MEDFORD – The Tufts volleyball team had three players honored when the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) announced their All-Conference teams today.
Junior co-captain Maddie Stewart, classmate Heather Holz and freshman Cate Desler were all selected to the All-NESCAC Second Team. Desler was also chosen as the conference's Rookie of the Year. This is the first time earning All-Conference honors for all three Jumbos. Three is the highest number of Jumbos that have earned All-Conference honors since three Jumbos made the two teams back in 2014. Desler is the first Jumbo to be named Rookie of the Year since Isabel Kuhel earned the honor after the 2011 season.
Stewart, an outside hitter, was a vital part of the Jumbos offense this year. She played in 94 of the Jumbos 98 sets and took the court during all 26 of the Jumbos matches this season. The Menlo Park, Calif. native averaged 2.15 kills per set, the third best mark on the team, and finished with 202 total kills, also the third most on the team. The 2.15 kills per set and 202 kills are both career-highs. She also added 60 digs and 49 total blocks over the course of the season. Her 0.52 blocks per set were the fourth most on the team.
Stewart posted double-digit kill numbers nine times this season and had at least one kill in every match for the Jumbos this year. She turned in a career-high 16 kills against Wesleyan to wrap up the Jumbos regular season. Stewart added at least one block in 19 matches this season, including a season-high five three times (Bates, Williams and Middlebury).
Holz also contributed to the Jumbos offense this season. The middle blocker took the court in 88 sets and 25 of the 26 matches the Jumbos played this season. Offensively she helped with 1.49 kills per set with a .295 hitting percentage. She also added 0.50 digs per set. Holz was a force at the net, finishing with 60 total blocks, 12 solo and 48 double blocks, and averaged 0.68 blocks per set. She collected 24 service aces this season.
Originally from Palatine, Ill., Holz posted double-digit kills three times this year, including against No. 2 nationally-ranked Johnson and Wales where she finished with 12 kills. Collecting at least one block in 19 matches this season, she finished with a season-high eight blocks, three of those solo, in a 3-2 NESCAC semifinal loss to Bowdoin.
Desler was a leader offensively and defensively for the Jumbos during her rookie campaign. The outside hitter played in 92 of the Jumbos' 98 sets, and took the court in 25 of the team's 26 matches. She led the team with 2.68 kills per set and in total kills, with 247. The Hillsborough, Calif. native was also the Jumbos leader in service aces, as she finished the season with 41. Defensively she helped as well, turning in 2.27 digs per set, the third most on the team. She also finished with 36 blocks on the year.
The rookie collected double-digit kills numbers 14 times this season and posted double-digit kills and digs in eight matches this season. Her season-high came against Amherst, when she finished with 17 kills and ten digs. When the Jumbos took on Williams, Desler finished with 14 kills and 16 digs. Serving for the Jumbos, she added at least one ace in 18 of the team's matches this year, including a season-high five against Wesleyan.
The Jumbos played to a 16-10 record in 2018 and finished with a 6-4 mark in NESCAC games. As the fifth-seed in the NESCAC Tournament, they downed fourth-seeded Middlebury in just three sets in quarterfinal play. The win over the Panthers was the first time the Jumbos had beaten Middlebury in tournament play. The Jumbo advanced to the semifinals of the conference tournament, where they were ahead of Bowdoin 2-1, but weren't able to hold off a Polar Bear comeback and fell in five sets.