Jumbos stumble against Springfield, defeat MIT, Babson in New England Challenge

Sophomore outside hitter / opposite Mackenzie Bright prepares to spike the ball past Springfield blockers in the home game at Cousens Gym on Oct. 21. (Zach Sebek / The Tufts Daily)

Despite stumbling over the weekend, taking only its second loss all season to Springfield in straight sets, volleyball still posted a 3-1 record for the week. Before that loss the Jumbos won 11 straight matches. Tufts remains undefeated in the NESCAC and is set to host the NESCAC tournament.

On day two of the New England Challenge on Saturday, Tufts defeated Babson in three straight sets for the second time this season. The Jumbos won each set handily, 25-12, 25-17 and 25-18, in their victory over the Beavers. First-year outside hitter Brigid Bell and first year outside hitter/opposite Maddie Stewart both added eight kills in the match to lead the Tufts offense. First-year libero Kelly Klimo anchored the Tufts defense with 12 digs in the match.

Earlier Saturday morning, Tufts faced off against MIT, powering through a long five-set match to earn the victory. Heading into the game MIT was 23-3, sitting at first place in the NEWMAC conference. MIT went on to capture the New England Challenge title later that day. The Jumbos jumped out to a 2-0 set lead for the match, though both sets were tightly contested 25-21 and 25-22. The Engineers responded quickly, winning sets three and four 25-23 and 25-21 to enter the fifth set with momentum on their side. The fifth set was knotted at six points apiece when the Jumbos rattled off a five point run on Bell’s serve. With an 11-6 lead Tufts held on to win the set 15-10 and capture the match. Bell led the team with 13 kills, and Stewart and senior middle hitter McKenzie Humann weren’t far behind with 10. Humann also anchored the team’s front row blocking presence, recording six blocks on the day.

Thus far this season, the Jumbos have won all three of their five-set matches, showing great endurance and focus.

“We just really [have] to stick together as a team throughout all five sets and really reduce errors on our side rather than focus on what they’re doing on their side,” sophomore setter Angela Yu said. “I think that’s what [helps] us pull out the win.”

Tufts stumbled against Springfield during day one of the New England Challenge in Cousens Gym. Tufts lost in three straight sets, all by scores of 25-21. The score was close in each set and the Jumbos only yielded points on about 10 percent of their attacks, suggesting there were a lot of missed opportunities for points in that game. For a team that averages a hitting percentage of 21.8 percent, hitting 10.5 percent for this match demonstrates how much the offense struggled. Senior co-captain middle hitter Elizabeth Ahrens led the offense with nine kills and Yu tallied 18 assists, doing the majority of the setting work for Tufts. Springfield now sits at second place in the NEWMAC conference after MIT.

The Jumbos’ rapid rebound from their loss on Friday night to their two decisive wins on Saturday showed a level of grit and maturity that will surely benefit this team going forward.

We don’t look back and we don’t look forward,” coach Cora Thompson told the Daily in an email. “We simply focus on playing the best ball we can in the present moment and that has allowed us to compete very well.”

Tufts also had one regular season matchup on Oct. 19 before heading into the New England Challenge. The team defeated Wellesley on the road in four sets. Tufts and Wellesley split the first two sets, both by scores of 25-23, but the Jumbos shut down the Wellesley offense in the last two sets. Holding the Blue to just 15 kills over the final two sets, the Jumbos won both by scores of 25-19 and 25-13 to take the match. Humann and Bell led Tufts with ten kills each for the match and Humann also recorded nine blocks on the night, a single match career high for the senior middle hitter.

Now with a 21-2 overall record and a 9-0 record in conference, Tufts looks to finish the regular season on a high note on Friday against Connecticut College — 4-4 in the conference — with a chance to complete an undefeated in-conference season.