Tufts first-year setter Angela Yu serves the ball in the team's season opener against Springfield College on Sept. 9. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily

Tufts wins two out of three ahead of home game stretch

Tufts won two matches and dropped one this past week, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of Bowdoin. The Jumbos started out with a comfortable 3-1 victory last Thursday over local rivals the UMass-Boston Beacons (25-18, 25-15, 25-27, 25-20) before losing 3-1 to the Polar Bears (21-25, 16-25, 25-16, 14-25) and cruising past the Keene State Owls (25-23, 25-19, 25-22) on Saturday.

The Jumbos pulled to a comfortable two-set lead on Thursday at home against the Beacons before the visitors won the third in extra pointsSenior Maddie Kuppe dominated the Jumbo attack, racking up 12 kills, 31 digs and three service aces.

The Jumbos started the first set tentatively before racing to a 16-12 lead. At 21-17, two kills from senior co-captain Esme Nulan and one from junior Mckenzie Humann, followed by an attack error by UMass-Boston first-year Eileen Shi, granted the Jumbos a one-set lead.

UMass-Boston started out the second set with high intensity and pulled ahead to a 5-1 lead. At 8-4 down, Tufts forced its way back into the set, racking up six consecutive points off service aces from Kuppe. The momentum had clearly shifted, as the Jumbos, led by attacks from first-year Mackenzie Bright, then picked up 11 of the next 17 points. Junior Elizabeth Ahrens sealed the set for Tufts with two kills from senior Kyra Baum.

The third set was more of a challenge, as the Beacons once again took control. The lead changed several times before both teams drew level at 22 apiece. A couple of aggressive kills from UMass-Boston junior Colleen Koen eventually handed the team a way back into the match, giving it a third set victory of 27-25.

Another tentative start from the Jumbos in the fourth set allowed the Beacons to once again pull ahead, but kills from Humann and Nulan ultimately sealed the set — and the match — for Tufts.

On Saturday, Tufts traveled to Brunswick, Maine to compete against home team Bowdoin and Keene State.

The Polar Bears raced to a 6-1 lead with effective attacking from senior Christy Jewett and junior Michelle Albright. Jewett led the team with a game-high 19 kills. A late comeback mounted by the combined effort of Jumbos Ahrens and Nulan was ultimately in vain as the Polar Bears sealed the first set 25-21.

The second set saw Bowdoin pull ahead to a commanding 14-7 lead, ultimately securing the win and bringing the score of the match to 2-0. The third set saw the match’s flow shift, as the Jumbos benefited from some attacking errors from the Polar Bears early on to go up 8-1. Kills from Nulan and Bright brought this lead to 20-11, before a service mistake by the Polar Bears’ junior Quincy Leech and a kill from Nulan offered hope for a Jumbos victory.

The story of the fourth set, however, dashed those hopes, as Bowdoin once again built up a 16-3 lead off kills from Albright and Jewett as well as attacking errors from Tufts. The home team won the match 3-1.

“Bowdoin was an upsetting loss, but they played very well and very consistently,” first-year Katie Zheng said. “After coming off a high energy match that unfortunately ended in a loss, we knew that [the] Keene State [match] would be a tough [one] and a good way to test our mental toughness. It wasn’t pretty but we got the job done.”

The Jumbos returned to their winning ways, however, with a 3-0 victory over the Owls. Kuppe lead the way once again with a game-high 13 kills, while senior co-captain Caroline Berger controlled the offense with 18 digs. First-year Angela Yu also contributed with two of eight Jumbos’ service aces.

Yu recognized the team’s growing synergy as the key to its success thus far.

“The team has been there for each other every second of the way, [and] we…use each game as a learning experience to get better,” she said.

The Jumbos continue their season with a homestand, starting Wednesday, Oct. 7 against Endicott, before playing Bates on Friday, Oct. 9 and Colby and Brandeis on Oct. 11.

“Coming into a stretch of home games will be great for the team because playing in our gym with our fans is an amazing feeling,” Zheng said. “Our goal is to keep our home court win steak alive.”

Nulan believes that while the team still has some areas for improvement, it has the ability to maintain its strong performance after starting the season 9-4 overall and 2-2 in NESCAC.

“I think we have all the pieces we need to do really well, but we just need to work on getting them all together at the same time,” Nulan said. “This weekend certainly showed us what we need to work on this week. So now we’ll try to apply those changes and get all the pieces together for [the] big week [ahead].”

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