at last-place Hamilton and sixth-place Middlebury. If Tufts can win both, it will place first in the conference, but that won’t be easy as both opponents have winning records. Each game is a must-win, too, given that Williams — the defending NESCAC champions — has the same conference record as Tufts (7-1) and Amherst is right behind both at 6-2.
Bonja insists, however, that the Jumbos are up to the challenge and are out to finish what they started.
“Having won our last eight matches is a great accomplishment but as a team and coaching staff we really focus on taking it one game at a time,” Bonja said. “Every day of practice is an opportunity to get better and prepare for our upcoming competition.”
“We are looking forward to another NESCAC weekend,” Hopper said.
The Jumbos are firing on all cylinders right now, and they couldn’t be any hotter as they prepare for what is shaping up to be a thrilling conclusion to their regular season. With momentum on Tufts’ side after eight consecutive victories, the team is poised for a strong regular season finish atop the NESCAC.