Volleyball Beats No. 21 MIT to Claim New England Challenge Tournament Title

MEDFORD – The Tufts volleyball team won the New England Challenge, picking up two wins on Saturday to go with their win over Springfield on Friday night.  On Saturday the Jumbos topped Babson, 3-1, and then beat No. 21 MIT, 3-1.  Senior Mackenzie Bright was named the MVP of the tournament and sophomore Jennifer Ryan was named to the All-Tournament Team.   

Sophomore Jennifer Ryan was named to the All-Tournament Team

The two wins on Saturday help the Jumbos improve to 14-8 overall and 5-3 in NESCAC play.  With the loss Babson falls to 18-7 this season and they are 7-1 in NEWMAC play. The loss is only the fourth of the year for the Engineers, as they fall to 22-4 overall and they are also 7-1 in NEWMAC games. 

The Jumbos grabbed a small lead during the start of the first set against Babson, but the Beavers hung in there.  Up 7-6 the Jumbos scored four points behind the serve of freshman Cate Desler to take a 11-6 lead.  After a Babson point they scored four more points, this time behind the serve of junior Heather Holz to extend their lead to 15-7.  They held on to that lead for a 25-17 win in set one. 

The Beavers got a huge comeback to take the second set.  Down 23-19 they scored six consecutive points thanks to two kills from Shannon Roseen, a kill from Catherine Hunter and three aces from Elizabeth Cameron to take set two 25-23 and even the match at one. 

Babson used that momentum and took an early lead in set three. Trailing 7-5 the Jumbos got a kill from junior Brigid Bell and another by Bright, and then an ace from Holz.  Adding in two Beaver errors and the Jumbos had a 10-7 lead.  But, the Beavers battled right back and tied things at 11 and then took a lead again.  Down by five, 20-15, the Jumbos once again battled back and Holz turned in a kill and then followed it with an ace.  Then three consecutive kills by Bright tied things at 20.  The two teams battled back and forth and with things locked at 25 the Jumbos got a kill from junior co-captain Maddie Stewart and then a kill from Bright won set three for the Jumbos. 

The Jumbos picked up right where they left off in the fourth set, scoring the first seven points of the set to take an early 7-0 lead.  That was too much for the Beavers to overcome, and the Jumbos collected a 25-11 win in set four to take the match, 3-1.  

Bright and Desler each had 15 kills for the Jumbos, and Desler added 12 digs.  Stewart finished with nine kills and two blocks.  Bell added seven kills and 16 digs along with five service aces.  Defensively, sophomore Sophia Acker turned in 21 digs.  Junior Rachel Furash and freshman Ariel Zedric took care of the setting, as Furash finished with 26 assists and four digs and Zedric added 22 assist and eight digs. 

For the Beavers Allie Puccio was the offensive leader with 15 kills and she added three blocks.  Roseen turned in seven kills and Sabrina Lechner helped with six kills and three blocks.  Defensively Abby Beecher turned in 18 digs and three aces and Cassidy Witten helped with nine digs of her own.   Elizabeth Cameron took care of the setting, finishing with 25 assists. 

In their second match of the day, the Jumbos overcame a first set loss to come back and top No. 21 MIT.  The Engineers grabbed an early lead in set one, but the Jumbos were right there for most of the set.  With a one-point advantage, 14-13, the Engineers scored five straight points behind the serve of Abby Bertics to take a 19-13 lead.  But, the Jumbos answered right back and scored five points behind the serve of Desler to come within one again, 20-19.  Down 23-20 the Jumbos got a kill from Stewart, followed by an ace from Bell, and then another kill from Stewart tied the set at 23.  But MIT got a kill from Bertics, and then a Jumbo error gave them a 25-23 win in set one. 

The Jumbos came out on fire in set two, jumping out to an early 9-2 lead. They would hold on to that lead, leading by as many as 11 points at one point, on their way to a 25-15 win in set two to even the match at one. 

Same story in the third set as the Jumbos grabbed and early lead and were ahead 7-2. The Engineers battled back and came within one, 10-9, but the Jumbos got a kill from Stewart and then took advantage of four Engineer errors and added an ace from Bell to take a 16-9 lead. The Engineers tried to battle back, but the Jumbos picked up a 25-19 win in set three.  

Tufts scored the first nine points of the fourth set and never looked back from there.  They won the match with a 25-20 win in set four.  

Desler was the offensive leader with 11 kills, and she added five digs, three aces and five blocks.  Stewart turned in ten kills and eight digs.  Bright added nine kills and junior Christina Nwankpa finished with seven kills and five blocks.  Defensively, Bell led the efforts with nine digs, and Furash added eight.  Bell, in addition to her nine digs, helped the Jumbos with four kills and four aces.  Furash and Zedric ran the offense, and Furash finished with 26 assists while Zedric added 19. 

For the Engineers Bertics finished with 18 kills and 12 digs.  Alexis Groark added 11 kills and Carly Staub turned in five kills.  Defensively, Carly Silvernale finished with ten digs to go along with Bertics' 12.  Christina Liao took care of the setting, finishing with 36 assists. 

The Jumbos are back in action next weekend when they host their final NESCAC weekend to wrap up regular season play.  The Jumbos will take on Connecticut College on Friday at 7 pm and then host Wesleyan on Saturday at 2 pm.