Outside Hitter Mackenzie Bright, LA '19, attacks with a spike in the women's volleyball home game against Colby in Cousens Gym on Sept. 16. (Ben Kim / The Tufts Daily)

Volleyball earns key conference victories, extends win streak to seven

Tufts (13–4, 7–0 conference) extended its winning streak to seven games with three wins on the road over the past week, including conference matchups against Amherst and Trinity. The Jumbos remain undefeated in NESCAC play after seven games and are hoping to replicate last year’s perfect NESCAC record as they head into the final stretch of their season.

On Saturday, Tufts got one step closer to that goal with a convincing three-set win over Trinity. The outcome of the match was never really in question, as the Jumbos never allowed the Bantams to score more than 19 points in any of the three sets. Tufts recorded 19 more kills than Trinity in the match (37–18) and dominated defensively as well, recording 11 total blocks. Trinity struggled to effectively run its offense throughout the entire game. The hosts were led in kills by sophomore outside hitter Colette Scheffers with seven, but Scheffers also recorded six errors. This game served as a breakout stage for Tufts first-year outside hitter Sophia Acker, as she posted a career-high 11 kills to spearhead the Tufts offense.

The game was a testament to the team’s improvement, as its offense has made major strides since the beginning of the season.

“We talk about making daily progress, and I believe we have been successful in trying new things and bettering our current game,” coach Cora Thompson said. “I think our team is working very well together and improving daily. Our defense has been getting better and better, and our offense is really clicking as a result of better ball control, not only from our passers, but from our setters, too.”

The prior night, Tufts matched up against Amherst in a come-from-behind conference win. The Jumbos started the match slowly, dropping the first set by 10 points (25–15) after trailing for practically its entirety. Despite being able to cut the lead to five near the end of the set, the Jumbos proceeded to have four attacking errors in the next five points to lose the set.

The second set was a completely different story, going back and forth the entire time with 12 total ties. Tufts just barely managed to edge out Amherst at the end with a 25–21 victory, tying the game score at one apiece. The Jumbos then took the momentum from their second set victory, building an early lead in the third set that they never relinquished.

The fourth set appeared to be headed to another close ending until a late run by the Mammoths gave them an insurmountable 24–18 lead. The final set, however, was all about the Jumbos, as they built as much as an eight point lead and finished off the five-set victory with a resounding 15–8 set win. Junior outside hitter Mackenzie Bright matched her career high in kills, recording 18 to lead the Jumbos. Her big night was partly facilitated by the stellar play of junior setter Angela Yu, who posted not only 29 assists but also 17 digs for the game.

“I think the team did very well this weekend,” sophomore middle hitter Christina Nwankpa told the Daily in an email. “Being on the road is always challenging and the team handled the challenge well.”

The previous Wednesday, Tufts posted perhaps its most dominant win of the season with a 3–0 win against Rivier, in which the visitors’ smallest margin of victory was 10 points. Behind the strong serve of senior defensive specialist Alex Garrett, the match included a 13–0 start by the Jumbos in the second set. Garrett recorded five aces during the run. Nwankpa led the team in kills with 10 while recording just one error on 12 attempts. Sophomore setter Rachel Furash ran the offense effectively, leading the team with 18 assists.

Tufts hosted Hamilton and Williams in NESCAC matches on Sept. 29 and Sept. 30, respectively. The Jumbos won both matches in three sets apiece to highlight their dominance in the NESCAC this season.

Against Williams, Tufts jumped out to an early 3–0 lead in the first set and led the rest of the way to win the set 25–18. The second set initially appeared as if it was going to have a closer result. However, after running off four straight points to take a 12–7 lead, the Jumbos dominated the rest of the way and took a 2–0 lead in the match with a 25–13 win. The Jumbos again never trailed in the third set and finished off the match with a 25–22 victory.

Matching up with Hamilton the day before, Tufts added another convincing win to its record with a 3–0 victory. It was a game filled with runs, as each set started out tight until the Jumbos were able to pull ahead for the victory. The offense was effective all night, as the Jumbos had 27 more kills than errors in the game.

On Friday, Tufts will take on Middlebury in a rematch of last year’s NESCAC championship game, in which Middlebury upset Tufts in five sets. Thompson discussed the team’s mindset going into the final stretch of the season.

“We don’t project on our seasons,” Thompson said. “If we take care of the little things daily and do our jobs in the present moment, we increase the likelihood that a favorable big picture will come together. We are finding success but are aware we have a really strong schedule ahead … arguably playing some of the toughest teams in the region, so we are staying humble and working hard.”

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