Coming off of a five set match where Wesleyan handed Tufts volleyball its first defeat of the season, the Jumbos had a few days to sharpen their skills in preparation for three consecutive road games. Tufts fell to Springfield College 3–1 last Thursday before defeating Bowdoin 3–1 and Maine Maritime Academy 3–0 in Brunswick on Saturday. These three games brought the Jumbos to 8–2 on the season and 2–1 in NESCAC play.
The last game of the weekend road trip was against Maine Maritime, who entered the game at a modest 5–4. In their most recent meeting in 2019, the Jumbos took all three sets, with the Mariners failing to reach the 20 point mark in any of the three sets. This year’s match was no different, as the set scores were 25–19, 25–13 and 25–17. Sophomore outside hitter Christine Audette was on target, with 11 kills and only three errors.
The victory over the Mariners was preceded by a match over another team from Maine, the NESCAC conference rivals Bowdoin Polar Bears. Although both teams’ rosters looked vastly different when Tufts faced Bowdoin in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2019, upperclassmen will remember the five set match that ended in a Jumbos defeat.
This time, however, the Jumbos started strong, taking the first two sets by a score of 25–21 and 25–22. Super senior middle hitter and co-captain Jennifer Ryan contributed seven kills in the first two sets and quieted the crowd with a block on the final point to clinch the second set for the Jumbos. The Polar Bears took the third set 25–20 before being beaten in the fourth and final set. Senior outside/opposite hitter and co-captain Cate Desler chipped in with three kills, two blocks and an ace in the final frame. This was an important conference win as the Jumbos head into the month of October, when more than half of their games will be NESCAC games.
Last Thursday, Tufts traveled to western Massachusetts to take on the scorching hot Springfield College Pride. Coming into the match boasting a perfect record of 10–0, Springfield oozed confidence in front of their home fans, who tallied a season high in attendance.
The Jumbos were faced with an 14–8 deficit midway through the first set, but they clawed back to come within one at 23–22 before they were narrowly defeated 25–23. The intensity spilled over to the second set, when there were a total of 16 lead changes. Tied at 24 apiece, the Jumbos took the set with two consecutive points thanks to a kill by sophomore middle hitter Cora Cunningham and a clutch ace from sophomore setter Maddie Yu. The third set ended with the Jumbos being edged out 26–24, before being caught on the wrong side of a 15–7 run in the fourth set, which concluded 25–13 to Springfield and sealed the match 3–1 in the Pride’s favor.
While this was the second consecutive loss for the Jumbos, who had fallen to the Wesleyan Cardinals five days earlier, the Tufts players showed resilience in a tough atmosphere — a resilience that helped them bounce back and win their next two games.
“Being in that environment, having all that energy was a good learning experience,” junior outside hitter Jennelle Yarwood said. “It was good competition for us, hopefully we’ll see [Springfield] again at some point.”
Yarwood added three key kills down the stretch in the action packed second set.
With 10 games down, this 2021 squad is finding their way as a team by prioritizing making the routine plays and, ultimately, proving hard to beat.
“We really focus on serving, passing, the fundamentals,” Yarwood said. “If we’re playing our high level of game we know that we’ll be successful.”
The Jumbos will return to Cousens Gym for a home match at 7 p.m. tonight against the Endicott College Gulls, who hold a 7–3 record. Tufts will then go on another road trip to Hamilton on Friday and Williams on Saturday for two more crucial NESCAC matchups.